Xanadu added to UNESCO World Heritage lineup

Xanadu added to UNESCO World Heritage lineup

Along with 10 other global sites, one of China's most well-preserved ancient capitals receives world recognition

On this grassland Kublai Khan erected the great Yuan Dynasty capital that came to be known as Xanadu.
Described by Venetian traveler Marco Polo, romanticized by English poet Samual Taylor Coleridge, the historic site known to much of the world by the fanciful name of "Xanadu" has offically joined UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

Located in modern Inner Mongolia, the summer capital of Kublai Khan's Yuan Dynasty is called Yuan Shang Du Yi Zhi (元上都遗址) by the Chinese.

UNESCO released the additions to its famed list over the weekend. A UNESCO Xanadu photo gallery is available here.

Joining Xanadu on the list are Bassari Country in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire's Historic Town Grand Bassam.

Golden Lotus blossoms on the grasslands of Xanadu's Jin Lianchuan. Shaped like a square, Xanadu was the first capital designated by Kublai Khan (1215-94). It was designed by his advisor Liu Bingzhong in 1256.

According to a UNESCO press release, "The site was planned according to the traditional Chinese feng shui in relation to the nearby mountains and river. It features the remains of the city, including temples, palaces, tombs, nomadic encampments and the Tiefan’gang Canal along with other water works."

"Xanadu is the best-preserved among the Yuan (Dynasty's) capital cities and has lasted the longest," said Tong Mingkang (童明康), deputy director of China Administration of Cultural Heritage, as reported by China Daily.

"It's the only intact evidence of the rise and fall of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), which witnessed the unique fusion of agrarian Han Chinese and nomadic Mongolian civilizations in northern Asia."

Xanadu began its journey toward being named a World Heritage site in 1996.

Other sites named

According to UNESCO, the Bassari landscape in Senegal "is marked by terraces and rice paddies, interspersed with villages, hamlets and archaeological sites."

The first capital of Côte d’Ivoire, Grand Bassam "is an example of a late 19th- and early 20th-century colonial town planned with quarters specializing in commerce, administration, housing for Europeans and housing for Africans."

On July 1, UNESCO also added Major Mining Sites of Walonia (Belgium), Decorated Farmhouses of Hälsingland (Sweden) and six other cultural and natural properties to its World Heritage list. 

More on CNNGo: Gallery: Historic boarding schools seek top UNESCO marks

Raemin Zhang is CNNGo's China-based staff writer. 

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