An ancient temple in India and a “cultural landscape” in Spain have become two of the latest sites to be registered on the UN’s prestigious World Heritage List.
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has voted to inscribe in its catalogue Quanzhou in China, Kakatiya Rudreshwara Temple in India, Trans-Iranian Railway in Iran, and Paseo del Prado and Buen Retiro in Spain.
UNESCO/© Quanzhou Maritime Silk Road World heritage Nomination Center Qingjing Mosque in Emporium of the World, Song-Yuan China.
In China, Quanzhou’s Emporium of the World in Song-Yuan, thrived during a highly significant period for maritime trade in Asia.
According to UNESCO, the site illustrates the “vibrancy of the city” as a maritime centre of commerce between the 10th and 14th centuries and “its interconnection with the Chinese hinterland”.
Quanzhou’s Emporium encompasses religious buildings, including the 11th century Qingjing Mosque; Islamic tombs; and a wide range of archaeological remains, including buildings, stone docks, ancient bridges, pagodas and inscriptions.
Located on the southeast coast of China, Quanzhou is now home to more than eight million inhabitants and a significant number of cultural relics and religious sites, such as Qingjing Mosque, one of the oldest mosques in the country, and the Twin Stone Pagodas at Kaiyuan Temple, which are the tallest pair among China's stone pagodas.
UNESCO/ ©ASI Mandapa inside India's Ramappa Temple.
In the southern Indian state of Telangana, the newly designated Kakatiya Rudreshwara, is popularly known as Ramappa Temple.
It is the main Shiva temple in a walled complex, built under the ruler of Rudradeva and Recharla Rudra between 1123–1323 CE (“Common (or current) Era” – equivalent to the abbreviation, AD).
The sandstone temple features decorated beams and pillars of carved granite and dolerite with a horizontally-stepped tower, called Vimana, made of porous ‘floating bricks’, which reduced the weight of the roof structures.
“The temple’s sculptures of high artistic quality illustrate regional dance customs and Kakatiyan culture”, said UNESCO.
The cite was chosen at the foothills of a forested area and amidst agricultural fields, close to the shores of the Ramappa Cheruvu, following the ideology that temples should be an integral part of nature, including hills and lakes.
US Library of Congress, (Public Domain)/ Nick Parrino Trans-Iranian Railway heads into a tunnel.
The newly inscribed Trans-Iranian Railway connects the Caspian Sea in the northeast with the Persian Gulf in the southwest and crosses two mountain ranges as well as rivers, highlands and four different climatic areas.
Construction on the 1,394-kilometre-long railway, which ran from 1927 to 1938, was designed and executed between the Iranian Government and 43 contractors from a host of countries.
“The railway is notable for its scale and the engineering works it required to overcome steep routes and other difficulties”, according to UNESCO, which pointed out that its required extensive mountain cutting and constructing 174 large bridges, 186 small bridges and 224 tunnels, including 11 that spiralled.
Unlike most early railway projects, the Trans-Iranian Railway was funded by national taxes to avoid foreign investment and control.
UNESCO/ ©Ayuntamiento de Madrid Museum Thyssen-Bornemisza, part of the Paseo del Prado and Buen Retiro, Spain.
UNESCO called Madrid’s tree-lined Paseo del Prado Boulevard and adjoining Retiro Park, located at the urban heart of Spain’s capital, “a landscape of arts and sciences”.
The 200-hectare cultural landscape evolved from the 16th century Hispanic alameda prototype and features major fountains, notably the Fuente de Cibeles and the Fuente de Neptuno, as well as the iconic Plaza de Cibeles.
“The site embodies a new idea of urban space and development from the enlightened absolutist period of the 18th century”, according to UNESCO.
Buildings dedicated to the arts and sciences join others in the site that are devoted to industry, healthcare and research – collectively, illustrating the aspiration for a utopian society during the height of the Spanish Empire.
The 120-hectare Jardines del Buen Retiro, or Garden of Pleasant Retreat – a remnant of the 17th-century Buen Retiro Palace – constitutes the largest part of the property and displays gardening styles from the 19th century to the present.
It also houses the terraced Royal Botanical Garden and the largely residential neighbourhood of Barrio Jerónimos developed with a variety of 19th and 20th century buildings, including cultural venues.