Chinese Government Sues Villagers Who Found and Sold Ebony

a 30 meter long piece of ebony discovered, dug up, and sold by Chongqing villagers who have been sued by the government for selling state property.

From NetEase:

8 Chongqing Villagers Sell 30 Meter Long Ebony They Dug Up for 196k, Has Money Confiscated

Summary: Recently, the 196k yuan eight villagers in Chongqing city Tongnan county received from selling ebony was confiscated [by the government]. In 2012 October, Tongnang villager Wang X discovered a piece of ebony in the Fujiang River and collaborated with 8 other villagers to dredge it up. At the time, the local Cultural Relics Bureau received a report from Wang X and company, but they did not take [the ebony] because it was not a cultural relic. In December, the villagers sold the ebony for 196k yuan, with one person among them later handing over 14k yuan over to the Bureau of Finance.

A few days ago, the eight villagers in Tongnan county still can’t accept it — a year ago, they had drug up a piece of ebony 30 meters long from a local river way, sold it for 196k yuan, and everyone split up this unexpected bit of wealth. Now, the local Finance Bureau have brought a lawsuit against them in court, demanding that they remit this money. Several days ago, the court ruled in both the first and second instance [trials] that the villagers remit the money.

Sold the ebony and split the money

One of them handed over [their share] to the Finance Bureau

In 2012 late October, Tongnan county Qianjin villager Wang X discovered a length of ebony in the silt of the Fujiang River. He told eight fellow villagers including Kuang X about this. That November, the nine of them together used Kuang X’s excavator to dredge and dig up the ebony. The ebony was measured to be approximately 30 meters long.

Because it wasn’t considered a cultural relic, the local Cultural Relics Administration did not require that it be turned in after it was reported to them by Kuang X and company.

The nine contacted a buyer, and in December sold the ebony for 196k yuan. Among them, Wang X who had discovered the ebony and Kuang X who owned the excavator each received 49k yuan, while the remaining seven each took a split of 14k yuan and the driver of the excavator received 300 yuan.

Last year on January 16th, one of the people turned over their 14k yuan share to the local Finance Bureau, while the other eight haven’t.

County Finance Bureau sues

seeking 180k yuan

Not long later, the county Finance Bureau sued the eight people including Kuang X in Tongnan County Court, demanding that they remit the money totaling 180k yuan they split after selling the ebony.

The county Finance Bureau claims the ebony was discovered in the river way so its ownership should belong to the state.

The group including Kuang X believe there is no basis for the ebony belonging to the state, and even if ownership belonged to the state, it should still have to pay for the expenses incurred during dredging and storage.

Tongnan County Court in the first instance [trial] believed that the ebony came from nature, is considered a natural resource, is not considered within the scope of collective ownership stipulated by law, and is considered state-owned. Therefore, the county Finance Bureau, as a department managing state-owned assets, has the right to demand that the group including Kuang X remit the funds they split.

The court of first instance also believes that when the villagers dredged up the ebony, Kuang X used his own excavator to do the digging, while the other eight individuals also participated in the digging and storage. Therefore, [the amount to be remitted to the government] should have the cost of labor involved in the dredging and storage be deducted. The court determined that Kuang X should get 10k for his excavator and dredging expenses, while the others should get 8000 yuan in dredging and storage fees, and so ruled that the group including Kuang X thus remit the [remaining] money.

Conducting an unauthorized sale

should bear liability

Kuang X was unsatisfied and filed an appeal with the Municipal No.1 Intermediate Court.

He claims that after the ebony was discovered, the excavator and loader he provided was used in the river way for nearly a week, so he should get 49k yuan in fees for the dredging.

Kuang X also claims that the ebony should be considered an object without an owner, and according to the principle of first possession, it should belong to Wang X and company.

The Municipal No.1 Intermediate Court heard the case and believes that the ebony’s attribute of being an object of nature prevents it from being claimed and thus should belong to the government. After the group including Kuang X dredged it up, they should have taken it to the relevant government department for handling, but because they instead sold it without authorization, they ought to bear the relevant liability. Several days ago, the court of second instance rejected the appeal and affirmed the original ruling.

