Scope for cooperation with Central, Eastern Europe
The U.S. and Italy have returned 1,157 Chinese cultural relics so far in 2019 and China has signed bilateral contracts with 21 countries to prevent illegal digging and smuggling of relics, said the head of China's State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) at a forum on Wednesday.
SACH head Liu Yuzhu revealed the news at the 2nd China-CEEC Cultural Heritage Forum held in Luoyang, Central China's Henan Province and stressed that China is willing to strengthen international cooperation on cracking down illegal excavation and smuggling of cultural relics.
Many of the cultural relics "were stolen and smuggled abroad over the past 20 or 30 years," Chai Xiaoming, president of the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
Chai said that Chinese cultural heritage department has been keeping a close eye on these lost relics, and expect more will be returned to China.
In the latest development, 796 looted Chinese cultural relics were returned to China from Italy on Wednesday in what is the largest repatriation of its kind since about 3,000 smuggled artifacts were returned from the UK in 1998. The move was hailed by the Chinese foreign ministry as a "new paradigm" for international cooperation in retrieving lost cultural relics.
Many officials from cultural heritage departments of Central and Eastern Europe countries attended this forum. They expressed strong willingness to cooperate with China on recovering and preserving relics.
China and the Czech Republic conducted many exchanges on preserving cultural relics and the two sides have huge potential for cooperation, archeological excavations and the restoration of relics, Jiri Vajcner, head of Monument Preservation Department of the Ministry of Culture of Czech Republic, told the Global Times.
Previously, China lagged behind Western countries regarding excavation and preservation of its cultural relics and "sometimes we have to rely on countries such as France, the U.S. and Japan to help us protect our relics," said Chai.
Nowadays, China is a leader in the field and often provides support for developed and neighboring countries. "China now has the world's best conditions for preserving objects of cultural heritage and the strongest government support on this matter," said Chai.
According to Liu, China has cooperated or is working with 24 countries and regions, covering Europe, South America, Africa and Asia, on heritage protection and restoration.
Immediately after the devastating 8.1-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal in 2015, China dispatched experts to participate in post-quake investigations and assessment of damaged cultural heritage properties. The projects include restoration of the Dharahara (Bhimsen Tower) in Kathmandu.
In order to better protect the world's heritage, China is willing to join hands with other countries to enhance cooperation in fields such as museum management, joint archeology, developing hi-tech processes to preserve excavated relics, and training of professionals, Hu Bing, deputy head of SACH, said on this forum.