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Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP) is a small grassroots, legally-registered NGO working to protect cultural heritage across China.

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Heritage Trail project

Volunteers Looking After the Wall

In a remote corner of the Funing District of Hebei Province, near the Liaoning border, lies the village of Dong Jia Kou, home to 122 families. Six hundred years ago, in the Ming Dynasty, the Great Wall was constructed close to this village. Four hundred years ago, the famous Ming Dynasty General Qi Jiguang ordered the strengthening of this section of the Wall. Experts believe that this Dong Jia Kou section of the Wall is a very representative Ming Dynasty section that is in relatively good condition. The Dong Jia Kou villagers believe that the maintenance and protection of this section of the Wall, for several tens of kilometers, has been the work of their ancestors.
What follows is the story of one of those villagers, Sun Zhenyuan. This empowering story illustrates how CHP can use a very small amount of money to encourage local people in the countryside to protect cultural relics. Sun, is 56-years-old and in most ways lives a life no different from hundreds of millions of China’s other farmers. He makes a living by cultivating three mu of land, and supplements this by occasionally taking a few local products sell at the markets. But in one respect he is very different from other farmers: his deep reverence for the Great Wall protection efforts of his ancestors has led him to devote all the time he has left over, after producing enough food for his family, to the ongoing task of looking after the Dong Jia Kou section of the Great Wall.

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Sino-Italian Agreement on Prevention of Cultural Heritage Theft

On 20 January, representatives of the Italian and Chinese governments signed a bilateral agreement to prevent the illegal movement, theft and illicit excavation of cultural artifacts.  In this agreement, the two governments highlighted the grave threat that these illegal activities already present to the cultural heritage of mankind. The two countries agreed to commence cooperation on the basis of each country’s laws and their obligations and responsibilities under international treaties.  They also agreed to undertake cooperative, defensive, and forceful measures to counteract illegal activities in the cultural sphere.
The 1970 UNESCO Convention and 1995 UNIDROIT Convention  are the basis for the terms of the agreement. The agreement also encourages prompt information exchange, including:
  • specific clauses of the law and policies of relevant departments of the governments of the two countries
  • databases on cultural artifact smuggling suppression
  • the status of issuance of licenses for export of cultural artifacts
  • the status of underground and excavated heritage
  • the status of commerce in cultural artifacts
  • developments in illegal trafficking.
The two countries also stressed:
  •  increasing cooperation
  • raising awareness of museums and other cultural organizations about the harm done by illegal trafficking in cultural antiquities
  • coordinating cultural relations with developing countries
  • implementing cooperation with organizations related to international conventions
  • ending contact with any groups that are engaged in illegal trafficking of antiquities.
As two countries that have made major contributions to human civilization, by signing this agreement China and Italy are demonstrating that they have the same viewpoint and that their cooperation will be highly effective. Many years ago China and the U. S. started to investigate the signing of a similar agreement. But, facing pressure from antique dealers and collectors, American policy makers demonstrated indecision and a lack of responsibility towards the cultural heritage of mankind. We maintain that to get the American government to change their position, first it is necessary that the American public understands the threat that theft, illegal excavation and illegal trafficking pose to the world’s cultural heritage. American cultural institutions should take responsibility in this area.

Friends of Old Beijing: A Few Case Studies on the Old City Redevelopment in Beijing

Speaker: Wang Shiren
Translated by: Wang Gang
Transcribed by: Chen Yu
Date: Saturday, Januray 13, 2006


Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Right now, everyone who is concerned about the protection of Old Beijing knows that there are laws and regulations in place. With these laws and regulations, many of us want to know what we can do next to preserve the city. Now, we have spent a lot of time and effort to find an authoritative expert to talk about this problem because we feel that it is a very important issue. The individuals who wrote the Beijing Preservation Policy recommended Mr. Wang Shiren. Mr. Wang Shiren is a very famous and respected expert in this area. I have read a lot about Mr. Wang and concluded two points. First, he is an expert and not a paper pusher. Instead, he directly entered onto the national and municipal stage on the issue of protection of Old Beijing. He works very closely with the government. When the national and municipal governments are deciding on the plan for the protection of the Old City, they consult think tanks. Mr. Wan is an important member of these think tanks. Mr. Wang also has another specialty and it is that he part of some of the most important programs in the protection of Old Beijing. I think that Mr. Wang’s presentation today will be very interesting. Now I wanted to remind you that the protection of the Old City is very complicated and a very broad issue. I think that everyone understands that protecting Old Beijing is ten thousand times harder than protecting the most famous piece of fine china. You can put a piece of fine china in a safe to protect it. Obviously, you cannot do that with Old Beijing. Mr. Wang’s presentation, in a moment, might be in the form of a discussion. I feel that this will be beneficial. Now let’s welcome Mr. Wang.

