China has nearly 400,000 known unmovable cultural relics above- and underground. Since 1996, the State Council has listed 770 key historical and cultural sites under state protection, more than the total number of the past 40-odd years. The number of key historical and cultural sites under state protection is planned to reach key 1,800 in 2015. China has listed more than 7,000 historical and cultural sites under provincial protection, and over 60,000 under municipal and prefectural protection. The national database for the information of cultural relics will be completed in 2015.
In the 1990s, China made significant investment toward protecting cultural relics. Special subsidies by the Central Government for the protection of cultural relics reached some 700 million yuan for about 1,000 projects. As a result, a large number of cultural relics have been saved from destruction. In 2004, the government of Tibet Autonomous Region allocated 70 million yuan for the preservation and maintenance of the Potala Palace, the Norbuglinkha (Jewel Park) and the Sagya Lamasery. Major renovation of the 1,500-odd-year-old Shaolin Monastery in Henan Province began in February 2004.
In recent years, cultural relics have come under increasing legal protection. China has already participated in the four international treaties of preservation of cultural relics. The Law on Cultural Relics Protection was revised in October 2002 to institute regulations on the transfer and exchange of cultural relics for the first time. In 2003 the government publicized the Regulations on Enforcing the Law on Cultural Relics Protection, Provisional Rules on Administering the Auction of Cultural Relics, and the first special regulation on the protection of the Great Wall - Measures of Beijing Municipality for Administration of Protection of the Great Wall.
So far, the Chinese government has listed 101 national famous historical and cultural cities under key protection, and also more than 80 provincial ones. From 2001 to 2005, the government has allocated some 15 million yuan annually for the protection of famous historical and cultural cities. The protection of these cities includes both the protection of the ancient buildings and historical sectors, and the preservation of the layout, features and traditional cultures of the ancient cities as well. A special law on the protection of famous historical and cultural cities is being drafted.
As a large traditional agricultural country, China has a large distribution of many ancient villages, a rare phenomenon in the world. The natural environments, as well as many relics of folk culture, art and handicrafts are well preserved in these villages. The cultural relics authority is planning a large protection project of ancient villages. In November 2003, the Ministry of Construction and the State Cultural Relics Bureau (under the Ministry of Culture) together released a new list that for the first time puts under protection historically and culturally famous towns and villages. The list includes 10 towns such as Jingsheng Town in Lingshi County, Shanxi Province, and 12 villages such as Chuandixia Village of Mentougou District of Beijing.