Two ancient cultural relics dating back to the Northern Dynasties (386-581) to the Tang Dynasty (618-907) have been returned to China after being stolen and smuggled out of the country in the early 1990s. The two stone carvings, collectively valued at nearly $3.5 million, were part of a stone funerary platform that supported a coffin in a tomb.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in New York seized the two antiques as part of a broader criminal investigation into 89 antiquities from 10 different countries purchased by a private collector based in Manhattan.
One of the carvings had been in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s storage area for 25 years and was never displayed. The seized items were collectively valued at nearly $69 million.
The repatriation ceremony was attended by Chinese Consul General in New York Huang Ping, who emphasized the importance of returning stolen cultural relics, and officials from both sides agreed that the return would “bring positive energy into China-US relations.” China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA) has currently arranged for the return of the cultural relics handed over at the ceremony in New York.
Since 2015, the US has returned a total of 404 cultural relics and artworks and one paleontological fossil to China over the course of five batches. The latest return is another successful example of the cooperation between China and the US in retrieving and returning cultural relics, the NCHA said in a statement on Wednesday.
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According to Wang Sikang, an archaeologist specializing in ancient Chinese art, funerary platforms resembled stone beds, known as shi ta, and were often composed of a stone slab and surrounding stone screens that resembled the wooden folding screens, or pingfeng, ancient Chinese would often have in their bedrooms.
Wang noted that ancient stone screens, such as the two returned relics, would often be engraved with intricate decorations such as figures and animals, providing insight not only into the burial customs but also the beliefs and lives of people at the time.
The repatriation of these two cultural relics has been lauded as a positive example of intergovernmental actions and raised public awareness of the protection of precious cultural heritage.
The return of stolen cultural relics has greatly promoted cultural exchanges between China and the US. Despite the current tensions in China-US relations, cultural exchanges should conform to the needs of the era’s development, adhere to the spirit of mutual respect and mutual appreciation between different cultures, and provide great value for the construction of a global community with shared future, according to Yu Jinlong, a Beijing-based cultural critic.
WORDS: Scientific Inquirer Staff.
IMAGE CREDIT: NASA.