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China Protests Artifact Auction

Posted on Feb 26, 2009

China’s cultural heritage agency has strongly condemned the auction of two bronze pieces it says were looted from the Summer Palace near Beijing some 150 years ago. Christie’s sold the bronzes, part of the late Yves Saint Laurent’s estate, for 31 million euros.

It’s bad enough that museums engage in this kind of cultural pilfering—at least those objects are offered for public viewing. The idea of some Bruce Wayne snatching up a priceless relic to fill a sconce in his bat cave is truly appalling.

One can only hope the high bidder bought the pieces in order to give them back to China.

Related: The Truthdig book review of Sharon Waxman’s “Loot” examines this issue in greater detail.


The cultural heritage agency said it had “pressed for the withdrawal of these Summer Palace relics”.

“But Christie’s took its own course and insisted on auctioning the relics looted from the Summer Palace in breach of the spirit of international pacts and the consensus on the return of such artefacts to their original countries,” it said.

“The State Administration of Cultural Heritage does not recognise the illegal owners of the looted relics and will continue to utilise all ... necessary channels to recover all relics stolen and illegally exported throughout history,” it said.

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By ZN, March 3, 2009 at 1:36 am Link to this comment

Does it mean that because China has committed crimes in the eyes of the world, others are justified in committing injustice towards them? Do two wrongs make a right?

Wouldn’t it be much more noble to return them? Might it be that those who are forgiven, in turn forgive; those who are shown kindness, turn around and commit an act of kindness?

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By Chinese National, March 2, 2009 at 6:51 pm Link to this comment

Go on, continue to defend for your White brothers the atrocities they committed. Call our reaction false pride or propaganda, if that makes you feel better about the crimes you and your fellow knaves committed to us.

We suffered much from your inhumane ways and we are still suffering from your imperialism, arrogance and hypocrisy.

Have you not realized why the Muslims hate you so much?

One day, you will pay heavily. Watch your back!

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By Red Herring, March 2, 2009 at 7:58 am Link to this comment
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Poor innocent China, They can never be excused of exploitation or imperialism.  Do you know that most of the Chinese population lives like crap, and the prisons are filled with those whom are brave enough to complain.

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By TOD, March 1, 2009 at 7:29 pm Link to this comment
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@Red Herring,

Whatever China “owns”, it was from honest(and hard) work, unlike the French, who looted the artifacts. Can you see the difference?

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By T. C., March 1, 2009 at 4:22 pm Link to this comment
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You stole other people’s property and you say “False pride!  You don’t take care of your property well. I can take care of them better. So, they are my property. You should be happy I have them.”

Very good logic. I see.

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By Red Herring, March 1, 2009 at 12:40 pm Link to this comment
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I want China to give back all their U.S. assets;  they own most of the U.S.  BTW, isn’t that called cultural imperialism?

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By G.Anderson, March 1, 2009 at 12:23 pm Link to this comment

It’s wrong, and amounts to recieving stolen property.
It represents a form of cultural imperialism.

These artifacts should be returned to China. It’s a chance for the west to make amends, and start living in the present, not the past.

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By Hope Less, February 27, 2009 at 4:26 pm Link to this comment
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Hey, there was a news story today that said caravans of wealthy Chinese are landing on the shores of California to purchase huge bundles of California suburban homes—homes that were probably foreclosed on, or have just diminished in value and are available for those with cash on hand.  And guess who has cash to buy American real estate—the Chinese—they want to rent their new real estate investments to Americans.  I guess they’ll rent the houses to those Americans who can’t afford to buy a house, or maybe to those who recently lost their home; of course, for a profit—these are businessmen after all.

Who gives a crap about two bronze works of art looted from an Emperor’s castle?

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By omath, February 27, 2009 at 11:57 am Link to this comment
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The so-called cultural revolution was to blame for the destruction of so many more priceless artifacts than these.

It was high irony then that the word “culture” had been used at all considering the cost to so much of the history the Chinese people.

Its sad that they will use propaganda now as they did then to obscure the issue in ways that will have their people believing that it was the westerners that were to blame for the intention obliteration of priceless artifacts in the 60’s and 70’s.

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By tres, February 26, 2009 at 3:15 pm Link to this comment
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When you steal food in supermarket, you got to put in jail. When you loot some other counties, you got to sell the treasures in millions and become high cultured.

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By Jim Yell, February 26, 2009 at 7:31 am Link to this comment
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False Pride.

The Chinese have ruined more of their historical heritage during Mao, than inflicted by the light fingered aquisitions of invading military. They have a better record in the last decades of protecting these things, but call foul, while themselves are trashing Tibet. They wish to call crimes what they themselves have done, and would do again given a chance.

In fact all this reacquisition of artifacts that were taken 100 or more years ago is just false pride. They have no scarcity of displays for their museums. Lord Elgin gets bad press for bankrupting himself saving the marbles from the much neglected Greek ruins. Take a look at the female column in the British Museum and then take a look at the pitiful remains of the same colomns in the museum at Athens. The one in Britian makes you want to cry for the great beauty of the workmanship and design, the ones in Athens make you want to cry from the neglect and pollution that they were subjected to after Greek Natl. took over.

Be happy that these artifacts greet the museum visitor all over the world and like very good, good will ambassadors make a huge audience and fan base for the greatness of each country they represent and help people be a bit less provencial.

Use the money you waste on such reclaimation foolishness to maintain the things you actually do possess.

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