FALL 2011
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China Principles Revision Workshop
China Priciples revision committee

The China Principles project—a multiyear collaboration of China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) in the Ministry of Culture, the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), and the Australian Heritage Commission—developed Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in China, national guidelines for cultural heritage conservation and management that comply with China’s heritage law and reflect its traditions and approaches to conservation. The Principles were issued by China ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) in 2000 with the authorization of SACH. Bilingual publication in Chinese and English and online availability helped to achieve wide dissemination outside of China

In 2010, after ten years of applying the principles, SACH requested that China ICOMOS revise and expand the thematic content with the participation of the GCI. The aim of the revision is twofold: to update and clarify the principles in light of recent thinking and practice in China, and to better reflect the broad understanding that now prevails as to what constitutes cultural heritage.

In June 2011 the GCI organized a workshop in the United States for six core members of the committee charged with revising the principles. Led by Guan Qiang—head of the department in SACH responsible for sites, monuments, and archaeology and deputy director of China ICOMOS—the group included academics from universities in Beijing and Xi'an and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The workshop explored the concepts of historic cultural landscapes, living heritage sites, memorial sites, cultural routes, and industrial and scientific heritage through a series of site visits, meetings, and discussions in Hawaii and the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas.

Among the heritage places selected were examples of twentieth-century industrial heritage adaptively reused (Ford Motor Company assembly plant) and sites of technological and scientific importance (Mount Wilson Observatory and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, both of which serve a scientific and public role while being recognized as historic landmarks). The USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor was visited as an example of a memorial that both commemorates and interprets a highly significant site in the nation's history and memorializes those who died there. Alcatraz Island illustrated aspects of social and cultural history and—like Rancho Camulos, a rancho-era cultural landscape north of Los Angeles—is a place where history and legend merge in the narratives of Hollywood and popular culture. The role of cultural routes in linking the history of large geographical areas was represented by California's El Camino Real and the twenty-one Spanish-era missions along its route, including Mission San Juan Capistrano, visited by the group. Native Hawaiian heritage sites, historic Chinese American districts, and places of memory, such as the immigration station on Angel Island, are examples of heritage that challenge our distinctions between living and lived heritage.

These and other places visited during the course of the two-week workshop illustrated a range of heritage sites within the context of the history of Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States. They provided examples of varied and complex management structures and methods of protection, interpretation, and visitor management that together served as a stimulus for considering revisions to the Principles, due for completion by the end of 2012.

For more information on the China Principles project, visit the "Our Projects," "Current Projects" section of the GCI website.