What is China doing to protect its cultural heritage?

One of the three grave robbers who were caught by the police in southeast China’s Zhejiang Province in 2007 is showing how to use a remote sensor.
  • The State Administration of Cultural Heritage, on behalf of the Government of the People’s Republic of China, is making a request to the Government of the United States for assistance under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention to restrict importation of Chinese antiquities. Please read public summary for more details.
  • “Protecting relics tops priorities” by Li Jing China Daily (January 14, 2005)


Some organizations in China devoted to cultural heritage protection

  • Zhonggou wenwubao, the journal of the Chinese National Administration of Cultural Heritage had a special issue on the looting of the worlds cultural heritage, the 14th February 2003. A follow up was published on 21 February 2003. The journal is published once a week and distributed all over China including thousands of museums, cultural institutions, universities, cultural heritage professionals etc. It is also distributed to sinologists all over the world.

Looted material using container ships for illegal export was seized by customs at the last minute

Case study: Container ships used to smuggle looted material
Source: He Shuzhong, Cultural Heritage Watch Weekly Observation “How Many Cultural Properties Are Illegally Exported by Container Ship?”12/25/2000, courtesy of Ton Cremer

Container ships are now the main means of transport of illegal cultural properties from China.

Facing so many large containers in seaports everyday, the authorities could do nothing, to a great extent, to stop the smuggling if there are no clues. Although it is said that X-ray Apparatus for container is being developing, such news seems useless for deterring the smuggling. Actually, analyzing and spot check is the main method for the stopping, although it is inefficient. Just several days ago, the customs house in the seaport of Tianjin City seized a smuggling by such method. The officer found a container, which was declared to load new furniture by a foreign trade company, was suspicious. As the result, the smuggling of 412 pieces of illegal properties loading in this container, including wooden figures of Buddha, pottery and porcelain, stones from remote antiquity, was seized at the last minute.

Now the case is being hearing. On the one hand, we should thank the custom officers’ hard work. On the other hand, we are sure that even the custom officers could not say clearly how many cultural properties have been smuggled by container ships. s


“China has a very rich cultural heritage and has been working very hard in the past decades to protect various aspects of this wonderful heritage. We know that there is still room for improvement, but our commitment is there. We appreciate highly the understanding and support SAFE has shown for China's request for a bilateral agreement to ban illegal import of China's cultural artifacts.”

Han Hong, Cultural Office Chinese Embassy, Washington, DC April 11, 2005