One of the world’s oldest civilizations with thousandsof years of continuous history, China takes pride in itshistorical sites and cultural relics as numerous as starsin the sky. Popularly known as a “tally of national treasures,”the First National Census of State-owned Moveable CulturalRelics, which commenced in October 2012 and is expected to becompleted by December 2016, is happening throughout the country
Like a population census, the cultural relics census has auniversally specific time for each entry’s status: 12 a.m. on January1, 2014. Although the census will last for years, 2014 is especiallyimportant because in February, field surveys will begin to sweepthe nation.
It’s been a long time since China began to survey and inventoryits cultural heritage. In October 1916, the Ministry of InternalAffairs of the Beiyang Government launched a nationwide surveyof cultural relics, including those both publicly and privatelyowned. Later, the Law on the Preservation of Antiquities and theImplementing Rules on the Law on the Preservation of Antiquitieswere enacted in 1930 and 1931, respectively. After the foundingof the People’s Republic in 1949, China carried out three nationwidesurveys of unmovable cultural relics such as historical sites,ancient tombs, and old buildings in 1956, 1981, and 2007, respectively.However, due to China’s immense volume of moveablecultural relics scattered across the country, it never conducted sucha census until 2012.
Internationally, it is common practice for a country to surveyand register its cultural heritage. However, the job requires tremendousinvestment in terms of manpower, resources, and time. In1947, Britain launched its first cultural heritage survey and registration,which stretched all the way to 1968. In 1975, Italy’s Ministryof Cultural Heritage and Activities set up a national registrationcenter to survey and protect its cultural relics. To date, the centerhas completed registration for only 15 percent of the country’salready-discovered cultural relics.