The Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in China (Chinese: 中国文物古迹保护准则; pinyin: Zhōngguó wénwù gǔjī bǎohù zhǔnzé) is a conservation charter promulgated in 2000 by China ICOMOS with the approval of State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH Chinese: 国家文物局; pinyin: Guójiā wénwù jú). It provides a methodological approach to the conservation of cultural heritage sites in China.
While sustained debate on approaches to conservation dates from the nineteenth century, only in the mid-twentieth century were the first international and national conservation charters drawn up. In China, the development of modern conservation concepts and practice began in the 1930s.
In 1950 the People's Republic of China began a national inventory and assessment of the significance of its cultural sites. As of 2004, over 400,000 heritage sites had been identified nationwide, with over 1,230 listed as being of national importance.
In 1982 the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Cultural Relics, consolidating previous legislation, entrusted primary responsibility for the conservation of cultural heritage to the government, while regulating the actions of conservation professionals. In 1985 China ratified the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. In May 1997 SACH requested that the Getty Conservation Institute assist in drawing up China's first conservation charter, with the Burra Charter proposed as a model. A tripartite project with the Australian Heritage Commission was launched in October 1997.
By involving foreign parties as well as drawing upon domestic experience, it was intended that international best practice should guide local heritage practitioners. The Preface to the China Principles states 'China's magnificent sites are the heritage not only of the various ethnic groups in China but are also the common wealth of all humanity … it is the responsibility of all to bequeath these sites to future generations in their full integrity and authenticity. Economic development, mass tourism, globalization, and national interests have all affected the country's historic legacy.
The 38 articles of the China Principles, with accompanying commentary, were promulgated by China ICOMOS in late 2000 with the approval of SACH. The principles are grouped into five chapters: (1) General Principles; (2) The Conservation Process; (3) Conservation Principles; (4) Conservation Interventions; and (5) Additional Principles. An English-language translation was first published in July 2002 and a bilingual version with a Chinese-English and English-Chinese glossary was published in May 2004. It is recognised that, as use of the guidelines reveals the need for change, the Principles will be revised. A planned further document is to comprise illustrated examples of successful conservation measures.
Extended commentary clarifies the way in which these principles should be interpreted and implemented.