China will launch a massive survey of its underwater relics in an effort to
better conserve the country's cultural heritage.
The operation is part of the third national survey of cultural heritage, Gu
Yucai, director of the preservation bureau under the State Administration of
Cultural Heritage (SACH), said.
Hi-tech facilities such as remote sensors and satellite navigation would be
utilized, he said.
Underwater relics have become prime targets for foreign treasure-hunters and
smugglers in the last two years.
The relics are traded on international waters beyond China's maritime
authority before they are shipped to markets worldwide, many to the United
In China's territorial sea, there are thousands of sunken ships carrying
ancient treasures, mostly priceless procelain.
SACH director Shan Jixiang said that illegal salvage ships were often
equipped with the most advanced technology, in contrast with rudimentary ships
and equipment used by Chinese archaeologists and conservationists.
China's underwater heritage has been the target of art collectors and dealers
since the beginning of 2005, when about 15,000 pieces, mainly blue-and-white
porcelain about 300 years old, were found in a sunken ship off the coast of East
China's Fujian Province.
Chinese archaeologists excavated tens of thousands of precious antiques from
an ancient sunken ship, named "Huaguangjiao No 1", in the sea near the Xisha
Islands this May.
(China Daily 07/25/2007 page4)