Buried objects in the mountains, forest, rivers [open nature]

all belong to the state

Chongqing Evening News legal team member and He Zong Law Firm lawyer Lu Lei believes that according to regulations in Article 79 of the “General Principles of Civil Law” which reads “all buried or concealed objects whose owner is unknown shall belong to the state”, and Article 5 of the “Law on Protection of Cultural Relics” which reads “all cultural relics within the country’s borders, waters, and territorial waters shall belong to the state”, other than the ebony in this case, any object of value that is unearthed from the mountains, forests, rivers, and such places owned by the state, such as ceramics and such handicrafts, artwork, manuscripts, books, coins, precious items, as well as fossils and artifacts of value, all belong to the state. When a citizen reports or hands it over to the state, the Preservation of Cultural Relics Department will give an appropriate reward.

Buried relics in ancestral tombs and buildings

may be privately safeguarded

Lawyer Lu also believes that relevant relics moved or unearthed from places that have been privately owned over the ages such as ancestral tombs and buildings that are reported to and registered with the state cultural relics department can be privately safeguarded [held/possessed], but ownership belongs to the state. If it is relics discovered during demolition or construction in other situations, if after evaluation by the cultural relics department they are determined to be cultural relics, then they are considered state-owned; if not considered cultural relics, then they can be administered privately.

Lawyer Lu says when it comes to cultural relics, citizens should report or turn them over to the Cultural Relics Preservation Administration. Fr other state-owned buried objects, they should likewise should report or turn them over to the government department responsible for the location where they were found, as the relevant government department will provide an appropriate reward.

Seizure of [such unearthed state-owned] objects constitutes a crime

Lawyer Lu reminds that according to the relevant regulations in the law, those who discover cultural relics and conceal it without reporting it or refusing to turn it over shall be fined between 5k to 10k yuan. If the case constitutes a crime, such that the sum is exceptionally large or the circumstances serious, it shall be subject to 2-5 years of prison.

A large piece of ebony dug up in Sichan, where villagers there were rewarded 6000 yuan.

A large piece of ebony dug up in Sichan, where villagers there were rewarded 6000 yuan.

Comments from NetEase:

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发言还选拼音 [榜上有名]:

Your highness, this shit was found in the forests, is considered a natural resource. Humble me dare not take it for myself, so I will deliver it to you soon…

Haber [网易湖北省手机网友]:

Since these natural objects [objects of nature] all belong to the state, then when there is a landslide, flood, earthquake that causes loss of life or property, shouldn’t the state give compensation!

网易河南省郑州市手机网友 ip:115.60.*.*

I think you guys have failed to see the key point. The key point is that since the ebony is considered a state-owned natural resource, and after the ebony has been sold, why isn’t the ZF trying to get the ebony back, having the seller return the money to the buyer, and levying the relevant punishment against the seller? Instead, it approves this so-called illegal sale/transaction and is only seeking the seller out to transfer the proceeds of the sale [to the government]? Then what about the ownership of the ebony? Through this transaction, the ebony is suddenly considered privately owned? Then all the ZF is after is money. I tisn’t some state-owned natural resource at all. These people did nothing more than help the ZF conduct a transaction, so that all the ZF has to do after the completion of the sale is conduct a formality through the courts to be the beneficiary of it!

网易湖南省常德市手机网友 ip:223.150.*.*

When the ordinary common people’s homes are buried by landslides from your mountains or flooded by your rivers, can you give the money for them to be rebuilt?

网易浙江省温州市手机网友 ip:124.160.*.*

Tell me, if two people get into a fight and one person uses a rock to injure or even kill the other, does that mean the state provided the weapon, and can compensation be applied for from the state?

网易陕西省西安市手机网友 ip:1.82.*.*

Freeze [or don’t touch]! It’s the state’s!

soangpsumhmy [网易海南省手机网友]:

What is there left that still belongs to ourselves?

毛大大表叔zcii [网易浙江省丽水市手机网友]:

Let me tell you a joke, we won’t take a single needle or thread from the people!

[Note: This refers to one of the famous three main “disciplines” (rules) of the People’s Liberation Army dictated by Mao Zedong in 1947.]

wmq62688 [网易墨西哥网友]:

If cultural relics are unearthed from an ancestral tomb, does it count and grave-robbing someone else’s ancestral tomb? In law throughout history, robbing an ancestral tomb was a major crime that warranted beheading. So the Cultural Relics Department should also be considered criminal, and should also be lawfully punished!

网易河南省郑州市手机网友 ip:117.136.*.*

How come [the state] doesn’t tell those Shanxi coal mine bosses to not touch the coal that is the state’s?

