National Cultural Heritage Administration

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National Cultural Heritage Administration
Guójiā Wénwù Jú
Agency overview
Formed 2003
  • (etc.)
Superseding agency
  • State Bureau of Cultural Relics
Jurisdiction  People's Republic of China
Headquarters Beijing
Minister responsible
  • Cai Wu, Culture
Agency executive
  • Shan Jixiang, Director
Parent agency Ministry of Culture and Tourism

The National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA; Chinese: 国家文物局; pinyin: Guójiā Wénwù Jú) is an administrative agency subordinate to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People's Republic of China. It is responsible for the development and management of museums as well as the protection of cultural relics of national importance.[1][2]


After the Chinese Civil War, the State Bureau of Cultural Relics was established to protect relics and archaeological sites as well as help develop museums (though the agency languished during the political turmoil of the Cultural Revolution). Its cause was revitalized with the establishment of the State Cultural Relics Enterprises Management Bureau in 1973 to oversee the protection of cultural heritage and the State Bureau of Cultural Relics (SBCR) in 1988, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture, as the encompassing agency for conservation of Chinese culture and heritage.[3]

The agency is responsible for over 500,000 registered sites of immovable cultural relics on mainland China. This includes 2,352 sites under national protection, 9,396 sites under the protection of provincial governments, and 58,300 sites under the protection of county or municipal authorities. In addition, 103 cities are designated as a "Historically and Culturally Famous City."[1]

There are approximately one million ancient Chinese relics on display in more than 200 overseas museums. The agency is pursuing the repatriation of these items via political, diplomatic, and international conventions. The Chinese government asserts that not only were these items taken immorally but illegally as well. A UNESCO document in 1995 states that cultural relics taken during wartime should be returned to their original countries.[4] [5] [6]


In 2001, the National Gallery of Canada returned an arhat sculpture that was dated about 1300 years ago. This was the first time a museum voluntarily returned an item to the state agency. [7] [8]

A guardian statue that had been looted from a Chinese tomb in 1994 was seized by U.S. customs agents. The U.S Attorney for the Southern District of New York (Mary Jo White) filed a civil forfeiture suit under the Cultural Properties Implementation Act which led to the statue's seizure. It was returned in May 2001. [9][10]

In 2001, the Miho Museum in Kyoto Japan returned a rare Buddhist statue that was stolen from a public garden in the Shandong province.[11]

In 2009, an auction in France took place despite protests from the Chinese Government. Two bronze sculptures that were looted from the Old Summer Palace during the Second Opium War were being auctioned. The purchaser (Francois Pinault) bought them and donated them back to China in 2013. [12]

In April 2018, the Tiger Ying (a bronze water vessel) sold at auction in the United Kingdom. The State Administration of Cultural Heritage condemned the auction stating it was illegally looted from China. The auctioneers did not comment on Chinese requests and the auction went ahead. [13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Protection of Cultural Heritage in China -". 2006-05-25. Archived from the original on February 20, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
  2. ^ "Regulations Concerning the Management and Protection of Underwater Cultural Relics". Retrieved 2012-07-24.
  3. ^ "Dedicated to Great Wall Conservation". China Heritage Quarterly. 2011-04-21. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
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