UNESCO Triple Crown Shennongjia

The 40th session of the World Heritage Committee on July 17 decided to put China's Hubei Shennongjia on the prestigious World Heritage List as a natural site, bringing to 50 the number of listed Chinese sites. Shennongjia, so far, is China's only winner of UNESCO triple crown (World Biosphere Reserve, World Geopark and World Natural Heritage).

  Editor: Ruan Xinqi


  • 1Title 1: World Biosphere Reserve
  • 2Title 2: World Geopark
  • 3Title 3: World Natural Heritage
  • 4Selected reasons
  • 5Recommended attractions

Title 1: World Biosphere Reserve

Biosphere Reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems recognized under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme to promote solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. As of 2011, UNESCO has designated 564 biosphere reserves in 109 countries.

World Biosphere Reserve

Year of Inscription: 1992

General Description:

The Shennongjia Biosphere Reserve belongs to the east branch of the Dabashan Mountains which connect the Tibetan Plateau in West China with the Yangze plain in East China. The area covers high elevation differences from the lowest valley (420 meters) to the highest peak (3,106 meters above sea level) and therefore offers a wide spectrum of vegetation zones. Agricultural areas concentrate on the mountain feet (up to 1,600 meters above sea level) whereas tea plantations can extend up to 2,100 meters above sea level. Before the establishment of the biosphere reserve in 1982, wood logging destroyed some primary forests in the region. Today, forests are protected and, with 2,762 species of vascular plants and the occurrence of a golden monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana) population, the biosphere reserve is considered to be a Green Gene Pool of China.

Mixed broadleaf-conifer forest


Title 2: World Geopark

The Global Geoparks Network (GGN) is a program primarily aimed at increasing resident's income by vitalizing the tourism industry while preserving geologically outstanding areas which are highly valuable parts of natural heritage. The Global Geoparks Network was established in 2004 by the collaboration of UNESCO and the European Geoparks Network.

Year of Inscription: 2013

General Decription: 

Located in the southwest part of Shennongjia Forestry District, Hubei Province, Shennongjia Global Geopark integrates tectonic geomorphology and mountain ecosystems. With a total area of 1,022.72km2, the Geopark consists of five subareas: Shennongding, Guanmenshan, Tianyanya, Dajiuhu and Laojunshan.

During its geological history of 1.9 billon years, Shennongjia area experienced multiple tectonic movements, forming very special alpine structural landform. Shennong Peak, with an altitude of 3106.2m, is the highest peak in central China. All the six mountains over 3000m high gather here, constituting the "Roof of Central China", the watershed of Yangtze River and Hanjiang River in Hubei Province.

Title 3: World Natural Heritage

UNESCO adopted the 'Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage' at the General Conference in 1972, and began to designate World Heritage Sites of outstanding universal value to be preserved for all humanity. World Heritage Sites consist of three categories, namely, cultural, natural, and mixed. Shennongjia is the unique World Natural Heritage site in Hubei.

World Natural Heritage 

Year of Inscription: 2016

General Description: 

Located in Hubei Province, in central-eastern China, the site consists of two components: Shennongding/Badong to the west and Laojunshan to the east. It protects the largest primary forests remaining in Central China and provides habitat for many rare animal species, such as the Chinese Giant Salamander, the Golden or Snub-nosed Monkey, the Clouded Leopard, Common Leopard and the Asian Black Bear. Hubei Shennongjia is one of three centres of biodiversity in China. The site features prominently in the history of botanical research and was the object of international plant collecting expeditions in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Berchemiella wilsonii

Selected reasons

Shennongjia, now is known as UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, World Geopark and World Natural Heritage at the same time. It was selected for the following reasons. 

