China, Cultural Heritage, and International Law: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

China, Cultural Heritage, and International Law

1st Edition

By Hui Zhong


206 pages

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pub: 2017-12-06
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China is a country that is rich in antiquities, but it is also a victim of looting that occurred during the period from the First Opium War to the end of the Japanese Occupation (1840–1945) when innumerable cultural objects were lost overseas. The Chinese Government insists on asserting its interest over its wrongfully removed cultural heritage and has sought for the return of lost cultural heritage by all means in accordance with relevant international conventions and Chinese laws. However, securing the return has been, and continues to be, problematic. Little research has been done regarding the question as to whether China has a legal basis for recovery, which is the first legal hurdle that China needs to get over. In addition, China does not have a legal basis for all cultural heritage taken during the period of 1840–1945. Claims for return without a legal basis are usually silenced or, at best, discussed only but very rarely facilitated.

This book provides an answer for the return of Chinese cultural heritage. It examines the law contemporaneous to the removal of Chinese cultural heritage and its application. For this lack of a legal basis, this book argues that a new customary international law is emerging, according to which the interests of the states of origin in their wrongfully removed heritage should be prioritised. This proposed customary rule supports the return of wrongfully removed heritage. Once this proposed customary rule is accepted, it will provide a stronger argument not only for China, but also for other states of origin with a similar dilemma, including South Korea, Egypt, Greece, Cambodia, Turkey, Peru, and Italy, to recover their wrongfully removed heritage.

While dealing with a large pool of return cases, this book is valuable to museums and art collectors in the event of buying and accepting art objects, and settling recovery disputes with states of origin. It will also be of interest to researchers, academics, policymakers, and students in the fields of cultural heritage law, international law, international trade, and human rights law.

Table of Contents


Table of Cases

Table of Legislation, Conventions and Treaties

Preface and Acknowledgments

Chapter One: Introduction

Chapter Two: States of Origin and Cultural Heritage

Chapter Three: Availability of a Legal Basis for the Return of China’s Cultural Heritage

Chapter Four: Customary International Law

Chapter Five: Return of Cultural Heritage Looted during Armed Conflicts

Chapter Six: Return of Cultural Heritage Stolen and Illegally Exported in Peacetime

Chapter Seven: Evolving Social and Ethical Norms: Practice of Individuals, Private Museums and Auction Houses

Chapter Eight: Return of Historically Removed Heritage


About the Author

Hui Zhong is a research fellow at South China Sea, Xiamen University, China.

About the Series

Routledge Research in International Law

The series offers a space for new and emerging scholars of international law to publish original arguments, as well as presenting alternative perspectives from more established names in international legal research.  Works cover both the theory and practice of international law, presenting innovative analyses of the nature and state of international law itself as well as more specific studies within particular disciplines. The series will explore topics such as the changes to the international legal order, the processes of law-making and law-enforcement, as well as the range of actors in public international law. The books will take a variety of different methodological approaches to the subject including interdisciplinary, critical legal studies, feminist, and Third World approaches, as well as the sociology of international law. Looking at the past, present and future of international law the series reflects the current vitality and diversity of international legal scholarship.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / International
LAW / Property