According to a Japanese dictionary Kōjien (the seventh edition), bunka-isan (cultural heritage) means a past culture that should be inherited for future cultural development. Today, a cultural property and a cultural heritage are used for referring to almost the same thing, but a cultural heritage connotes inheritance. In French, a cultural heritage is “patrimoine”, which originally meant a hereditary property that is passed down through generations within a family. The units of families expanded to regions, countries, and the world, and that word started meaning a shared property passed down in a certain group. It was the late 18th century when there emerged a mindset of preserving valuable relics that convey the course of history, and it was the end of the 19th century when a willingness to pass down them as shared properties to the next generation was set forth in law in France.
Furthermore, a cultural heritage implies not only the inheritance of goods as assets, but also the inheritance of collective memories linked to them. A monument currently refers to a large building with historic value, but the word monument is derived from a Latin verb meaning “remind someone of something.” Namely, monument is a word meaning a statue or tombstone for reminding us of a certain figure or event, whose purpose is to pass down the remembrance to future generations.
In France, a system called “monument historique” (historical monuments in English) was established in 1830, designating things that are historically or artistically valuable to nations or people in the modern age as heritages. However, this did not include the respect for people’s recognition of things. In parallel with the enhancement of nationalism at the end of the 19th century, people began to trace back the remembrance of their homeland and ancestors.
The study of the remembrance and spirits conveyed by cultural heritages, how to grasp them, and how to describe them would deepen our understanding of the meanings of existence of cultural heritages in the present age. Cultures cannot be inherited with artifacts only, but the above-mentioned effort is required.