UNESCO recognizes Trang An as Vietnam’s first mixed heritage

By Trinh Nguyen, Thanh Nien News

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Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex was recognized by UNESCO as a mixed natural and cultural property at the 38th session of the organization’s World Heritage Committee in Doha on Monday (June 23).
The scenic landscape, located in the northern province of Ninh Binh, won the votes of all 21 members of the Committee, becoming Vietnam’s first mixed natural and cultural property recognized by UNESCO.
The complex includes three adjacent parts, Vietnam’s old capital of Hoa Lu in the 10th and 11th centuries, Trang An – Tam Coc – Bich Dong natural scenes and the Hoa Lu primitive forest.

The recognition is based on the principles of the Convention on the Protection of World Culture and Natural Heritages including cultural, aesthetical, and geological-geomorphic values and the preservation of heritage. 
UNESCO described Trang An as “a spectacular landscape of limestone karst peaks permeated with valleys, some of which are submerged, and surrounded by steep, almost vertical cliffs.”
Exploration of some of the highest altitude caves that are dotted across the landscape has revealed archaeological traces of human activity dating back almost 30,000 years.
They illustrate the occupation of these mountains by hunter-gatherers and how they adapted to climatic and environmental changes.
The property also includes temples, pagodas, paddy-field landscapes, with villages and sacred sites.
Professor Nguyen Khac Su of Vietnam Institute of Archeology said discoveries at Trang An has heated archeology conferences in recent years.
“We found many oyster shells used as money. Similar shells have been found in Lai Chau, Son La and Thanh Hoa and belonging to civilizations 7,000-8,000 years ago. They were used as both money and jewelry,” he said.
Many other items like tools made from oyster shell, stone and pottery have also been found.
Archeologist Nguyen Viet said Trang An used to be a non-fertile land and was the expanded area in the Hoabinhian (Hoa Binh Culture, 12,000-10,000 BC).
“People only reached the stone mountain after claiming all the valley areas,” he said.
With the acknowledgment, Trang An has become Vietnam’s 8th world heritage site recognized by UNESCO. The others are Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh Province, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province, the Complex of Hue Monuments in Thua Thien-Hue Province, Hoi An Ancient Town and My Son Sanctuary in Quang Nam Province, Thang Long Imperial Citadel in Hanoi and Ho Dynasty Citadel in Thanh Hoa Province.

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