The Silk Roads encompass some of the most complex and fascinating systems in the history of world civilizations. A shifting network of roads and pathways for trade that evolved over centuries, it enabled the exchange of cargo such as silk, spices, gems, furs, but also shared art, religion and technology. It is also one of the first cultural ‘corridors’ to be inscribed on the World Heritage List, embodying the principles of cultural diversity, heritage and peaceful cooperation that are fostered by both UNESCO and the World Heritage Convention.
In 2014, after years of preparation among countries, the property of the Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor was inscribed on the World Heritage List. This 5,000 km section of the extensive Silk Roads network is a transnational site crossing China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, stretching from Chang’an/Luoyang, the central capital of China in the Han and Tang dynasties, to the Zhetysu region of Central Asia. Thirty-three components are included in the routes network, including capital cities and palace complexes of various empires and Khan kingdoms, trading settlements, Buddhist cave temples, ancient paths, beacon towers, sections of the Great Wall, fortifications and religious buildings.
In this issue, we learn about the complicated process of establishing this extraordinary site, and efforts underway to carry this work further through the South Asian Silk Roads World Heritage nomination project. We examine the particularities of the Silk Roads in Iran and Turkey, and the natural heritage along the way, such as Tajik National Park and the Saryarka-Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan.
There is an interview with Doudou Diène, who led UNESCO’s original Silk Roads research
project. He shares with us the origins of this groundbreaking project and the significance of carrying forward this work today.
We also share the results of the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee in Baku, Azerbaijan from 20 June to 10 July 2019, including the Committee’s decisions concerning sites in danger and new sites inscribed on the World Heritage List.
I wish you an absorbing and informative read of this exciting issue.
Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre