TAIYUAN, April 11 (Xinhua) -- Police in north China's Shanxi Province have caught 1,179 suspects in cultural relic-related crimes and solved 724 such cases since 2018, local authorities said.
More than 17,000 historical artifacts were retrieved in the province during the period, according to the provincial public security department.
The numbers of suspects, cases solved, and retrieved relics have all surpassed the total numbers of the previous eight years.
The province launched a three-year campaign against cultural relic crimes such as tomb raiding and relic smuggling in 2018.
In late January, Shanxi police announced that they had recovered a precious bronze plate, a long-lost cultural relic under top state protection.
The plate, engraved with dragons, turtles, water birds, frogs, fish and other animals, is seen as an auspicious symbol of royalty, longevity and fortune in Chinese culture.
As one of the dowries given to his eldest daughter by the Duke Wen of Jin, the 2,600-year-old bronze ritual vessel had changed hands in many provinces before being sold overseas. The police took months to identify the location of the lost treasure and related tomb raiders and smugglers.
There are 183 characters engraved in the interior surface of the plate, considered to be precious cultural records by researchers, that tell about the prosperity of the Jin state.
In another case, a set of bronze bells dating back to the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 B.C.) had been smuggled and traded several times before police traced them back from a Hong Kong antique trader during their investigation.
Shanxi boasts abundant cultural heritage. The province has more than 53,000 immovable cultural relics, including ancient ruins, tombs and architecture. It is home to 452 cultural relics sites under state protection, the highest of all provincial regions.
On Tuesday, Shanxi police handed over a total of 12,633 retrieved cultural relics including more than 700 items under state protection to the Shanxi Cultural Relics Bureau.
A large number of the cultural relics are bronze wares dating back to the Shang and Zhou dynasties in the Yellow River basin.
Liu Xinyun, vice governor of Shanxi and head of the provincial public security department, said that handover to the cultural relics authority will ensure that they are properly protected.
Li Boqian, a professor with the School of Archaeology and Museology of Peking University, said these items can provide valuable material for researchers to study the history, culture and art of ancient times.
Shanxi's fight against cultural relic crimes is just one case of China's efforts to preserve cultural heritage in recent years.
On Wednesday, a total of 796 lost Chinese cultural relics were returned from Italy. This is believed to be the largest such return of lost Chinese cultural and historical artifacts from abroad in nearly two decades.
In early January, the National Cultural Heritage Administration said it would work out a plan to better protect cultural relics and speed up the creation of a safety oversight platform in 2019.