Handbook on the Law of Cultural Heritage and International Trade
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Handbook on the Law of Cultural Heritage and International Trade

Edited by James A.R. Nafziger and Robert Kirkwood Paterson

This Handbook offers a collection of original writings by leading scholars and practitioners in the exciting, rapidly developing field of cultural heritage law. The detailed essays are the product of a multi-year project of the Committee on Cultural Heritage Law of the International Law Association.
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Chapter 5: China

James Ding


Before the establishment of the People's Republic of China on 1 October 1949, China had been struggling with Western imperialism since the nineteenth century which had led to a huge outflow of cultural property that had been looted or otherwise transferred. "Most Chinese cultural property were [sic] taken abroad when Western colonial powers and imperialists pillaged China by means of war, robbery, looting, threat, fraud or other illegal acts. Since 1840, Chinese cultural relics began leaving China - just as quickly as the Western world arrived." As early as 1930, the nationalist authority had promulgated legislation to preserve antiquities, following the establishment of a central committee on the preservation of antiquities in 1928. But there was no corresponding committee or legislation at either the regional or local level. On the other hand, the communist authority established local committees and regulations in areas under their control, such as the Regulations for Preservation of Cultural Objects and Antiquities in the Liberalized North-Eastern Region. Following the establishment of the People's Republic of China, the Central People's Government promulgated various measures to protect cultural heritage - by issuing notification and interim regulations as well as by conducting surveys and compiling inventory - and gradually established national and regional authorities specializing in the protection and management of cultural heritage. The Cultural Revolution severely interrupted the regulatory regime and a new regulatory regime only began to emerge in the 1980s.

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