Jingmai Tea Mountain in Puer, Yunnan

Ancient Tea Plantations of Jingmai Mountain in Pu’er
The region of Hengduan Mountains of Yunnan in China, is a world’s biodiversity hot spot and place of origin and reservation for various species. In recent years, wild ancient tea trees of some 2700 years old, half wild-half cultivated ancient tea trees older than 1000 years and well preserved large ancient Pu’er tea plantations with tea trees of 100-1000 years old have been discovered in this area, making it one of the regions that practiced earliest use of tea resource and had significant influence on the tea culture of the world.

The nominated property is located on the Jingmai Mountain in the southwestern border area of Yunnan Province, with widely distributed tea plantations. The Mountain has a declining trend from the northwest to the southeast. In about 180 A.D., a branch of Blang, an ethnic minority group, discovered tea when migrating to the region of Jingmai, and tried to cultivate tea trees in the forest because of limited land and the climate and soil conditions favorable for tea trees. In the 3rd century, Blang people gradually mastered the tea cultivation techniques, and began to domesticate, cultivate tea trees and trade tea products, thus started the 1800 years’ history of tea cultivation, settlement and development in this area and passed on from generation to generation. According to historical records, the earliest recorded tea market in the nominated area came out in 1139 A.D., and the tea trade flourished in the Qing Dynasty.

In the nominated area, the highest elevation reaches 1662 meters (Nuogang Mountain) and the lowest 1100 meters (Nanlang Valley). Ancient tea plantations are mainly distributed in the mountain area of 1250-1550 meters above sea, and concentrates in three areas: Manggeng-Mengben ancient tea plantations, Jingmai Dapingzhang-Nuogang ancient tea plantations and Mangjing ancient tea plantations. In a total area of 1870 hectares, there are about 1.13 million ancient tea trees, of which the oldest tea tree has a history of 1400 years. Less than 10% of the tea trees are aged500-1000 years, about 30% are 300-499 years old, and the average age of the tea trees in the entire biocenosis is about 200 years. The nominated area is not only the largest and the best-preserved ancient tea plantation area of the region, but also the largest ancient cultivated arbor tea plantation of the world.

Ancient tea trees grow extensively in secondary growth tropical monsoon evergreen broad-leafed forests in South Asia. Such forests have the arbor layer at the top, the shrub layer in the middle and the vegetation layer at the bottom. Tall arbors such as toona ciliata and ficus microcarpa grow in the upper layer; the middle layer is dominated byancient tea trees and decorated with lauraceae, ericaceae and other plants; and the lower layer is covered by gramineae and herbs such as ferns, galenicals and wild vegetables. Compared with common terraced tea plantations, such a special multi-layered ecosystem helps ancient Pu’er tea plantations with well-preserved soil fertility and effectively reduced disease and pest. The special way of tea cultivation in forests was created by human through persistent study of the nature.

Over more than one thousand years, native people have built a close and friendly interaction with the ancient tea plantations based on discovery, cultivation and utilization of tea, thus forming a charming mountain settlement landscape and rich regional ethnic culture. The nominated property involves two administrative villages, namely Jingmai and Mangjing, with a total population of about 5,500 from more than 1500 households, respectively belonging to the Dai, Blang, Hani and Wa nationalities. In this region there are eight minority villages with distinctive characteristics generally built in area about 1500 meters above sea with sufficient sunlight, surrounded by forest, farmland, wild tea trees and wild animals. The villages have clear public centers-village heart. Residential houses are mainly two-storied pile-dwellings with a balcony for drying tea. Symbols of tea are often used on buildings as decorative patterns. Rich folk cultures are derived from tea production process, including religion, language, customs, architecture culture, vernacular literature, village regulations and so on. In particular, local people not only believe in Buddhism, but also believe in the “tea ancestor”. A grand ritual will be held each year for their ancestors who discovered tea, and in each tea plantation, a most exuberant tea tree will be worshiped and respected as a “tree of tea spirit”. A series of village regulations are formulated and played an active role in protection of the ancient tea plantations. Therefore, the nominated area is the most typical place reflecting harmonious relationship between human and land.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
The Ancient Tea Plantations of Jingmai Mountain is a special cultural landscape with the thousand-years-old domesticated-cultivated ancient tea plantations as the core, including elements such as forest ecosystem closely related to the growth of ancient tea trees, native ethnic villages and rich folk cultures. It has great vitality even today.