Comments from QQ:

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Just what is the use of this ebony? Isn’t it just an ancient dead tree…? I don’t have much education so I don’t understand these things… At most, it can be used to fight [monsters from a Chinese computer game similar to Diablo] and the like. 4-8 attack, 0-1 magic…


In ancient times, banditry was very uncivilized: I planted this tree, I opened this path, so if you want to pass by here, you better pay a toll.
Today’s banditry has learned how to humane/civilized: Toll station 300m ahead, please reduce your speed.


The river belongs to the state and the ebony dug up from the river is the state’s. Here’s the question! When floods destroy homes, who pays!!


How many times has this been reporter? You can’t touch the state’s things, but why don’t these people listen? Next time you discover something, just burn it.


In 1998, a villager’s wooden home in a neighboring village was smashed by a large tree that fell. The home was destroyed and no one did anything, but the most valuable tree (a several hundred year old fengshui tree) was taken away by some government department.


This only happens in China. In other countries, whoever discovers something is whoever it belongs to.


May I ask, after you guys [the government] snatch the money from the peasantry, can you explain how it is split among the people in your department?


So is this about protecting the ebony or just about getting the money?


I remember when I was young that a lot of people used to dig up ebony from the Yangtze River to be used as firewood. There was so much. This was around 1993 or ’94, the Fuling [suburbs of Chongqing].


If the ebony was dug up by someone with money and power, would the government dare be so arrogant/domineering? Would you dare even make a peep?

Comments from Phoenix Online:

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Digging up a precious object is still a meritorious deed, and should be rewarded.


Don’t forget, anything buried in the ground belongs to the state, to all the people, and not private property.


There’s a law regulating this!


Ebony is considered a mineral, and all mineral resources are owned by the state, so there isn’t anything to dispute here.


The ebony should be reevaluated, and the people who excavated it rewarded.


Ebony is not a cultural relic, nor is it a buried artifact, so this shouldn’t be considered illegal. It is a plant, the remains of a naturally growing plant. If this is also considered a buried artifact, then tree roots should also count.


Do things in accordance with the law.


Ebony is indeed a good thing. This 30 meter long example, must be high quality.


The key thing is, once it is given to the state, how is it used?


You have no law to rely on. If you do, please go ahead and try, but if not, then remit the money.

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  • What of the Shanghai hoochies who’ve been getting all the ebony they could get since the borders opened?

  • I recently read a story of a guy in California who sold a 6 pound gold nugget he found a foot deep using a metal detector.
    I don’t recall if he was in a State or National Forest. The government in the USA gets their pound of flesh either way.

    • Amused

      Yeah, but they aren’t going to take it ALL….

    • David

      He was in a national forest if I remember correctly but the rules there were basically you get to keep what you find (to encourage visitors).

  • Karze

    People cannot keep the treasure even after hard labour but government can steal and rob from people enmass – which was done thoroughly during Mao’s time.

  • Ben

    Interesting. In common law countries there’s Treasure Trove but I’ve never heard of a government claiming a piece of ebony…

    • ClausRasmussen

      China (except Hong Kong) is a civil law country

  • AbC

    I wonder if the Finance Bureau would have found out if the group didn’t first report the find to the Cultural Relics Preservation Administration.

  • Amused

    Got to love that good old Chinese communism! The people own…. oh yeah, nothing. And the officials and their families own the people and their land. Has anyone ever seen any similarities between “communism with Chinese characteristics” and feudalism? No!?!?! Not the same at all? Hahahahahaha

    • Ken Morgan

      It’s the same everywhere tbh, a move to feudalism

      • Small twon

        Cool. I am gonna start polishing my armor ,you go get a longbow.

  • Everybody knows it isn’t free free unless it fell off a truck during a traffic accident, and then you only have to scramble to “loot” as much as you can using your hands.

    That means in order for the people to profit from this ebony, they should just sit tight and see if the nails and oil slicks will do their part.

  • Rick in China

    “was used in the river way for nearly a week, so he should get 49k yuan in fees for the dredging.”

    Really? A loader and excavator, he wants 49k for a week – when the entire lot was sold for 196 and split 8 ways… I understand why he’s butthurt that his ebony profit was taken away, but give me a break.

  • Irvin

    Just what the fuck is ebony? Searching on the net only shows some black porn.

