China doesn’t encourage individuals to retrieve stolen relics: official
○ Grass-roots efforts are helping hunt down lost and stolen Chinese relics overseas
○ By purchasing such items with their own money or even through lawsuits, Chinese people around the world are bringing lost antiques home
○ The return of looted treasures has been praised by State media and seen as a symbol of rising national power
Tourists visit the ruins of Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan) in Beijing. Photo: VCG
An extremely rare Chinese bronze vessel that was allegedly looted from Beijing's Old Summer Palace, or Yuanmingyuan, by a British officer in 1860 during the Second Opium War (1856-60) was sold on April 11 for 410,000 pounds ($582,446) at the Canterbury Auction Galleries in Kent, a southeast town in the UK.
The bronze, known as Tiger Ying, is an ancient wine vessel dating back to the Western Zhou Dynasty (1027-771 BC). According to the auction house, the name comes from the unique tiger decorations on its lid and spout. Only nine similar vessels are known to exist.
Prior to the auction, China's State Administration of Cultural Heritage slammed the auction house for the sale and asked it to respect the cultural rights and feelings of the Chinese people, demanding the auction and related promotional activities be canceled.
Such news aroused anger from the Chinese public as well. Individuals and grass-roots social groups are becoming more aware and passionate about retrieving lost Chinese artifacts, many of which were looted from China during past invasions and wars.
According to statistics from the China Cultural Relics Academy, since the first Opium War in 1840, more than 10 million Chinese cultural relics were lost to Europe, US, Japan and Southeast Asia.
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