BEIJING, March 19 (Xinhua) -- It's taken the British to bring to Beijing
artifacts of ancient Rome, Greece, Africa and Egypt.
While the British Museum's touring exhibit "Treasures of the World's
Cultures" has left many people here in awe, the collection of 272 ancient
artifacts have also raised a number of concerns and questions. Why are there no
Chinese artifacts and to which civilization do the objects really belong?
After visiting the exhibition at Beijing's Capital Museum, 19-year-old Wang
Wei had a typical reaction to the show "I was really shocked by the beautiful
artifacts from the different cultures, but why are there no Chinese antique? I'm
sorry I couldn't see Chinese artifacts collected by British Museum," Wang said.
A Chinese cultural official, who would not give his name, said whether the
Chinese artifacts collected by British Museum should be returned to China is a
"sensitive issue" and the two museums avoided touching the issue.
More than 20,000 Chinese artifacts including paintings, textiles, jade and
metal objects are housed in the British Museum. Most of them were robbed or
purchased for pennies more than 100 years ago.
The British Museum has been under pressure in recent years from Greece,
Egypt and China as they have requested the return of artifacts to the original
countries. So far all requests have been refused by the British Museum.
At the opening ceremony of the show in Beijing, Neil MacGregor, director of
the British Museum, said, "The intention of the British Museum is to bring the
whole world into one building."
The British Museum is "not a museum of the whole world, but a museum for
the whole world," said Macgregor.
Guo Xiaoling, curator of the Capital Museum said, "It's not a bad thing for
the artifacts, if they are well preserved, to be in the British Museum, since
the artifacts are the cultural heritage of all human beings."
"But they should return a part of the huge collection of the Chinese
antiques as a gesture of friendship. That will make Chinese people very happy,"
According to the agreement signed by the British Museum and Chinese
cultural heritage department, more treasures from British Museum will be shown
in China in the future in cooperation with the Palace Museum and the National
Museum of China. China will also send treasures to Britain.
"Treasures of the World's Cultures" is held at the Capital Museum until
The collection includes a 3,000-year-old mummy, an ancient statue of
Dionysos and a 2,100-year-old gold pendant featuring Aphrodite and Eros.
"Each of the 272 items is a masterpiece from the British Museum's vast
collections and together they demonstrate the long history of human civilization
The two and a half month exhibition will enable Chinese audiences an
opportunity to enjoy the collection of a world class museum without going
abroad," Guo said.
The exhibited antiques were selected from the over 7 million artifacts
housed in the British Museum which itself is more than 250 years old.
"We get to know the outside world in order to better understand ourselves,"
Five lectures on world history have been arranged during the exhibition.
British Museum Director Neil MacGregor gave the first lecture, titled "Around
the World in 20 Objects", at the exhibit's opening on Saturday.
The Treasures of the World's Cultures collection has shown in Japan and the
Republic of Korea, attracting 1.3 million during its four city tour in Japan and
an 600,000 in Seoul. Guo expects at least 400,000 visitors to the show in