On the Emei mountain, for example, visitors now see not only a famous Buddha statue, but a series of man-made caves with copies of other Chinese Buddhas—and nearby there is a brand-new statue of Shiva, an unrelated Hindu deity. “You have to peer at the plaque closely to see whether the object in front of you is Han dynasty or 21st century,” in the wistful words of one recent visitor.
Sid Passman sent me a copy of an article from the Economist warning that UNESCO's World Heritage program risks losing its effectiveness, which depends only on the powers of persuasion and publicity, if it continues to increase the number of World Heritage sites, and if it fails to take the strongest available means to encourage countries to protect their sites. The report also cites a report by the IUCN critical of the use of scientific data by the World Heritage Center for the protection of natural World Heritage sites.
Guarding precious and vulnerable places is one of the better things the UN’s cultural agency does—but it may topple over if it stretches too far