China plans to recover looted antiques from around the world

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The Independent Online

China plans to form a task force to try to recover as many as a million valuable and sometimes looted Chinese cultural relics collected by museums around the world, an official newspaper said Sunday.

China plans to form a task force to try to recover as many as a million valuable and sometimes looted Chinese cultural relics collected by museums around the world, an official newspaper said Sunday.

News of the planned bureau to recover relics follows recent auctions in Hong Kong of 18th century Chinese antiques.

The auctions outraged many Chinese and Beijing demanded they be stopped, claiming that British and French troops looted the antiques from a Chinese palace during the second Opium War 140 years ago.

The antiques, three bronze sculptures of heads of an ox, monkey and tiger and a hexagonal ceramic vase, were bought respectively by a Chinese state-owned conglomerate and a company under the Chinese government's relics bureau.

The state-run Workers Daily gave no details about the specialist department it said Beijing plans to establish to recover relics, including those in non-governmental hands.

But it said that there are no less than 1 million fine-quality Chinese cultural relics in more than 200 museums in 47 countries and that the bureau will be "responsible for recovering these relics."

The newspaper quoted Xie Chensheng, an adviser to China's relics bureau, as saying the majority of relics left China before the 1949 Communist takeover.

In large part, they were either stolen by invading nations, stolen by foreigners or purchased by foreigners at extremely low prices from Chinese warlords and smuggled abroad, Xie reportedly said.

The newspaper said the biggest collection of Chinese painting is in an American museum, the best collection of Chinese porcelain is in France and that Japan has the largest collection of ancient inscriptions written on tortoise shells.

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