I. Cultural Property Agreement with the U.S.

On January 14, 2009, the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the People's Republic of China entered into a bilateral agreement (PDF), or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), to protect categories of archaeological material from the Paleolithic Period through the Tang Dynasty, and monumental sculpture and wall art at least 250 years old.

Effective January 8, 2014, the two countries extended the agreement (PDF) for an additional five years. The Designated List (PDF) was revised to clarify that the agreement applies to monumental sculpture and wall art at least 250 years old as of January 14, 2009.

II. Summary of the Basis for the Agreement

The U.S. action is in response to a request from Government of the People's Republic of China seeking protection of its cultural heritage made under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. (PDF)

The import restrictions are intended to reduce the incentive for pillage and illicit trafficking in cultural objects.

Signed on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the MOU establishes a means of cooperation to reduce the incentive for archaeological pillage and illicit trafficking in cultural objects that threaten China's ancient heritage. The MOU also aims to further the international interchange of such materials for cultural, educational, and scientific purposes. To that end, China has agreed to promote long-term loans of archaeological objects to museums. The MOU is consistent with the recommendation of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee.

III. Categories of Objects Subject to Import Restriction

The categories of archaeological materials covered by the import restriction include objects made of ceramic, stone, metal, bone, ivory, horn, shell, silk, lacquer, wood, paper, and glass. The time period covered extends from the Paleolithic Era (beginning about 75,000 B.C.) through the end of the Tang Dynasty, A.D. 907. Also subject to import restriction are elements of monumental sculpture and other wall art that are at least 250 years old, as of January 14, 2009.

A detailed description of the object types covered by this agreement may be found in the Designated List (PDF), published in the Federal Register by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Treasury.

IV. Import Restrictions

Objects from categories described in the Designated List may enter the U.S. only if they are accompanied by an export permit issued by the appropriate authority in the Government of China, or by documentation indicating that they left China prior to the effective date of the restriction: January 16, 2009.

V. For More Information

United States: Cultural Heritage Center (

China: State Administration of Cultural Heritage
No. 83, Beiheyan Street
Dongcheng, Beijing, 100009, China

Bilateral Agreements

Learn more about the agreements countries have signed with the U.S. to protect cultural artifacts.