About 212 antique chests and other relics escorted by armed police were moved out of Mianyang yesterday.
They are being housed in Guanghan until Mianyang gets back to normal.
Some of the relics date from the Neolithic Age. They include pottery, fabrics, paintings and calligraphy.
They were previously kept at the storage house of the Mianyang administration of cultural heritage (MACH).
"We started to plan the move two days ago," Wang Xijian, director of MACH, said.
"Even if the quake lakes do not overflow, we have to prepare for the worst," he said.
As they did not have enough time to order special boxes to pack the antiques, a local factory helped out by donating hundreds of TV packing cases.
Lots of cotton and tissue paper were put in each case to prevent damage during the journey to Guanghan's Sanxingdui Museum, an hour's drive from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan.
During the unloading, Wang repeatedly told the porters to be careful while taking photographs as a "historical record".
"It is the first time since 1949 relics in the country have been urgently moved because of a natural disaster," Wang said.
Tang Guangxiao, vice-director of MACH, said: "Every item has a high cultural, scientific and historical value that cannot be measured by money."
There are still 150 antique chests left in Mianyang waiting to be moved, depending on the weather, Wang said.
The Sanxingdui museum, which opened in 1997, is one of the best in Sichuan.
Its first exhibition featured the ancient Shu culture dating back 3,000 years.
Despite having more than 1,000 exhibits, only two porcelain jars were damaged in the earthquake.
The most famous items, a 2.62-m-tall bronze statue and a 1.38-m bronze mask, are safe having been stored in a warehouse.
"The 200 sq m warehouse, in effect, is not big enough to store all the transferred relics," the museum's vice-director, Zhang Yaohui, said.
"To save space, we have had to build more shelves in the past two days."
Each case was weighed and date stamped before being placed in the warehouse.
"It does not matter what the value and size of the relics are, we will protect them as we do our own," Zhang said.
Security at the museum has been tightened with more security guards being deployed.
Zhang said construction of a 3,000 sq m quake-proof warehouse will begin later this year.
The Sanxingdui museum will reopen on Saturday.
(China Daily May 30, 2008)