Returned marble columns on show at rightful home

By Wang Kaihao | | Updated: 2023-10-13 20:53
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A repatriated marble column on display in Zhengjue Temple in Yuanmingyuan. [Photo by Jiang Dong/China Daily]

After a long odyssey overseas, seven marble columns from the ruins of Yuanmingyuan, or the Old Summer Palace, in Beijing which were recently repatriated from Norway to their home site were publicly exhibited for the first time on Friday.

The columns were originally from the Western Mansion (Xiyang Lou) area of Yuanmingyuan. A long-term exhibition displaying these relics, together with related old pictures, has opened at the Zhengjue Temple of Yuanmingyuan Ruins Park.

As the royal resort of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Yuanmingyuan, which literally means "the garden of perfect brightness", was widely considered the apex of Chinese gardening art. The complex of gardens, temples, palaces and pavilions once spread over 350 hectares — roughly five times of the size of the Forbidden City — in the northwest of Beijing in its peak time.

This architectural splendor was brutally burned down and looted by the invading Anglo-French forces in 1860 during the Second Opium War (1856-60). It gradually fell into ruins in the following decades, and its numerous constructional components were stolen and sold, many of which were lost overseas.

The destruction of Yuanmingyuan has thus been considered as a national tragedy in China.

"It's a key achievement of cultural relic repatriation as we bring the columns back to their original place," said Li Qun, director of the National Cultural Heritage Administration.

"Governments, education institutions and the private sector have closely cooperated with each other with lasting efforts. This will contribute as an example for the return of more lost relics."

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