June 18, 2024

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China strengthens cultural heritage protection through legislative and academic initiatives

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Visitors take a boat ride to enjoy the view of Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang, Henan province. [Photo/Xinhua]

The State Council of China has unveiled a robust legislative agenda for 2024, signaling a heightened focus on safeguarding historical and cultural cities, towns, villages, and street blocks. The draft of the Law on the Protection of Historical and Cultural Heritage is poised for review by the Standing Committee of the National People”s Congress, with additional regulations for the protection of historical and cultural street blocks, ancient buildings, and traditional villages in the pipeline. Concurrently, revisions to existing regulations for the safeguarding of historical and cultural cities, towns, and villages are also underway.

As legislative efforts gain momentum, the academic sphere is abuzz with initiatives aimed at providing intellectual underpinning for the preservation of historical and cultural heritage. A recent symposium on urban and rural historical and cultural protection and inheritance, held in Beijing in late April, served as a pivotal platform for scholarly exchange and discourse.

Endorsed by the department of building energy efficiency, science & technology at the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and spearheaded by the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design — the key policy and academic entities overseeing China’s historical and cultural urban landscapes — the symposium zeroed in on the systematic conservation of urban and rural historical and cultural values. The discussions were geared toward bolstering protection and inheritance endeavors to bolster urban and rural development, cultural enrichment, and socio-economic progress.

Deliberations at the symposium delved into innovative utilization models, advocating for comprehensive protection strategies to fortify institutional frameworks, implementation pathways, and methodologies for historical and cultural preservation efforts in urban and rural settings.

Wang Ke, deputy director of the department of building energy efficiency, science & technology at the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, stressed the importance of a people-centric approach and the establishment of protection mechanisms with residents as the primary stakeholders.

Meanwhile, Wang Kai, president of the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design, pledged to generate pioneering academic outputs tailored to Chinese contexts, fostering research dissemination and practical applications.

Distinguished experts from leading institutions such as the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design, Tongji University, Harbin Institute of Technology, Renmin University of China, Beijing Municipal Institute of City Planning & Design, Tsinghua Tongheng Urban Planning & Design Institute, and Tsinghua Heritage Institute for Digitization shared valuable insights on holistic protection strategies, interdisciplinary collaboration, and organizational frameworks for effective governance.

Engaging case studies spotlighting cities like Beijing, Harbin in Heilongjiang province, and Kuqa city in Aksu prefecture, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region piqued the interest of attendees. Furthermore, discussions on the integration of cutting-edge technology and artificial intelligence in heritage preservation generated anticipation and excitement among participants.

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