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Reconstructing China’s treasures

The looting & destruction of the Summer Palace in Beijing [1] (under the instruction of the Eighth Earl of Elgin – son of Lord Elgin who removed the Marbles from the Parthenon) has had lasting consequences for China – many of the artefacts are still located abroad & many more were destroyed. China is now making efforts to piece together some of the surviving fragments from the building to reconstruct the original artefacts.

Daily Telegraph [2]

Piece by piece, China reconstructs treasures destroyed by British troops
By Peter Foster, Beijing
Published: 6:13PM BST 22 Aug 2010

Almost 150 years after British and French troops looted and destroyed the Old Summer Palace in Beijing, Chinese archaeologists are painstakingly patching together treasured historical artefacts excavated from the ruins.

Archaeology students are piecing together thousands of fragments of Qing Dynasty porcelain that have been excavated over the past 30 years from what is known in China as the “Gardens of Perfect Brightness”.

“On a good day, we manage to reconnect about 20 pieces of the porcelain,” says Pan Ting-ting, one of the student volunteers.

The team has been working on pieces of vases, bowls and plates depicting twirling dragons and weeping willows. These represent only a small portion of the 30,000 recovered pieces.

The 150th anniversary of the destruction of the Old Summer Palace during the Second Opium War will be marked in October.

The punitive action, ordered by Lord Elgin in retaliation for the torture and execution of 18 foreign emissaries by the Chinese court, still rankles in China. Thousands of imperial treasures looted from the palace still reside in the museums of London and Paris and even the officers’ messes of the British Army.

Last year, China launched a mission to inspect up to 1.5 million artefacts which it believes are in museums and collections across Europe and America, including the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Pan, like most Chinese, would like to see such items returned, even though she knows this is unlikely. “This is our history, and the foreign museums should give the items back,” she insisted.