Exhibition unveils reunited bronze zodiac animal heads in Yungang Grottoes

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-04-24 14:58
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The bronze Chinese zodiac animal heads, including the ox, tiger, horse, monkey, and pig, originally from the Old Summer Palace, are on display at the Yungang Grottoes museum in Datong city, Shanxi province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Once part of the water clock fountain in Yuanmingyuan, or the Old Summer Palace, these bronze animal heads were looted from stone statues during the Second Opium War in 1860, and subsequently dispersed across the globe, only to be reunited through the relentless efforts of patriotic philanthropists. While the ox, tiger, monkey, and pig heads now reside in the collection of the Poly Art Museum in Beijing, the horse head is under the care of the National Cultural Heritage Administration, and the rat and rabbit heads are housed in the National Museum of China.

Regrettably, the dragon, snake, sheep, rooster, and dog heads remain missing. In the museum of Yungang Grottoes, the names of the absent bronze animal heads are displayed alongside their companions as pale, flat projections on the floor, accompanied by standing boards featuring line drawings of their complete forms, serving as a poignant reminder of their absence.

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