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China demands: Bring us the heads of the Qianlong Emperor

发表于 2009-2-28 04:00 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
本帖最后由 I'm_zhcn 于 2009-2-28 04:08 编辑

China demands: Bring us the heads of the Qianlong Emperor

Posted: February 26, 2009, 1:30 PM by NP Editor

Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan speaks during a photo call in Hong Kong, during which he criticized the sale of two Chinese artifacts at an auction of objects collected by Yves Saint Laurent. (MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images)

Full Comment brings you a regular dose of international punditry at its finest. Today: China says its feelings are hurt after France failed to step in to halt the auction of two Qing dynasty bronze heads. Appropriately enough, action star Jackie Chan is coming to the rescue.

The contentious sculptures — 18th-century heads of a rabbit and a rat — were looted in 1860 by French and English troops from a fountain in Yuanming Yuan, the imperial Summer Palace near Beijing.

They were among objects collected by Yves Saint Laurent, the French couturier, and his partner, Pierre Bergé and auctioned off by Christie’s in Paris. Total take from the three-day event was an astonishing $594-million. The first day alone raised $327-million, already more than any private sale ever.

Bergé says he had no problem with returning the heads so long as Beijing agrees to a few modest demands.
“I acquired them and I am completely protected by the law, so what the Chinese are saying is a bit ridiculous,” he said before the sale, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph.

“But I am prepared to offer this bronze head to the Chinese straight away. All they have to do is to declare they are going to apply human rights, give the Tibetans back their freedom and agree to accept the Dalai Lama on their territory.

“If they do that, I would be very happy to go myself and bring these two Chinese heads to put them in the Summer Palace in Beijing. It’s obviously blackmail but I accept that.”

Responding to his olive branch, Ma Zhaoxu, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, ducked the question. In a news item carried by the state news agency he said it is “absurd to infringe on the Chinese people’s fundamental cultural rights under the banner of human rights. He urged those involved to understand and respect the just demands of the Chinese people and help return Chinese cultural properties back to China.”

China refused to bid for the bronzes itself because that would mean it acknowledged they were taken legally.
Now Jackie Chan has added his two cents worth, according to Charles Bremner, the London Times’ Paris correspondent.

“ ‘They remain looted items, no matter whom they were sold to. Whoever took it out [of China] is himself a thief,’ he said in Hong Kong. ‘It was looting yesterday. It is still looting today.’

The star of Shanghai Knights and Rush Hour accused Western countries of stealing cultural relics from nations with ancient heritage such as China, Egypt and Cambodia and yet insisting they were doing so only to preserve them.
Chan said that he is planning a film about the search for and return of some of China’s stolen national treasures from the palace with filming scheduled to start next year.”

Most gallingly for Beijing, many choice Chinese artworks were removed by Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists to Taiwan, where they remain on display at the National Palace Museum. And these won’t be coming back any time soon. Although the Forbidden City Museum said recently it would lend Taipei 29 Qing pieces, a sign of a broader thaw in relations between the two sides, Taiwan fears China may not return any treasures it sends over, a museum publicist told Reuters.

And while Beijing is all het up about the bronzes now, nobody cared much about them at the time of the looting — the fountain was in a state of disrepair as the catalogue notes by Rosemary Scott, Christie’s Asian art expert, explain. In addition, the bronzes were designed by Europeans.

The “magnificent clepsydra” was originally executed for the Qianlong Emperor (1737-95), with the help of Jesuit missionaries, she writes. “In the centre was a huge marble shell, but on either side were seated the twelve Chinese calendrical animals, each representing a two-hour period in the Chinese horary cycle.

The bodies were human, clothed and carved in stone, but the bronze heads were cast as meticulously formed animals. These superb and remarkably realistic heads were almost certainly designed by Giuseppe Castiglione … The treatment and even the expression of the faces are remarkably close, and none of the fine detail has been lost in the bronze casting …

“Sadly, by the end of the Qianlong reign the court seems to have lost interest in the European Palaces of the Yuanming Yuan, and they had fallen into disrepair. In 1795 the order was given to strip out and melt down the bronze pipe-work for the fountains and clepsydra, no doubt in order to augment China’s constant requirement for copper.

Thus, even before the storming of the Yuanming Yuan by French and British troops in 1860, the Qianlong Emperor’s spectacular water features had already been dismantled and their pipe-work disbursed. These superb bronze heads, however, remain as a testament to an emperor’s caprice and the remarkable skill of the European missionary artists who worked for him.”

Of the 12 heads, five are missing. The other five were bought at auction in recent years, mostly by wealthy Chinese benefactors, and returned to Beijing.

Now Beijing has launched a worldwide drive seeking the return of 1.67 million cultural relics being shown in 2,000 museums. It has also issued orders making it difficult for Christie’s to do business in China.

Compiled by Araminta Wordsworth
 楼主| 发表于 2009-2-28 04:35 | 显示全部楼层
1. by RickB  Feb 26 2009 4:43 PM

If westerners or the Nationalist had not "stolen" them, they would have been destroyed by the Mao Youth during the Cultural Revolution.

2. by bearcanada Feb 26 2009 5:05 PM

What bigoted stupidity.  We didn't really 'steal' them, and Mao would have done it anyway?

The Palace was not 'in disrepair'.  The English and French torched it and burned much of it to the ground when they looted it.  And Europeans designed the heads, so that makes it ok to steal them?

How on earth can domestic or international law support this?  England and France were in China only to force the Chinese to buy opium, and that presence justifies their looting?

3. by iewgnem Feb 27 2009 3:55 AM

I see some people trying to rationalize away their guilt by bringing up the culture revolution. Guess what? If those people wanted to destroy it, they would be Chinese destroying them, its a Chinese decision to make and its a Chinese action to take. When did France, or anyone else for that matter, get the idea they had any equvilence in an comparason in handling of Chinese artifacts?

Then again, if the Europeans had any morals at all they wouldn't have done the countless crimes against humanity they had in the past 200 years. Just because they spend a lot of PR effort into portraying themselves as saints for humanity, its going to be a bit hard to convince the other 80% of humanity who does not belong to Europe and North America.

Then again, France is already paying the price for it, China's trade mission to Europe skipped France all together while inking 10 billion euros of purchases in Germany alone, if France is willing to pay billions dollars a year for those bronze heads, I say its not a bad deal.
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