|(Photo: Shanghai Daily)
By Li Qian
BEIJING, June 14 (Xinhuanet) -- A 3,000-YEAR-OLD bronze ritual vessel is being brought back to China, almost a century after it left its homeland.
Auction house Christie’s on Thursday handed over the Min Fanglei wine vessel to collectors from central China’s Hunan Province, where it was found by farmers in 1919.
The collectors are donating the vessel to the Hunan Provincial Museum in its capital Changsha. There it will be reunited with its lid, which has been with the museum for decades.
The vessel, which stands more than 60 centimeters tall, was set to go under the hammer at a Christie’s auction in New York on April 20, but was withdrawn after the group of collectors made a private bid, the auction house said in a statement.
The Hunan collectors reportedly took a 3D printed copy of the lid to New York on March 17, where they confirmed that it matched the vessel.
It was reported that they bought the vessel for a much lower price than it could have made at auction, although the actual amount was not revealed.
Under the agreement of the sale, the vessel, which dates from the 12th or 11th century BC, can never be auctioned or traded again.
Chen Jianming, Hunan museum director, described the reunion as a dream come true.
“The Min Fanglei was unearthed in 1919 in Hunan’s Shuitian Town, but the vessel and its lid became separated during wartime,” he told the China News Service.
The lid has been with the Hunan museum since 1956.
The massive size of the Min Fanglei distinguishes it as one of the foremost examples of its kind, said Christie’s in its auction notes.
Its intricately cast surface features stylized animals and mysterious monster masks that provide an insight into early Chinese culture and beliefs.
When the vessel last went under the hammer in March 2001 it was purchased by a French collector for US$9.2 million, the highest price ever paid for a Chinese ancient bronze vessel at an international auction.