ICOMOS China Charter

Foreword

In China one of the major issues for cultural heritage is how to deal with the relationship between socio-economic development and heritage conservation in order that both economic development and heritage conservation come out winners.

China is presently going through a phase of rapid development. Many places simply pursue the economic benefits of cultural heritage and ignore conservation of the property. In some areas people may even damage a site for shortterm economic gain. There are some places that realize the importance of heritage conservation after becoming more economically developed and invest considerable funds for conservation purposes. However, many undertake conservation without following appropriate theories and what may have started off as good intention ends up with negative results. In order to address these problems, more effort has been put into education so that the public in general and all stakeholders understand that  cultural heritage can play a positive role in society today. At the same time, law enforcement has been strengthened with priority placed on criminal investigation in cases of destruction of heritage sites. More importantly, research into the theory of conservation has been enhanced and appropriate concepts and theories have been used to guide us in finding solutions to questions that still remain. For example, as
a result of extensive theoretical research we have undertaken on appropriate use of heritage sites, we conclude that appropriate use is the best means of maintaining the vitality of a site in contemporary life as well as an important means of promoting the conservation of both its physical remains and values. This has already become a consensus among the professionals.

New issues emerge in the conservation of cultural heritage sites during times of rapid economic and social development. For these reasons it has been necessary to revise and supplement the original content of the China Principles so as to better address the main issues presently facing heritage conservation.

While emphasising historic, artistic and scientific values of heritage sites, the revised China Principles also recognizes cultural and social values based on theoretical research and practices in heritage conservation and use both in China and internationally. In addition to cultural and social values that are attributed to physical remains of many heritage sites, social value is demonstrated when a heritage site generates social benefits in aspects such as maintaining knowledge and spiritual continuity and enhancing social coherence, while cultural value is closely connected to cultural diversity and intangible heritage. The concepts of cultural and social values have further enriched the categories and meanings of China’s cultural heritage, and have played a positive role in constructing the value based theoretical system of Chinese heritage conservation.

Interpretation and presentation of heritage sites. The new version of the China Principles regards reconstruction of a destroyed historic building as a means of interpretation and presentation, which defines the nature and values of reconstructed buildings, thus settling a long disputed issue in the conservation of China’s historic structures.