Old tea forests gain World Heritage status


Tea-riffic news: A village on Jingmai Mountain is seen in Pu’er, Yunnan province. — Xinhua

Beijing: The Cultural Landscape of Old Tea Forests of Jingmai Mountain in China’s Pu’er city has gained World Heritage Site status at the ongoing 45th session of the World Heritage Committee of Unesco in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

It is China’s 57th entry to the list, and the first World Heritage Site related to tea.

The newly named heritage site, which is located in Lancang Lahu autonomous county in Pu’er, Yunnan province, comprises five large-scale, well-preserved old tea forests, which stand 1,250m to 1,500m above sea level; three protective barrier forests; and nine ancient villages in the old tea forests that are mainly inhabited by the Blang and Dai ethnic groups.

The cultural landscape was jointly created by the ancestors of the Blang people – who immigrated to the Jingmai Mountain in the 10th century, and later discovered and domesticated wild tea trees – and the indigenous Dai people.

On the basis of longstanding practices, the local people developed the understorey growing technique, which involves allowing shrubs or trees that are small and sufficiently shade-tolerant to thrive under the canopies of taller trees.

During its 45th session, the Unesco World Heritage Committee noted that the region bears “an exceptional testimony to the understorey tea cultivation traditions”, which have enabled the “development of a complementary spatial distribution of different land uses, providing ecosystems and micro-climates that support both the cultivation of old tea forests and the well-being of communities residing in this organically evolved cultural landscape”.

The committee described the cultural landscape as an outstanding example of a sustainable land-use system based on the combination of horizontal and vertical land-use patterns.

“This land-use system permits the complementary use of natural resources in the mountainous environment of Jingmai Mountain and represents an exceptional example of a human interaction by Blang and Dai peoples with a challenging environment,” it said. — China Daily/ANN

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