For thousands of years, human civilizations have arisen along great rivers. With the trend of globalization, a question arises: how to thoroughly understand the significance of river civilizations towards human society and reveal the unique value of river civilizations from the perspective of nature and society?
On September 20, the 2016 Great River Forum attracted the world’s attention to Wuhan, a megacity in China that is located in the middle reaches of China’s longest river, the Changjiang River.
Wuhan, known as “the River City”, boasts a population of 10.6 million and clusters of over 80 colleges, more than 700 research institutions, 26 state key laboratories, and hosts up to 1.3 million undergraduates each year. Why did Wuhan hold this forum? This inland city is a central city in the Changjiang River basin and one of the cradles of Changjiang Civilization. During the early 17th century, a ten thousand-mile tea road was formed, starting from the Eastern Tea Port at Hankou, crossing the Eurasian continent, and connecting the Changjiang River with the Volga River. Thanks to its convenient transportation, booming business, the national positioning of a shipping center in the middle reaches of the Changjiang River, and the abundant strength of its Hi-Tech Industrial Cluster, Wuhan is expected to further embrace the Changjiang River and inherit its civilization.
Michael Turner, Charge de Mission to the Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, spoke highly of the forum, commenting that the forum generated “an outcome that will revitalize the human settlements and their cultural heritage in the urban challenges of the next decade.”
Wan Yong, Mayor of Wuhan City, addressed the forum saying, “Under the theme of Evolution and Sustainable Development of Great River Civilizations, guests and delegates from different counties will share knowledge and discuss the evolution and sustainable development of the economy, culture, and the ecology of river basins, so as to facilitate the common development and prosperity of cities in these areas.”
In the Keynote Session on September 20th, many talks were given, including:
“River Civilizations” delivered by Michael Turner; “The New Challenges of Museums in a Globalised World” by Alberto Garlandini, Vice President of the International Council of Museums;
“Influence the World or Be Influenced by the World — The Power of Museum” by Kenneth E. Behring, President of the Global Health and Education Foundation;
“Inherit Wisdom on Water Conservation and Development, Recreate Glory of the Changjiang River Civilization” by Niu Xinqiang, Academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering; and
“Changjiang Calls for Dialogue” by Yin Hongfu, Academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences.
These speeches elaborated on river civilizations’ history, form, influence on society, and their future prospects from different points of view. Experts from different countries conducted in-depth discussions on the evolution and sustainable development of the economy, culture and ecology in great river basins.
Alberto Garlandini noted a challenge that every big city faces, “In 2016, around 237 million people have had to move to other countries or cities due to economic, political or other reasons. People of different descents, cultures, races, languages or religions come to one place, and bring challenges to its local civilizations, including museums. Wuhan is on the way to being an international city; more foreigners or people from other cities may move in. Therefore, how to handle these changes in an open and inclusive manner is an issue that must be considered by every big city in the world.”
Attendees in the forum also approved the 2016 Great Rivers Forum (Wuhan) Declaration and agreed to hold a Great River Forum every two years. Through mutual dialogues, representatives of museums from river basins signed the Memorandum of Cooperation among Museums in Great River Basins. In addition, Wuhan successfully established friendly relationships with Pucallpa in Peru and Jinja in Uganda, and the Global Health and Education Foundation and the Changjiang Civilization Museum signed an agreement of specimen donation.