March 22, 2006

The absence of Chinese artefacts continues to be questioned

Posted at 12:44 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Some more articles commenting on the lack of Chinese artefacts in the British Museums traveling exhibition Treasures of the World’s Cultures at the Beijing Capital Museum. The British Museum & the Chinese Government say publicly that this is not an issue. The actions that China is taking to recover artefacts from around the world would suggest otherwise though.

The Times

The Times
March 20, 2006
Why China was taken away
by Jane Macartney

CROWDS have been flocking to the first international exhibition at the ultramodern and newly opened Beijing Capital Museum, but they will see no Chinese treasures on display, even though more than 270 items from prehistory to modern times have been brought over.

The exhibition was chosen to show the links between civilisations, the common threads in life whether in Korea, Egypt or England. The absence of Chinese objects means that the British Museum, the world’s oldest, and one of its newest can avoid unpleasantness sparked by any dispute over the rights to Chinese treasures now housed in Bloomsbury.

Chinese organisers had, indeed, made no requests for Chinese artefacts. Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum, said: “We haven’t been asked for anything. That would be like bringing coals to Newcastle.”

Beijing began four years ago to recover relics from overseas collections through international conventions, by buying them or by asking for them as donations.

Cultural experts estimate that 1.67 million Chinese objects are stored in more than 200 museums in dozens of countries, and the total number of relics in private hands could be ten times that.

Treasures in the British Museum acquired before 1970 are not eligible for repatriation under Unesco conventions agreed by all museums.

People’s Daily Online (China)

UPDATED: 08:06, March 20, 2006
China Focus: Treasures from British Museum bring enjoyment, pain to Chinese audiences

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,” Guo added.

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 June 5.

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 worldwide.

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,” said Guo.

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 Beijing.

Source: Xinhua

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