Beijing Normal University / Interpretation Evaluation For Geoparks In China

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WEI, Dongying 
School of Geography, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China, 100875

Initiative Description and Primary Objectives 

My colleagues on the faculty, some graduate students at Beijing Normal University and I cooperated with Yuntaishan World Geopark in Henan Province, China and Sanqingshan Geopark in Jiangxi Province to evaluate the interpretation service in their parks. The evaluation included a self-evaluation, visitor evaluation, peer evaluation and expert evaluation. For the self evaluation, we designed a form and asked the management to fill in it. We also did some interviews to understand the specific situation of the interpretation service. For visitor evaluation, we designed a questionnaire and asked more than 600 visitors to the Yuntaishan Geopark and about 20 visitors at the Sanqingshan Geopark to fill it in. We also interviewed many of the visitors.

For the peer and expert evaluation, we invited a group of international experts in park interpretation to visit Yuntaishan Geopark and asked them to evaluate the interpretation service by questionnaires. In addition, a seminar was held and all the experts were invited to discuss and gave the suggestion on its interpretation.

Key Academic Disciplines 

Key academic disciplines include Environmental Interpretation and Park Management.

Key Partner Organizations and Individuals 

Among 138 national Geoparks in China, Yuntaishan Geopark became a member of the Global Geopark Network in 2003. This made Yuntaishan one of the first Geoparks in the Global Geopark Network. Yuntaishan Geopark is located north of Jiaozuo City, in the southern foothills of Taihangshan Mountains in China. With a total area of approximately 556 square kilometers, the Geopark is characterized by its rifting tectonics, and spectacular landscapes formed by hydrodynamic processes, in combination with its natural ecologic and cultural relic scenery (Ye Zhaohe, 2004). 

Yuntaishan Geopark consists of a series of geological formations that have unique scientific significance and aesthetic values, making the site one of the world’s most precious gifts. Under the grand control of a rifting system, the Yuntai Landform represents the typical geological heritage of the neotectonic movement taking place some 23 million years ago. On the stable North China Continental Nucleus, a sequence of continental sedimentary rocks is developed as the record of epicontinental sedimentation from Middle Proterozoic the Paleozoic Era. The unique topographic landforms of the Mount Yuntaishan Geopark have combined the grand panorama of the north and the exquisite beauty of the south. The Geopark also serves as a natural reserve for the most northern distribution of macaque monkeys in mainland China.

Yuntaishan Geopark is divided into five parts: Yuntaishan, Shennongshan, Qinglongxia, Fenglinxia, and Qingtianhe scenic areas. Tourist attractions within the Geopark include the hanging springs and waterfalls of the Yuntaishan area, the gorges and mountain streams of the Qinglongxia area, the towering rock walls of the Fenglinxia area, the crystal clear waters of the Qingtianhe River, the Dragon Crest Ridge of the Shennongshan Mountain. All of these provide the spectacularly scenic views for tourists to enjoy during their visit to the Mount Yuntaishan Geopark.

The establishment of Yuntaishan World Geopark has greatly promoted the development of scientific research in the region as well as the local economy. From a base of 100,000 visitors in the year 2000, the number of visitors reached 2.6 million in 2006, and 3.8 million in 2011 – a thirtyfold increase over 10 years. It can be said Yuntaishan World Geopark is an excellent representative of Chinese Geoparks.
Sanqingshan World Geopark( picture 6-9) is located in the southeastern part of China in the city of Shangrao, Jiangxi Province. A total of 75,660 hectares of land has been blocked off for planning. It is a large scientific park featuring a rich diversity of granite landscapes and unique medium sub-tropical ecological landscapes and serves multiple purposes of tourism and sightseeing, curiosity-driven adventures, scientific research and environmental protection.  INSERT PHOTOS

Initiative History and Champions 

Prof.Wang Min in Beijing Normal University began the research on interpretation beginning in the year 2000 because he found that, in many of China’s National Parks,  there was no scientific interpretation and the management did not know how to exhibit the minerals or how to explain their significance to visitors. He led the graduate students and cooperated with some parks to begin the research. We started at Beijing Zoo and found out some of the tablets that explain the life habits of the animals were not very good. For example, in the exhibit on elk, it was the living areas and life habit of the animals were described.  At the end of the explanation, it said “its fur can be used to make clothes and its meat can be eaten.” We suggested that the last sentence be taken out because it is wrong guide for the visitors. The management of Beijing Zoo listened to us and they changed many tablets.

Later we did the more specific evaluation in some Geoparks and it worked well.
In 2005, an Environment and Heritage Interpretation Center was established at Beijing Normal University. This is a research unit that specializes in the research and practice of interpretation.

Distinctiveness and Strategic Significance of the Initiative 

This situation described above was done quite early in the evolution of China’s National Parks. Since then, the Chinese government and the Geoparks have attached more importance to interpretation.  I was invited to be a member of the expert group on Interpretation Standardization for Chinese National Parks.  Also, I was invited to take the responsibility to develop the evaluation standard for the National Land Resource Science Popularization Base.  All these originated from the evaluation and are related to the impact of the initial evaluation initiative.

Measurable Effectiveness of the Initiative 

First, Beijing Zoo changed the tablets that we suggested not good to use and made use of more environmental friendly materials.
Yuntaishan Geopark changed a lot about its interpretation system according to our suggestions and the new materials have been highly evaluated by many visitors. Sanqingshan Geopark and Guihuamu Geopark also took the related advice and we were told that the changes had a good effect. 

Transferability of the Initiative 

I think it is transferable to other institutions and places. It may just change some items of the evaluation forms.

The Initiative’s Ability to Endure 

I think it can endure quite long time, but it needs to be changed according to the specific places and time.

Engagement Strategies 

 I think the evaluation brings benefits to the parks, visitors, local communities and some related organizations, so it can engage many people and organizations together.