(ⅰ) Abundant and diversified geological relics

Shennongjia Group, a complete set of strata formed in Mesoproterozoic, is an very important geological heritage; the diabase dyke exposed in the Geopark provides good evidence to the splitting of Rodinia supercontinent in geological history; the moraine conglomerate of Neoproterozoic Nantuo Formation is the relic of ancient global ice age; the widely distributed stromatolite is important evidence for the research on prehistoric organic evolution and sedimentation environment. These geological relics, as well as cap dolomite of Doushantuo Formation of Sinian System, quaternary glacial landform, Dajiuhu wetland section, etc., are of great significance for the research on paleoclimate, paleogeography and geological evolution. Over 200 mountainous landform, structural landform, fluvial landform, karst landform and glacial landform sites make the Geopark a natural geological museum.

(ⅱ) International significance in biodiversity conservation and research

As a well-preserved oasis in inland China and very rare green wonderland in the mid-latitude region of the world, Shennongjia is one of the global 14 key areas with international significance in biodiversity conservation and research, and among the world's 193 biogeographic provinces, Shennongjia has the most typical and well-preserved eco-system of the mid-latitude regions. In Shennongjia, there are 493 vertebrate species, 4,143 insect species, 3,239 higher plant species, 926 lower plant species; 73 national key protected animal species including Golden Snub-nosed Monkey and Panthera pardus, 26 national key protected plant species including Davidia involucrate and gingko, 116 regional endemic plant species including Shennong crossostepium leaf and Armeniaca hongpingensis, and over 30 albinal animal species including white bear and white muntjac. Shennongjia is not only a world-famous "Green Pearl" and "Species Gene Bank", but also a "refuge for species in the quaternary glacier disaster".

(ⅲ) Long-standing history and culture

Shennongjia got its name from the legend that Shennong, a.k.a Emperor Yan, one of the first ancestors of Chinese people, built a scaffold here to collect medicinal herbs. The ancient legend of Shennong, the world-famous mystery of "Yeren" or "Wildman", The Darkness Legend that is known as the creation epic of Han nationality, the characteristic local customs, the primitive and mysterious mountain culture…all endow the Geopark with profound cultural connotation and characteristics.

Abundant and diversified geological relics, primitive and natural eco-environment and long-standing history and culture of Shennongjia make a world-rare geopark. GGN experts praised that Shennongjia Global Geopark perfectly combines geology, ecology and culture, representing a new model of development of geoparks. Shennongjia Global Geopark welcomes guests to appreciate the geological wonders at the latitude of 31°N, feel the primitive forest at the northern bank of the Yangtze Three Gorges, climb the "Roof of Central China", experience the agricultural culture initiated by Shennong, see the "national treasure" Golden Snub-nosed Monkey, and explore the unsolved mystery of "Yeren".

Recommended attractions

1. Swallow Cave

The swallow cave is located within the hills and valleys, 28 kilometers east from Shennongjia Jianshui city of Hubei Province. There is a famous swallow cave at the middle slope, 1,000 meters northeast of Yanziya entrance. The walking distance from the road uphill towards the cave is about 50 meters. The height of this cave is 14 meters and the width is 16 meters. The length of the main cave is about 3,700 meters long.>>more


You could go there by renting car form Songbai town, about 300 yuan/day.

2. Xiangxiyuan Scenic Area

Xiangxiyuan Scenic Area is located at the southeast of Shennongjia, with a total area for about 498.29 kilometer squares. It is an ecological cultural tour area taking Shennong culture as intension, concentrating showing Shennong primogenitor performance and merits as the characteristics, relying on the rare ancient tree resource and primitive but simple tour town in Shennongjia and giving prominence to seeking roots as the theme.>>more

Admission: 30 yuan

Traffic route: Yichang-Xingshan- Muyu town

3. Fengjing Ya

Fengjing Ya (风景垭) is located in the south part of Shennongjia nature protection area, Hubei Province. The elevation is 2,700 meters. The mountain is unique and the valley is elegant. It is enchanting and within the valley are a lot of strange stones. The Stone Forests stand stark against a horizon of endless emerald-green mountains. The strange stones are countless, some twisting and turning, some slim and graceful, some unyielding with craggy characteristic, some covered the cliff and shade from the sky, slender and elegant like young girl, some like old man, some like iron tower standing straight or like sword cutting the sky and the sight is indescribable. >>more

