China, which has suffered one of the biggest losses of cultural relics in history, yesterday reiterated its pledge to reclaim the artefacts.
"The Chinese Government attaches great importance to reclaiming the treasures lost overseas," Shan Jixiang, head of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, told a press conference organized by the State Council Information Office.
"The government has been putting increasing efforts in recent years on recovering them."
There are at least 1 million Chinese artefacts in more than 200 foreign museums across 47 countries, according to official figures.
Shan did not specify how the artefacts were "lost" but the country's history has it that foreign invaders had stolen and looted tons of Chinese cultural relics over the past centuries.
Some objects have also been spirited out of the country through trade and smuggling.
Shan said China has sought legal means and international co-operation to help retrieve the treasures.
The country has signed the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, and entered into bilateral protocols with countries including Peru and Italy, he said. The authorities also collaborate with the International Criminal Police Organization and the customs organizations.
In 1996, when it signed a convention on the return of cultural relics established by the International Institute for the Unification of Private Laws, China made a legally-binding statement that it reserves the right to reclaim the cultural relics that were illegally looted, People's Daily reported earlier.
Most recently, China set up a special database to help reclaim the lost cultural relics, Shan said, adding that the government's unremitting efforts have paid dividends.
For example, in 2000, the country recovered from New Zealand a batch of ceramics which were looted from Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, by the Eight-Power Allied Forces aggressive troops sent by eight countries in 1900.
Shan also said the country plans to conduct a third nationwide census of cultural relics after a hiatus of 25 years.
Minister of Culture Sun Jiazheng said that the State Council yesterday put 1,081 cultural heritage sites under State protection, joining 1,271 others that had been designated for top-level protection since 1949.
Sun said preparations were well on the way to mark the country's first "Cultural Heritage Day," which the State Council decided to celebrate on the second Saturday each June. It falls on June 10 this year.
The minister conceded that during urban development, some cities had not done enough to protect old structures, adding demolition of historical buildings must be strictly regulated.
Answering a question from the foreign media on cultural relics related to the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), which began this month 40 years ago, Sun said such materials are being collected in China.
The minister said a host of objects relating to the period had been lost or scattered throughout the world but the The National Museum of China and the National Library of China, among others, have collected a wealth of relics and materials relating the "cultural revolution."
Some Chinese scholars including Ba Jin, a literary giant who died last year, proposed the setting up of a museum featuring the "cultural revolution."
The Chinese have the responsibility of letting their descendants remember the lessons of the 10 years of calamity, Ba once said.
(Source: China Daily)