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China eyes more protection of cultural relics


China is making more efforts to preserve its cultural relics, formally prioritizing the protection of more historic sites.

In early May, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) added 1,943 unmovable cultural relics sites to the list of key areas that need protection, taking the total number of sites on this list to 4,295.

Reviewed by more than 130 experts, the newly added sites, scattered around Shanxi, Henan, Hunan, Hebei and Jiangsu provinces, contain 795 pieces of ancient architecture and 516 ancient ruins as well as stone inscriptions and outstanding modern architectures.

Li Xiaojie, head of the SACH, revealed in an interview, that new types of cultural relics sites have been newly listed to obtain prioritized protection, including industrial relics, rural architecture and cultural landscapes.

Moreover, many of the new sites also include valuable cultural relics from ethnic minority regions such as north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

Urging cultural relics protection organs at all levels to enhance the maintenance of cultural relics and regulate to ensure their survival, Li has shown resolution to further the protection work.

In 1982, China's top legislators approved the country's law on cultural relics protection.

Despite great achievements during the years of effort, problems still exist.

Many relics have been destroyed in the process of urban construction, ancient tombs are often robbed, collected historic relics get stolen and antiques are smuggled.

According to statistics from the latest national archaeological survey conducted from 2007 to 2011, China has more than 760,000 registered unmovable cultural relics and 2,384 state-owned museums hold 28.6 million collected relics.

The survey also showed that in the past 30 years, more than 40,000 unmovable Chinese relics have vanished, with half of them destroyed by construction work.

Li said that urbanization has always posed a challenge to the preservation of cultural relics, and balancing the relationship between economic development and preservation of history is of great importance.

"Cultural relics sites should become positive factors to boost economic and social development, as well as enrich local activities," he said.

The SACH head also cited good examples of protection, describing how some of national-level cultural relics sites have become patriotism education bases and others popular tourist resorts, such as the Mogao Grottoes in northwest China's Gansu Province.

There are other important sites where protection has been lacking, however.

The Mausoleum of Prince Jingjiang, located in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is on the list of key cultural relics sites that need protection. It encompasses more than 300 tombs holding the bodies of such Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) figures as the prince, his wife, generals and ministers.

In an example of negligent governance over a historic site, more than 60,000 private tombs were incorporated into the prince's mausoleum in 2011.

Also in November last year, local police in central China's Hubei Province uncovered a separate case involving stealing and reselling tomb relics. They seized a total of 198 cultural relics.

Li Enjia, vice director of the Hebei Provincial Administration of Cultural Heritage, said that scope for illegal black market deals drive people to seek illegitimate profits and commit crimes in the cultural relics trade.