The nominated area, which is the largest ancient artificially cultivated tea plantation in the world, witnesses the complete evolution of tea from wild growth to artificial domestication as an important life and culture resource of human being. Tea was also brought to every corner of the world through some important regions and international channels and made important contributions to the world’s tea culture and the development of civilization.

The nominated area, on the basis of the belief in “animism”, created unique techniques for artificial cultivation of tea trees under forest system, a technology of land use adapted to natural condition on different altitudes, and a town and village construction technology in harmony with the environment and the tea culture, thus forming an unique mountain landscape integrating “human, land, tea, forest”. It is a typical example of the harmonious relationship between man and nature showing the great wisdom of human to know, to respect and to use the nature.

Native minorities live here in harmony and develop the tea culture of the region, which shows integration of the national culture based on the common value of “tea”. The protection and management rules formulated and executed by local people created the ethnic religion and tradition closely related to tea culture, had profound influence on the development and transmission of tea culture, and serve as indispensable intangible heritage demonstrating the development of tea culture and the graceful vision of harmonious interpersonal coexistence.

Therefore, the nominated area is an outstanding example of the agricultural landscape. It embodies ecological ethics of harmonious coexistence between people and between human and nature which have important outstanding universal value for common prosperity and development of the world in modern times.

Criterion (iii): Since 1800 years ago, Jingmai people discovered and domesticated tea, and based on their respect to the nature, formed a millennium sustainable ancient tea garden landscape known as “living tea tree museum”, which is a microcosm of the development of Chinese tea culture and civilization, an outstanding representative of the world’s tea culture, and a model of coexistence between man and nature. As one of the birthplaces of the world’s tea culture, Jingmai Mountain is a part of the Ancient Tea-Horse Route, through which tea culture spread all over the world and made great contribution to the development of the tea culture and civilization. It is a historical testimony of the important contribution of the Chinese nation to the industrial development of tea , one of the major beverages of the world.

Criterion (iv): The Ancient Tea Plantations of Jingmai Mountain, integrating natural forest, the ancient tea garden landscape, modern terrace tea landscape and coexistence of traditional residential villages and natural mountains, is an outstanding representative of agricultural landscape of dryland terrace tea culture. People of various nations live in traditional villages in harmony for generations together with development of tea mountains, reflecting the common value and social cohesion based on tea culture and having significant influence on the local village planning still today. In the preserved traditional residential buildings, the religion systems and traditional customs of the ethnic minorities are integrated into the village planning and architectural design, the tea culture is blended with ethnic faith and daily culture, and tea is symbolized and mixed into architectural design and ethnic costumes and culture, reflecting local distinctive features of local tradition and tea culture. Ancient tea gardens which exist for thousand years, as well as the mountain residential buildings and traditional culture highly mixed with tea culture and local natural environment witness the evolution of the regional civilization and culture based on tea industry, reflect the achievements of tea culture combining both material and spiritual civilization, highlight the example of coexistence between human and the nature that reaches an ideal state of natural harmony, man-nature harmony and ethnic harmony.

Criterion (v): Based on specific natural conditions of the primitive forest and the cultural background of “animism” belief, the Ancient Tea Plantations of Jingmai Mountain, with its historical ancient tea culture and the ecological value of harmony between man and nature, form an ancient tea garden ecosystem which is on the basis of respecting natural resource and sustainable development. Under extreme conditions of mountains, local residents strictly protect primitive forest, forming a unique vertical land-use pattern, create a technology of planting tea in forest, develop unique ancient artificial tea forests in natural forests, and form a local tea culture landscape of Jingmai style. The coexistence of forest and tea garden, as well as the rules formulated to protect the landscape and ancient tea garden, set an outstanding example of land use, and reflect the ecological ethics of respecting nature and harmony between man and nature, and have important inspiration for the development of world ecological civilization.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The elements of the cultural landscape are authentic. Both the ancient tea plantations and ethnic villages are preserved with the historical atmosphere. The three ancient tea plantations are well-preserved; the largest population in villages is still ethnic minorities; more than 90% residential houses are traditional. Moreover, traditional custom and cultural tradition are still observed by local people, most labors are engaged in maintenance of tea plantations, tea is their main source of income. Ancient tea domestication techniques and traditional ancient tea plantation techniques remain intact; lands are used in original modes; and conservation management system of ancient tea plantations is inherited and carried forward.