    • mr.wiener

      Well now you mention it, it does look like an enormous dick in the last picture…

    • Ilya Potekhin

      A kind of rare wood, black in color and very dense.

      • YourSupremeCommander

        Black and very dense… there, you have pretty much nailed the description for the people in the projects…

        • silent observer

          can you stop. cut the racist sh~t out.

          • David

            YSC was not being racist. In China (and other Asian countries) the term BLACK means corrupt or criminal, not a person’s skin. The double entendre is that the people in the government (and judges) involved in cheating the villagers are stupid and corrupt.

      • Irvin

        So kindda like green heart or red heart? I tried lifting a table made of red heart once, heavy as shit!

    • AbC

      Did you add ‘big black wood’ to the search terms?

      Wait… Nvm, I suppose that wouldn’t have helped.

    • Ken Morgan

      It was a wood used to make the black keys on a piano. Until they just veneered cheaper woods and used an offset weight on the hammer.

    • Ivan

      The second hardest metal known to man, other than daedric metal.

      • Alex Dương

        Feh, you can keep your evil tainted metal. Dragonbone is where it’s at.

      • Zappa Frank

        morrowind or oblivion?

  • don mario

    these people should of kept it on the downlo.

  • YourSupremeCommander

    Did this Ebony get tested for Ebola?

  • JayJay

    My head exploded!! Too many jokes here about ebony!!! oh… the innuendos

  • LuoyangLaowai

    I’m so happy I was not born Chinese.

  • yurah

    I fear stuff like this will happen in the states…

    • Amused

      Don’t be afraid bro, no one wants to take your ebony wood.

    • Zsari Maxim

      In most states, property rights and mineral rights are separate, so if there are something to be found underneath your property, then that belong to whoever holds the mineral rights to that land, usually not the land owner but some mining company who then can according to law setup drilling rigs and make claim to whatever that’s dug up.

      • jin

        I’m wondering if they found this on their leased land or government land.

      • David

        I am sure each country has their own idea of what is fair. In the United States, mineral rights go hand in hand with land ownership rights and can usually only be leased by the owner not sold (some states out west have some more complicated language, especially with regards to water). I have never owned a piece of land where I did not own the mineral rights (as well as a host of other rights like the airway) except for land used in a public manner like a sidewalk.

        • sudon’t

          Not true. You can sell land while retaining mineral rights in the US.

          • David

            Yes, you can but in a GENERAL sale unless the rights are specifically withheld, something that is not done in most sales of property, everything is included. Very few people are willing to buy land without all the rights included, this is usually more common when people RENT land and do not have the rights to mine it. They have some need for the top land and use it for a period of time and hen when they are done the use goes back to the owner. In addition if you have mineral rights but no right of way access to the land your mineral rights are of no use except to deny others from mining. There are very few circumstances where this is useful.

  • Average Zhou

    Excellent thinking points by the netizens. If every precious natural resource belongs to the state, then all the ground and boulders and water surely belong to the state as well, and following this line of thinking, if the state takes the money from the ebony they should also be held accountable for a boulder which rolls down a hill and destroys a home. Its especially messed up that the find was initially reported to the government in the proper way and the government didn’t want anything to do with it until the villagers suddenly came into money because of it. Now it suddenly belongs to the government. Very fucked up because the villagers weren’t even trying to get over on the gov’t. They went through the proper channels and everything. There is one thing I like about the Chinese government though – they don’t even pretend to give the citizens a fair shake at life. In the U.S. we don’t have a fair shake either, but the crazy thing is that most Americans don’t even realize it because we are so thoroughly indoctrinated by our gov’t’s propaganda. In China people are more free in a certain sense because they are free of the illusion of freedom.

  • Ai Mei

    What? No excavator jokes?

  • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

    That money belongs to the people! Which is conveniently also what I call my wallet!

  • lonetrey / Dan

    Government scum. I would not have let them rob me of money like this.

    • hess

      That aint shit, try to make a living here in Sweden and watch your salary poof by at LEAST 30% every month
      EDIT: looks like my picture didnt make it, 靠

      • lonetrey / Dan

        I’m sorry to hear that D:

      • David

        But Hess all anybody ever says is Sweden (and the other Scandinavian countries) are a socialist paradise. Arn’t you begging the government to take more of your money every month because they are so much wiser than you at spending it? : ) After all, those other people who are not working hard everyday, like you to feed your family, need help too.

