The bronze sculpture of a rabbit's head,
which is an ancient Chinese relic, is auctioned in the Grand Palace of
Paris in Paris, France, Feb. 25, 2009. Two controversial ancient Chinese
relics including the bronze sculptures of a rat's head and a rabbit's
head, were auctioned off on Wednesday night for 14 million euros each by
anonymous telephone bidders in Christies's sale of the collection of Yves
Saint Laurant and Pierre Berge in Paris. The sculptures were looted by
invading Anglo-French expedition army in the 19th century, when the
invaders burned down the royal garden of Yuanmingyuan in
BEIJING, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- In response to an
auction by Christie's of two bronze sculptures taken from the Old Summer Palace
in 1860, held despite China's protests, the State Administration of Cultural
Heritage (SACH) Thursday imposed limits on what the auction house can take in or
out of China.
Entry and exit administrative departments for
cultural heritage at all levels were ordered in a circular to carefully check
"heritage items" that Christie's seeks to import or export. The notice also
covers agents and employees of Christie's.
These entry-exit offices are separate from the
Xinhua contacted Christie's Beijing office for
comment by e-mail and phone but has not yet received a response.
Certificates of legal ownership must be provided for
all items, the circular said. These documents must provide detailed information
about the owners and the provenance (ownership history) of the items. Items with
inadequate or missing documentation won't be allowed to enter or exit the
Entry and exit departments should immediately report
to the SACH and local police and customs offices if they find relics owned by
Christie's that might have been looted or smuggled, said the circular.
The circular said: "In recent years, Christie's has
frequently sold cultural heritage items looted or smuggled from China, and all
items involved were illegally taken out of the country." It didn't specify the
items or transactions.
Earlier Thursday, the SACH issued a statement
condemning Christie's auction of the sculptures and saying it would have
"serious effects" on Christie's development in China."
It said in the statement that China did not
acknowledge what it called the illegal possession of the two sculptures and
would "continue to seek the return of the sculptures by all means in accord with
related international conventions and Chinese laws."
A photographer takes a picture of the
Chinese bronze rat head and rabbit head sculptures displayed on the
preview of the auction of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge's art
collection at the Grand Palais in Paris, France, Feb. 21, 2009.
According to the statement, SACH officials sought
repeatedly to halt the sale through many means, including writing a letter to
Christie's on Feb. 17 in a bid to stop the sale. However, it said, Christie's
proceeded with the auction, violating international conventions and the "common
understanding" that such artifacts should be returned to their country of
It said the auction "damaged Chinese citizens'
cultural rights and feelings and will have serious effects on Christie's
development in China."
The two controversial relics, which are more than 200
years old, were auctioned Wednesday for 14 million euros (17.92 million U.S.
dollars) each to anonymous telephone bidders in Christie's sale of the
collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge in the Grand Palace of Paris.
Christie's has refused to identify the bidders.
"I think our next action is to try to figure out
their identities," said Li Xingfeng, one of the 81 Chinese lawyers who took part
in the campaign to stop the auctions.
They would decide on a course of action after Liu
Yang, head of the legal group, returned from Paris, he said.
Li said all the lawyers understood from the beginning
that their efforts might fail.
"But our effort was rewarded by the attention this
case attracted. We have heard condemnation of the parties in this deal. We are
glad to see the reactions of the government and public," he said.
The two bronze sculptures, representing the heads of
a rabbit and a rat, were among 12 animal head sculptures that formed a
zodiac-themed water clock decorating the Calm Sea Pavilion in the Old Summer
Palace of Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795) in Beijing.
They were looted when the palace was burned down by
Anglo-French allied forces during the Second Opium War in 1860. So far, five of
the 12 bronze animal heads have been returned to China, while the whereabouts of
five others are unknown.
The Association for the Protection of Chinese Art in
Europe filed a motion at the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris Thursday,
seeking an injunction to stop the auction. The court rejected the motion Monday.
China condemns Christie's sculpture
sale, warns of "serious effects"
BEIJING, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- Following an auction
Wednesday in Paris by Christie's of two bronze sculptures taken from the Summer
Palace in 1860, China's State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) issued
a statement here Thursday condemning the action and saying it would have
"serious effects" on Christie's development in China."
The administration said in the statement that China
did not acknowledge what it called the illegal possession of the two sculptures
and would "continue to seek the return of the sculptures by all means in accord
with related international conventions and Chinese laws." Full story
Looted Chinese relics sold for 14
million euros each
PARIS, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- Two controversial ancient
Chinese relics were auctioned off on Wednesday night for 14 million euros (17.92
million U.S. dollars) each by anonymous telephone bidders in Christie's sale of
the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge in the Grand Palace of
According to Christie's, they have received 8 phone calls
for "enquiries" before the sale. After the auction was launched, the competition
was only conducted between telephone bidders, with no one in the scene raised
for a bid. Full story
How absurd to "kidnap" cultural relics
with human rights
BEIJING, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- Two pieces of China's
valuable cultural past, the bronze heads of a rabbit and a rat, stolen from the
Old Summer Palace by British and French forces during the second Opium War in
1860, are scheduled for auction in Paris Wednesday night.
Long before the auction, the Chinese government, cultural
heritage organizations and lawyers have been actively pursuing the return of the
Chinese treasures. However, at this specific moment, the owner of the bronzes,
French businessman Pierre Berge, offered to swap the two sculptures for the
application of human rights in China and the freedom of Tibet. From the Chinese
point of view, it's an absurd requirement by abducting China's cultural relics
with human rights issues. Full story
American Chinese collectors urge
boycott of Christie's
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- American Chinese
collectors on Tuesday urged the Chinese government to take action against
Christine's, and called for a boycott of the auctioneer if it insists on
auctioning two historic bronze sculptures looted from a Chinese imperial garden.
The American Chinese Collector's Association and the
Eastern Cultural Foundation jointly issued an open letter at a press conference
here, in an appeal to all Chinese collectors and antique dealers around the
world to stop doing business with Christine's. Full story
Chinese gov't writes to Christie's
seeking to stop auction
BEIJING, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- China's heritage authorities
said Tuesday they had written to auction house Christie's in a bid to stop the
sale of two looted bronze sculptures.
The State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH)
sent the letter to the auction house on Feb. 17, but only announced it in a
statement Tuesday. Full story
Chinese lawyers vow to carry on
despite French court rule on looted bronzes
Ren Xiaohong (R), a lawyer for the
Association for the Protection of Chinese Art in Europe (APACE), the
plaintiff, speaks to the media with her colleague Ayagh at the Tribunal de
Grande Instance in Paris, capital of France, Feb. 23, 2009. The Paris
court on Monday ruled against stopping the sale of two looted Chinese
bronze sculptures which come up for auction at Christie's on
BEIJING, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- Despite losing a bid in a
Parisian court to stop two looted bronze sculptures from being auctioned at
Christie's, Chinese lawyers pledged to continue their efforts to halt the sale.
"We are disappointed about the French court rule on Monday
but we have to accept it," Li Xingfeng, one of the 81 Chinese lawyers that
participated in the project, told Xinhua here Tuesday. Full story
Paris court refuses to stop sale of
looted Chinese bronzes
PARIS, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- A Paris court on Monday ruled
against stopping the sale of two looted Chinese bronze sculptures which come up
for auction at Christie's on Wednesday.
Under the ruling of the Tribunal de Grande Instance
in Paris, the plaintiff, the Association for the Protection of Chinese Art in
Europe (APACE), was ordered to pay compensation to the defendant. Full story