The cultural landscape associated with old tea forests of the Jingmai Mountain, in the city of Pu’er in southeast China, has been inscribed as UNESCO’s World Heritage during the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee, which took place in Riyadsh, from 10 to 25 September.
By the end of the session, the Committee added 42 new sites, of which 33 cultural and 9 natural, on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, bringing the total to 1199 (993 cultural, 227 natural, 39 mixed) across 168 countries. The Committee also approved the extension of 5 sites already on the list and examined the state of conservation of 263 sites that were already inscribed.
The Cultural Landscape of Old Tea Forests of the Jingmai Mountain is a physical testimony and representative of the traditional understory tea cultivation model that was created before the widespread use of modern tea plantation technologies and have survived to this day.UNESCO
Delimited by natural boundaries, such as ridgelines and rivers, the newly protected area has a surface of 7,167.89 ha and encompasses 5 old tea forests, 9 traditional villages and 3 protective partition forests. The eastern boundary is determined by the edges of old tea forests.
In the south, the area extends to the valley of the Nanmen River at the southernmost edge of the Bangyao Mountains. The western boundary stretches from the Nanmen River to the Banbing River (tributary of Nanmen River), bends at the ridgeline to the west of the Nuogang Village and eventually ends at the Nanlang River, which constitutes the northern boundary.
Tea plants in southwest China survived from the Quaternary Ice Age and became the origin of tea trees across the world. In the 10th and 14th centuries, ancestors of the Blang and Dai people discovered wild tea trees when they migrated into the Jingmai Mountain. They considered the mountain peaks as divine, thus built their villages on the mountain slopes and then cultivated tea trees around the villages.
After practices over a long period of time, the indigenous people learned characteristics of Pu’er tea trees and developed smart understory tea cultivation techniques, which consists in the removal of arbores in the forest and planting of tea trees. The three layered (arbores, tea trees and herbs) forest structure thus created allowed for the best sunlight conditions, temperature and humidity, while the natural ecosystem was used to prevent attacks of pests and diseases and provide natural nutrients, so as to ensure the production of quality, organic tea leaves in a sustainable manner.
This cultivation tradition has been preserved and sustained through the surviving social governance system, cultural traditions and unique Tea Ancestor belief. It has been continued over a thousand years and is still in practice today. “It is an extraordinary model of forest farming and tea cultivation of mankind”, reads the site’s listing.
“The Cultural Landscape of Old Tea Forests of the Jingmai Mountain in Pu’er exhibits the ecological ethics of harmony between man and nature and between man and man, offering significant aspirations for sustainable development and multicultural coexistence of the world today”, the argument for the inscription concludes.