        • sudon’t

          People always complain, no matter how good they have it. Let them move to the USA and try to go to college or to the doctor, then they’ll have something to complain about while a mere 27% of their check is taken, (15% if you’re rich).

          Of course, if you happen to find an old tree in the mud here, and it’s not on someone else’s (or the State’s) property, you’ll likely get to keep it.

          • David

            I am not sure why you think people in the U.S. have a problem going to the doctor or college but I do agree that some people will complain no matter what. Personally I prefer our system, but I have no problem with you liking yours.

          • sudon’t

            In the US, unlike in the civilized countries, you have to pay for education and medical care. Not everybody can afford these things. That’s why student loan debt tops a trillion dollars here. I myself had to work full time while I was in school, because my mother was too poor to support me, and went most of thirty years without insurance. I hope you’re not saying you like *this* system.

          • David

            No, I LOVE this system. Why should you pay for something you don’t want? why should I pay for something just because you want it. Self-reliance builds individual and societal character. I also grew up poor. I worked my ass off to pay for my school, pay for my wife’s school and eventually helped my children to pay for theirs (making them work for part of their tuition was good for them). As for medical care, emergency rooms will take anybody who is having an emergency. For everything else you pay for what you want or you get a job that offers the insurance you pay into. This is as civilized as life gets. Sucking the benefit from others is not civilized to me. The very poor and old ARE taken care of.

          • sudon’t

            We should provide education because it benefits the whole of society. When people use emergency rooms for medical care, it costs all of us, you included, a lot more than it would to provide regular medical care. That you think the old and poor are “taken care of” indicates how utterly ignorant you are of the actual situation in this country.
            You have a very narrow and selfish view of society, yet I bet you’re a patriot at the same time. I find it interesting how some people want to pretend they’re individuals on the one hand, and Americans on the other. People like that have been tearing down this country since the nineteen-eighties. That is why we haven’t been “number one” by any metric, except military spending, for a long time now. But, I’m guessing you aren’t even aware of these facts.

          • David

            What I am aware of is that you are a crackpot with real delusions. What you call ‘facts’ are in fact simply your opinions and interpretations. Seeing your comments makes me lose any interest in discussion with you, as you are obviously not capable of rational thought. Good luck and don’t forget to wear the tin foil hat.

          • moop

            “We should provide education because it benefits the whole of society.”

            the US does. free public education for all up to grade 12, and in most states you can at least attend a technical or 2 year college for free if you do even remotely well in high school. the opportunities are there for those who take them and work hard enough in high school to take the next step in their education.

            ” People like that have been tearing down this country since the nineteen-eighties. That is why we haven’t been “number one” by any metric, except military spending, for a long time now. But, I’m guessing you aren’t even aware of these facts.”

            yes, because the military industrial complex and the idea of patriotism magically appeared in the 1980s and equality was rampant before then. i’m guessing you really like watching “the newsroom”?

          • sudon’t

            As you know, a high school diploma is worthless. I don’t know about “the newsroom,” but I do remember how prosperous this country was during the sixties and seventies, when working people were paid more, and education was affordable. What happened in the eighties was Reagan, and his inverted economic theories. It has nothing to do with patriotism.

          • moop

            a high school diploma is worthless only to someone who gets a higher degree. a bachelor’s is increasingly worthless

            if you think the 70s were prosperous then i’d say you enjoyed the 60s a little too much

      • vincent_t

        Well mate, my salary does “poofed” by the PRC government for 30% every month, and I don’t get any social welfare from the Chinese government at all. Talking about government scum, no1 can ever beat CCP.

  • Dan

    and these people want to have control of the internets?

  • Smith_90125

    Sorry, which is state property in China? The ebony, or the person who sold it?

    Considering that the PRC government sees people as property of the state and disposable (*), it’s hard to tell what was meant.

    (* – it kills people on spec for transplant tourists, uses prisoners as slave labour in toxic working conditions, hires gangs of thugs to beat up and murder farmers to steal their land, and sees 3000-4000 mining deaths as a necessary price of business and gives no compensation to the families, etc.)

  • Celiac

    IKR. Where do people think the Communist government got their money/resources after the civil war? They took it from the people who already had wealth and land. They took what they wanted and used their Red Guard and laws to make it official.

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