The Great Wall, The Place Museum (Forbidden City)and the Terra-Cotta Warriors have become the trinityof Chinese cultural relics and first stops for manytourists from abroad. Home to the Terra-Cotta Warriorsand the cradle of Chinese civilization, Shaanxi Provinceheld the capital seats of 14 of China’s ancient dynasties. In thegrass outside Shaanxi History Museum stand stone animalsdating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), which would bereverently housed in the central hall of a small or medium-sizedmuseum. In terms of both quantity and quality of the cultural relics,Shaanxi is unparalleled.
The only provincial-level pilot location for China’s First Censusof Moveable Cultural Relics, Shaanxi boasts not only abundantcultural relics but also rich cultural relics surveying experience.Since 2006, Shaanxi has been promoting informatization managementof cultural relics. By the end of 2007, information about over100,000 relics held by museums across the province had beenrecorded and checked by China’s State Administration of CulturalHeritage, making Shaanxi the first province to set up a databasefor relics. By the end of 2010, the database had 500,000 relicentries. A digital museum based on this data has opened to thepublic, the first of its kind in China.
The database built by Shaanxi Province mainly caters to academic study, with each entry including over 100 specifications,while in the census, each relic is required to label only 14 basicspecs. So, adapting existing data is the main challenge facingShaanxi. Also, the data Shaanxi collected focused on cultural andmuseum institutions. In the census, the scope extends to stateownedenterprises and public institutions. “With increasing relicvalue awareness and concepts, more items are included in thecensus, such as archives and art with historic or scientific value,”explains Jia Qiang, head of Museum and Social Relics Departmentat Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Heritage Bureau.
What’s more, the quantifier China traditionally employs fora book is “volume” and “pair” for shoes, but the census requiresdocumenting exact counts of each piece of a single relic item. Forinstance, a pair of shoes is considered two items. This may seemsimple and arbitrary, but it creates tremendous work for Shaanxi,which has innumerable massive bags of ancient coins. “Most coins,except the rare individual items, are recorded by the total weight ofthe container,” Jia reveals. “This results in continuing damage tothe coins. Also, because of vagueness in records, it’s hard to knowif any were lost or stolen.”