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Lost Summer Palace bronze panel returned

By WANG KAIHAO | China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-11 09:52
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Relics experts inspect the bronze latticed panel returned to the Summer Palace in Beijing during a ceremony on Wednesday. [Photo by Jiang Dong/China Daily]

A long-lost bronze relic from the Summer Palace in Beijing has been returned from overseas and was transferred back to its home on Wednesday.

The bronze latticed panel, 1.05 meters long by 19.8 centimeters wide, was originally set on a window of Baoyun Ge ("a pavilion of treasured clouds") in the compound of the former royal resort during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It was lost in the early 20th century.

Li Lei, a Chinese collector, found the latticed panel in an auction catalog last year in France. Being familiar with patterns of Qing royal relics, he suspected it was from imperial architecture during the reign of Qianlong (1736-95), and was probably from the Summer Palace.

He and two friends, Li Yang and Zhang Jue, bought the lattice, brought it back to China, and donated it to the National Cultural Heritage Administration.

By comparing its patterns, structure and materials with other lattices that remain in situ, experts confirmed that the lost component was from Baoyun Ge.

An old photo of the pavilion, taken by pioneering Scottish photographer John Thomson in 1871, also helped to ensure its identity.

"As an ordinary person, it's a great honor to make a contribution to the protection of our country's cultural relics," Li Lei said at a ceremony on Wednesday to transfer ownership of the window panel to the Summer Palace administration.

"I will be proud that I can tell my children one day when we visit here: 'Look at that, daddy brought one of its windows back.' This is enough for me. I don't want a big reputation."

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