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Second Saturday of June to Be “Cultural Heritage Day”

Last September, we reported that China hoped to establish an annual Cultural Heritage Day to restore our confidence in the future of our vanishing cultural heritage. Now this hoped for event has occurred: the national government recently announced that, starting this year, the second Saturday of June every year would be national Cultural Heritage Day.  The only difference with our earlier report is that this day is not to be celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (Duan Wu Jie), but instead will be celebrated on the second Saturday of June. This is perhaps to give the celebration of this day a broader audience.
In its establishment of Cultural Heritage Day, the government expressed its dissatisfaction with the present state of cultural heritage conservation. The government feels that in many old districts of cities, in old buildings, and in archaeological sites, there has been much destruction, illegal transfer of cultural artifacts, theft of tombs, and smuggling of antiquities; moreover, there has been no effective suppression of these illegal activities, as a result of which many cultural treasures of the country have disappeared from China, and the special character of ethnic and regional cultures has been lost at an ever increasing rate.
In an effort to halt this destruction of cultural heritage, every department of the central government and all local governments have been called upon to put in place systems for the protection of cultural heritage. In addition, the government has called for a system of regular reporting on the protection of cultural heritage, for consultation with cultural experts, and for making cultural heritage protection more scientific and more popularly based.
In order to strengthen popular consciousness of cultural heritage protection, China now has a “Cultural Heritage Day”, a “Cultural Heritage Logo”, and a “Cultural Heritage Protection Song”. Although the state of cultural heritage protection today remains abysmal, we nonetheless that the situation will improve, and that the rate of improvement depends on our efforts.

CHP Cracks Smuggling Case

Last month, a middle level court in Jin Hua City, Zhejiang Province, began to pass sentence in the case of Canadian Zhu Chunlin, and Chinese Zhu Xiaogang, Yu Yanjun, Yu Lichun, Chen Zhigen, and Cao Guangjun, who are accused of smuggling and reselling 2925 fossil pieces.
The smuggling ring was formed is 2003. In April and October, Zhu Chunlin and Zhu Xiaogang purchased illegally collected fossils from Yu Yanjun and Yu Lichun. In December of that year, Zhu Chunlin and Zhu Xiaogang concealed the fossils in a container packed with carved tree stumps and exotic eroded stones to smuggle into America.
In April of 2004, Zhu Chunlin and the other gang members took many of the fossils to Chen Zhigen’s tree stump carving workshop and awaited an opportunity to smuggle them out of the country. Later that year, on 1 November, Chen Zhigen and the others tried smuggling the fossils out in a shipping container, but the fossils were detected by Jin Hua customs officials. Another eight items that they attempted to export through the postal system were seized by Shanghai customs officials.
In September of the same year, Yu Yanjun carried fossils that he had illegally acquired and sold them. Eighty-one of these fossils were detected by Shanghai customs authorities as the smugglers mailed them through the postal system, but the remainder evaded detection and were mailed out of the country.
According to Chinese law, selling the types of fossils that Zhu and his associates were handling is a criminal offense and the maximum penalty is ten year’s prison sentence. For the smuggling of these fossils, however, the maximum sentence is the death penalty.
The Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center’s “hot line” telephone service played a role in breaking this case by supplying details and some legal advice. The hot line service was created two years ago, financed by a grant from the Jim Thompson Foundation of Thailand, and the role the hot line and CHP’s training played in breaking this case illustrates the good use the public makes of CHP’s hot line service.
CHP’s training in the Shanghai and Zhejiang areas has been particularly effective. CHP has conducted more than ten different training sessions in these two areas, with more than 2,000 people participating, including students, neighborhood committees, government officials, police, and customs officials. These training sessions have raised their consciousness of cultural heritage protection, and they can identify activities that are destroying cultural heritage. Many people now know about the CHP hot line service, and have both the telephone number and email address.
In the Zhu Chunlin case, a worker’s son in Chen Zhigen’s workshop attended a CHP training session. Starting in January 2004, they often contacted us by the hot line to report suspicious activities in the workshop. In the latter part of April that year, as the illegal fossils were concealed in the workshop, they were in daily contact with us, calling from safe places. We advised them of precautions to ensure their safety, and also told them to keep gathering evidence of the smuggling. At the same time, we informed the police and notified a few trustworthy people in positions of authority so that they could watch the development of the case, until finally the arrests were made.
As for the fossils detected in the postal system, CHP had been invited to conduct training by a Shanghai neighborhood committee and participating in this session were a number of neighborhood organizations, including representatives of the local post office. Afterwards, the CHP hot line number was posted on the post office’s wall.  When the postal officers noted these fossils being mailed to America, they called the number. We told them to delay posting the materials, and immediately informed customs officers, who investigated and apprehended the culprits.
We shall be following the case closely to see what verdict is rendered and sentence passed by the court.
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