The general structure of the cultural landscape is also authentic. Both the human-land-tea plantation-forest composition and the vertical land use mode are preserved with authenticity. Therefore, a high degree of authenticity is kept in the nominated area in terms of material, design, technique and function.


Landscape elements supporting the value of the nominated area are integral. Within the proposed boundary, the landscape contains all necessary elements reflecting the outstanding universal value of the tea cultural landscape throughout its evolution. Four elements, namely domesticated and cultivated ancient tea trees, natural forest closely related to growth of ancient tea trees, minorities such as Blang as users and defenders of ancient tea trees, and their villages, are well preserved in terms of their composition and function, and are interdependent to reflect the historical characteristics of the ancient tea culture in the region which have been passed down till today. Regional scope supporting the value of the nominated area is integral. The nominated areas of the ancient tea plantations are sufficiently large to exhibit the value content of the cultural landscape of tea industry. The nominated area includes 16,000 hectares of cultivated ancient tea plantations with about 1.13 million ancient tea trees. It is the largest one of the 14 major Pu’er ancient tea mountains, including all elements to exhibit the tea culture landscape. Besides, there are about 23,000 hectares of terrace tea plantations, about 34.5 million tea trees, approximately 69,000 hectares of symbiotic woodland in original state, eight villages, and four native ethnic groups of Blang, Dai, Hani and Wa.

As the major source of life for local people, the landscape plays a role in the tea business, and is preserved according to strict standards. A series of protective regulations are formulated by the local government, and some regulations are spontaneously formed by local people to conserve the integrity of the landscape, making its core landscape well-preserved.

Comparison with other similar properties
There are 18 World Heritage properties related to agricultural landscape in the World Heritage List, including 6 of beverage plants, 2 related to coffee and 4 related to grape wine. At present, there is not a cultural landscape World Heritage focusing on tea cultivation and tea culture. Tea as one the three major beverages of the world is an important agricultural heritage with outstanding universal value. Tea culture-based agricultural landscape is a combination of material and spiritual cultures.

Cultural landscapes of different agricultural products present themselves in different ways. In the region of the Jingmai Mountain, the landscape formed by the close tie between man, tea trees and land is an outstanding example of harmonious coexistence of man and nature, reflecting the integration of local people and natural landscape, which is well preserved even today. The cultural landscape formed by cultivation of tea trees is not only a representative of local culture but of traditional Chinese tea culture. It represents regional features and national culture. Chinese tea culture integrates Chinese Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, and connects nature and man, functioning as an important medium for human communication and cultural exchange. Tea, spread from China to the world, makes important contributions to the world’s culture. Different from other heritages represented by agricultural technology or regional cultures, the national culture embodied in tea plantation landscape is of the essential significance.

The famous Assam tea plantation in India, tea plantations in Sri Lanka, Shizuoka tea plantation in Japan, etc. are mainly terrace tea landscapes with standardized modern cultivation. They are professionally managed by limited corporations with large scale. While the Ancient Tea Plantations of Jingmai Mountain are cultural landscapes formed by adaptation to the nature under extreme conditions. The local people discovered, domesticated and cultivated tea to form a traditional way of ancient tea cultivation in natural forests which is still in use today, thus creating a sustainable ecological system and land use mode. The traditional protection by local people helps tea plantations of Jingmai mountain remain their vitality and free of damage in thousand years’ evolution. The landscape with coexistence of land and man has rich cultural significance in world’s dryland terrace tea culture, reveals the law of association between man and land, development and protection, achieves the state of natural harmony, harmony between man and nature and harmony between ethnic groups, and stands as an outstanding example of mutual growth of nature and mankind.

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