Ancient Chinese Cultural Relics Repatriated from Japan

By Matthew Bossons, September 11, 2019

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In a major win for China’s cultural heritage authorities, an eight-piece bronzeware set has been returned home from Japan, according to an announcement from the National Cultural Heritage Administration released yesterday.

A Xinhua report notes that the bronzeware pieces have a total of 330 Chinese characters engraved onto them and will offer researchers fresh insight into the ancient Chinese state of Zeng.

9e5389bbly1g6u7ghwnv7j20vd0kr7bp.jpgImage via @央视新闻/Weibo

The priceless items, which were looted from tombs in Hubei that date back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BCE), were officially handed over to Chinese authorities on August 23. The return of the bronzeware set came after months of pursuit and efforts by the PRC’s diplomatic, cultural and public security departments, according to the deputy head of the National Cultural Heritage Administration, Guan Qiang, as cited by Xinhua.

READ MORE: Over 50,000 Relics Discovered at Old Summer Palace

The Japanese government cooperated in the retrieval operation, which was reportedly conducted in line with international conventions, namely the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

9e5389bbly1g6u7ghxvqcj20q70jnwhu.jpg
Image via @央视新闻/Weibo

The return of these ancient relics is unquestionably a victory for those working to have China’s cultural relics and ancient artifacts returned home. Sadly, though, there is still a long way to go: Thousands – and perhaps millions – of Chinese artifacts remain stored in foreign museums or in the possession of private collectors overseas. In 2011, according to South China Morning Post, the then director of patrimony and collections at Paris’ Château de Fontainebleau, Xavier Salmon, stated that the museum holds between 600 and 800 items that were stolen during the sacking of the Summer Palace in 1860.

Earlier this year, nearly 800 cultural artifacts were returned to China from Italy; it was the largest return of lost Chinese cultural relics since 1998, when roughly 3,000 items were repatriated from Britain.

READ MORE: Ancient Relic Stolen by Tomb Raiders Recovered by Chinese Police

[Cover image via @央视新闻/Weibo]

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