Conservation and Management Principles for Cultural Heritage Sites in China

Arising out of a perceived need by China's State Administration for Cultural Heritage (SACH) and the GCI's long involvement with SACH, the aim of the China Principles project is to develop national guidelines for cultural heritage conservation and management that respect and reflect Chinese traditions and approaches to conservation under the country's existing laws for the protection of cultural heritage. The project is a collaboration among three institutional partners—SACH, the GCI, and the Australian Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), formerly the Australian Heritage Commission.

The components for the project are:

China is a country of exceptional diversity with a population of 1.2 billion in an area roughly the size of the United States. In addition to being the most populous country in the world, China has a long, rich history with an almost unbroken cultural tradition extending back some 5,000 years. Its cultural heritage sites record the formation and development of the Chinese people. Yet despite an outstanding cultural legacy and a long tradition of conservation and restoration practice, China has had no national charter or set of guidelines for conservation and management of its cultural heritage.

The development of the China Principles is premised on a holistic approach to the preservation of heritage sites. Key to the process is the conviction that heritage sites have values that can be identified and stated, and that the aim of conservation and management is to preserve those values unimpaired.

conservation image

The guidelines are critically important at this juncture in a rapidly changing nation emerging from fifty years of relative isolation. The inventory of immovable cultural property in China as of 2004 includes over 400,000 entries, of which 1230 are listed as being of national importance. In addition to the conservation and maintenance issues that must be addressed, rapid economic development, social mobility, changing mores, and increasing tourism—both local and international—are posing new management challenges. SACH thus sees the development of conservation principles and their widespread adoption and application as an important and timely initiative.

Now completed and ratified by SACH, the Principles were issued by China ICOMOS in 2000 and consist of a document that covers general conservation principles, a management planning process, and intervention guidelines. The Principles are elaborated in an accompanying commentary. Publication in both Chinese and English has been completed to achieve wide dissemination outside of China, particularly in neighboring countries. An illustrated book with brief case studies drawn from Chinese practice is currently being compiled as an accompaniment to the Principles publication.

Last updated: February 2011


video button