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China calls for boycott of UK auction with suspected stolen relic

By Wang Kaihao | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-04-10 17:09
A bronze water vessel, known as Tiger Ying, is up for auction in Kent. The Canterbury Auction Galleries / For China Daily

China's national watchdog over cultural relics has called for a boycott of an upcoming auction in the United Kingdom of a suspected stolen Chinese bronze ware.

"We don't agree any organization, home or abroad, should take part in the auction," said a Tuesday statement released by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.

"We also call for people with humanitarian spirit to commonly boycott auctions of cultural relics that were lost in illicit ways."

The artifact, called a ying, is a bronze container with tiger-shaped decorations and carved inscriptions. Experts generally date it back to the Western Zhou Dynasty (c.11th century-771 BC).

To date, there are only seven known ying artifacts in existence around the world.

However, an old letter from a British military officer indicated it was illegally removed from the Old Summer Palace in Beijing, an imperial resort of the Qing (1644-1911) court.

The resort, a paramount example of ancient Chinese gardens, was destroyed by the invading Anglo-French expedition forces in 1860 during the Second Opium War, and many treasures from the Old Summer Palace were subsequently lost overseas.

Consequently, the announcement that the tiger ying would be sold through the Canterbury Auction in the UK on April 11 (local time) irritated the Chinese public.

According to the Tuesday statement, the British auction house was contacted by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage and was asked to adhere to international laws and consider the feelings of Chinese people, but Canterbury Auction responded on Monday, refusing to withdraw the artifact from its auction catalog.

"We strongly condemn the action taken by Canterbury Auction, which ignored our protest, insisted on auctioning the cultural relic, and even promoted it with a gimmick of war bounty," the statement said.

The administration also vowed to keep a close eye on follow-up incidents and take further countermeasures.

"We will take any measures necessary to bring illegally taken Chinese cultural relics back home," the statement said.

In recent years, the administration has done many investigations on key Chinese artifacts lost overseas, and has endeavored to prevent them from being resold.

In 2016, some Dunhuang scripts, which were illegally removed from Gansu province in the early 20th century by a Japanese abbot, had appeared in a Yokohama auction house. The auction was finally canceled following Chinese protest.

A bronze water vessel, known as Tiger Ying, is up for auction in Kent. The Canterbury Auction Galleries / For China Daily

 

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