China / Society

Villagers write to Dutch collector to return stolen Buddha

By Yan Weijue ( Updated: 2015-04-10 19:09

Villagers in East China's Fujian province have written a second letter to a Dutch museum and collector demanding the return of an allegedly stolen Buddha statue, China Daily's website learned on Friday.

Villagers write to Dutch collector to return stolen Buddha

A Buddha statue is displayed at the Natural History Museum in Budapest March 4, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

After gathering substantial evidence, villagers said they are convinced that a mummified Buddha statue currently in the possession of an anonymous Dutch collector is the nearly 1,000-year-old Buddha statue of Patriarch Zhanggong, which was lost from Yangchun Village in Datian county in December 1995.

Zhanggong was said to be a locally respected monk during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). After he passed away, people mummified his body and made him into a statue which had been worshipped to until the theft.

"Speaking in a legal, or logical or moral way, we have the right to retrieve the statue of Patriarch Zhanggong and place the Buddha back to the original and permanent home," the villagers wrote.

A Yangchun villager came across pictures of a Buddha statue resembling the Zhanggong statue on the Internet in early March. It was being displayed at the Natural History Museum in Hungary borrowed from the Drents Museum in the Netherlands.

The Drents Museum told Li Zhen, a private coordinator commissioned by the villagers in Hungary on Thursday, that it had forwarded the letter to the collector who hadn't yet replied to the villagers' first open letter sent on March 30.

The collector, however, has acknowledged that the previous "owner" of the statue acquired it from a Chinese artist friend around 1995, and said he is willing to return it if there was adequate evidence to prove it is the same as the stolen one.

One of the most irrefutable pieces of evidence is that the Statue's cushion contained Chinese characters reading "Patriarch Zhanggong" and "Puzhao", the name of the temple that used to house the statue in Yangchun village.

China's State Administration of Cultural Heritage confirmed the statue was the stolen and is working with other bodies to secure its return, according to a Xinhua report.

Li told China Daily's website that about 6 to 8 overseas Chinese are planning on staging a peaceful protest outside the Dutch Embassy in Hungary on Monday April 13, to bring about the return of the statue. The embassy has been notified and said its representatives would meet with the protesters then.

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