4. Banbi Rock

Banbi Rock, which is located in Shennongjia, attracts tourists from all over the world because of the trace of "wild human beings". The Banbi Rock area is covered with bamboos. It was said wild humans come from here. Traces such as hair, dejection and bamboo nest of the "wild human beings" were discovered in this area. According to the hair discovered, scientists found that the form of the cells is more advanced than that of common animals. >>more

5. Hongping Gallery

Hongping Gallery (红坪画廊) is located in Shennongjia nature protection area of Hubei Province. Hongping Natural Gallery is a small valley area with the length of 15 kilometers; the long valley sided by crags and peaks o?n both sides. It was praised as a natural gallery with pictures o?n every step. There are countless of wild flowers dotted around the waterfalls, pools, caves and streams and beautiful scenes that attracted many famous artists, hence the name "Hongping Gallery". >>more

6.Longmenhe National Forest Park

Longmenhe National Forest Park was constructed in 1983. It is situated in Hubei province on the juncture of Badong County, Xingshan County and Fang County. It is located in the southwest high mountain and Central China Zhongsan Mountain, from the subtropics to temperate zone transition area. It has multi characteristics as in high mountains, steep slope, profound valley and cool climate and moisture from rain. The highest point is Shen Nong Peak with an elevation of 3,105 meters. It has the reputation of "the Central China ridge". >>more

7. Shennong Peak Scenic Area

Shennong Peak Scenic Area is located at the southwest of Shennongjia, with a total area of about 883.6 square kilometers, it is a natural ecological tour area taking the well-reserved primitive ecological system as the background, and ecological multiplicity as the characteristics, embodying the harmonious co-existence between human and the nature as the theme, and it is one of the key scenic area in Shennongjia. >>more

8.Shennong Stream

On the border between Wu Gorge and Xiling Gorge is the Shennong Stream. It is 60km long, taking its rise from the main peak of Shennongjia (known as the first peak of central China) and flowing through Badong county, the stream ultimately flows into the Yangtze River via the Wu Gorge. Cruising along the stream by boat, visitors will become immersed in the wonders of zigzagging watercourses, the primitive environment, the canzonet by the boat tracker, and the mysterious culture along the banks. >>more

9. Shnenong Altar

The statue of Shennong at the sacrificial altar is grand and imposing. The head alone is 21 meters high. The patch of lawn in the middle and the stairs on both sides are representative of the traditional Chinese imperial architecture style. The altar, composed of nine tripod-style cauldrons and eight gui (food storage containers) is also impressive. People worship their ancestors or pray for god's blessings here. >>more

10. Shennongjia Ski Resort

Located in the 2,000-meters high Jiuhuping in Shennongjia Mountain, Hubei Province, Shennongjia Ski Resort is the largest winter sports venue in South China. Covering an area of 10,000 square meters, it boasts of high-quality and abundance of snow and agreeable climate. The average winter temperature in the ski resort keeps at four degrees below zero. The snow packs for about 150 days in a year. >>more

11. Dajiuhu Lake National Wetland Park

Dajiuhu Lake is the largest and highest wetland in Central China. Resting on the border between Chongqing and Hubei, Dajiuhu Lake, a national AAAAA-class tourism scenic spot, is located 1,700 meters above sea level and occupies an area of over 20 square kilometers. The distance from north to south is 15 kilometers and from east to west is three kilometers. A 17-square-kilometer plain, one surrounded by high mountains, lies at the heart of the region; it is a rather rare geographical occurrence. For this reason, the Dajiuhu Lake region is known as the "mountain plain.">>more

Hubei Shennongjia is considered as a treasure of wildlife renowned with high plant diversity. It is not only a world-famous "Green Pearl" and "Species Gene Bank", but also a "refuge for species in the quaternary glacier disaster".