China / Society

Shaanxi offers higher rewards for ancient relics

By Ma Lie in Xi'an (China Daily) Updated: 2015-03-18 07:52

Generous financial incentives are being offered to people in Shaanxi province to encourage them to help protect the province's rich heritage.

The incentives were launched on March 1 and are the first of their kind to be offered by a provincial-level government. Many valuable cultural relics have been found in the province.

The highest rewards go to those who provide information about relics or hand over objects that have been obtained legally. The payment in such cases will be 10 times the per capita disposable monthly income of urban residents of the province in the previous year.

Official figures show that the per capita disposable monthly income of urban residents in Shaanxi last year was 2,030.5 yuan ($324).

Zhou Kuiying, deputy director of the provincial Administration of Cultural Heritage, said the incentives were introduced in response to complaints that people who handed over relics received only modest rewards.

Shaanxi was the capital during 13 dynasties, and its eventful history has left behind a large number of relics and remains. Local people often pick up items and hand them over to the heritage authorities, but the small rewards have led to criticism when finds have been reported in the local media. In March 2011, a farmer named Lei Junzheng in Luonan picked up a stone that archaeologists later identified as an ax made during the Western Zhou Dynasty (c. 11th century-771 BC).

Lei handed the item over to the county's heritage administration, but received a reward of just 100 yuan.

In October last year, a worker named Li Lei in Danfeng found a bronze sword made during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). He gave it to the local heritage authority and received 500 yuan.

In the same month, a farmer named Wu Jingyuan in Chenggu picked up a wine set dating from the Shang Dynasty (c. 16th century-11th century BC) and received 3,000 yuan when he handed it in.

The fact that rewards were given was meant to encourage others to help protect the province's heritage. However, the small amounts paid led to complaints.

A farmer surnamed Li in Shangluo refused to hand over an iron plow made during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) even though local heritage staff members visited his home several times.

"I found the plow on my farmland in April 2010 and I want to keep it in my house," Li said. "I do not want money, though someone offered me 10,000 yuan for it."

Zhou said, "The provincial government paid close attention to the complaints, and introduced the new higher incentives in order to further protect the heritage."

The level of payments is based on the quality of the items that are handed in, and the provincial heritage authority reaches expert conclusions to provide a basis for calculating the amount.

"Besides the cash rewards, people who hand over cultural relics or provide information that prevents items from being stolen or damaged also receive a certificate that gives them free admission to State-owned museums in the province," Zhou added.

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