International Journal of Cultural Property

Research Article

The Grading of Cultural Relics in Chinese Law

Timothy Laua1

a1 Stanford Law School. Email:


Legal systems which triage protection to cultural relics based on a relic grading system have been adopted by several countries. This article examines the implementation of such a relic grading framework by the People's Republic of China. The current state of the law is summarized, and a recent criminal trial is described to illustrate the role the grading system plays within the law. The factors involved in defining the grades of cultural relics are then discussed in context of a cultural relic structural framework, with emphasis to both the state values that they serve and their ability to promote the objective of cultural property protection. The analysis highlights the problems and general considerations with the use of relic grading systems as a means to protect a large number of relics with finite resources.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The author would like to express his gratitude to Dr. Neil Brodie, Mr. Peter Tompa, and Professor Robert Bagley, whose insight and comments have been quoted and referenced within this article. The author would also like to thank the referees and editor of IJCP, as well as Professor John Merryman, for their helpful suggestions about the contents of the article itself, and Mr. David Hartill, for graciously providing the pictures of the coins.