Legal systems which triage protection to cultural relics based on a relic grading system have been adopted by several countries. This article examines the implementation of such a relic grading framework by the People's Republic of China. The current state of the law is summarized, and a recent criminal trial is described to illustrate the role the grading system plays within the law. The factors involved in defining the grades of cultural relics are then discussed in context of a cultural relic structural framework, with emphasis to both the state values that they serve and their ability to promote the objective of cultural property protection. The analysis highlights the problems and general considerations with the use of relic grading systems as a means to protect a large number of relics with finite resources.
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