The State Council, or China's cabinet, has announced the country's first census on moveable cultural relics, in a move to better gauge and protect the state of the country's relics.
According to a circular released on Monday, the four-year census will cover all cultural relics preserved by state organs, public service units, state-owned enterprises, the People's Liberation Army, armed police units and other state-owned organizations in the Chinese mainland.
Due to run from October 2012 to December 2016, the program will be divided into three phases: a preparation stage that will include setting standards, developing software and training personnel; the main survey phase that will last from 2013 to 2015; and a one-year period of database construction and results releasing.
Information to be collected in the census will include quantities, types, distribution and preservation status.
In the circular, the State Council described the census as an action that will "help the country better grasp and scientifically evaluate the situations and values of its relics, improve the relics registration and protection system as well as exert intensified efforts to protect relics."
A special leading group is to be formed under the State Administration of Cultural Heritage to supervise and coordinate the project, according to the circular.
The move comes amid increasing public scrutiny over the country's relics protection drive, especially after the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City, former home of Chinese emperors, suffered a string of incidents involving thefts and damage to relics.
In one case, a Chinese man was sentenced to 13 years in jail and fined 2,000 U.S. dollars for breaking into the heavily guarded site on May 8, 2011, and stealing nine pieces of art made of gold and jewels.
Describing the country's relics protection efforts as "disproportionate" to its wealth of ancient history, a report on law enforcement inspections pertaining to the Law on the Protection of Cultural Relics revealed earlier this year that some local governments would demolish at will cultural heritage sites during urban construction.
Last year, a five-year census found that about 17.77 percent of the country's fixed cultural relics are in relatively poor condition and 8.43 percent are preserved in poor condition.