Chinese Reactions To Auction Of Stolen Bronze Relics


Christie’s auctioned two bronze statue heads taken from China’s Old Summer Palace by British and French army in 1860. The two heads were part of a fountain that featured the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. Some of the heads are still missing and some were purchased by rich Chinese and returned to China. These two heads were part of Yves Saint Laurent’s art collection and are being auctioned by his long-time partner, Pierre Berger.

chinese-rabbit-bronze-heads-auctioned-by-french-yves-saint-laurent chinese-rat-bronze-heads-auctioned-by-french-yves-saint-laurent

One chinaSMACK reader, Ted, emailed and asked me to translate some comments about this issue. Here are some comments and a poll from two big Chinese BBS.

From Sina:

What do you think of the French court approving the auction of the Yuan Ming Yuan [Old Summer Palace] bronze animal heads?

Total of 113,975 people participated [as of 2009 February 25, 23:36]

Oppose, this is China’s cultural relic, immediately issue an order to forbid the auction, use diplomatic channels to resolve.
89.3% (101,751)

Understandable, this is a legally legitimate auction, unable to be criticized, China can buy them back at a high price.
8.3% (9,453)

Hard to say.
2.4% (2,714)

Comments from Tianya:


What is the use of spending so much money to get these back? Aren’t they just copper faucets? With 200 million, we can make them in pure gold. There are so many national treasures out there, why just focus on these two?


Crazy, if they are in other people’s hands, then it is their’s. If they want to auction them, then let them auction them. If they want to sell them, then let them sell them. There is no need for China to approve it.


Foreigners are simply exploiting Chinese people’s so-called patriotism, intentionally raising the price, and everyone should just ignore them.


Ding, Chinese people’s things should definitely be returned to China.


When did those things become China’s national treasures? Were it not for us buying a few of them a few years ago, who would care about this? Just look at how much the prices have grown over these past few years! They are just waiting for us to go waste our money! It would be better for us to care about those real national treasures that have been lost overseas!


I certainly oppose, but do not scream nonsense about boycotting French goods again, because it is our own countrymen who suffer.


As long as it is not Chinese (or people of Chinese origin) buying, these things would not have any value.


To give them up is also a kind of dignity.


I also do not support buying them back. I simply feel there is no need. This is the entire world’s wealth, not only China’s.


What Chinese people love is this, being elated when our nationality is brutalized. Now, the only thing that can touch the Chinese people’s G-spot probably is insulting the Chinese.
So if there is an insult to the Chinese, we climax.
If there is no insult to the Chinese, we will create an insult to the Chinese to climax.


The government does not even make an appearance, what does that mean? The government is losing face for our countrymen, only issuing some useless statements, what good is it? That the people’s lawyers cannot even find a plaintiff, isn’t the government embarrassing the people?


I think that this time the government should stand up for the people, do something for the country, instead of depending on us to be a shield for the government, strongly condemning this and condemning that when something happens, always just jokes. The government needs to do something meaningful, at worst just sever relations.


Truly fucking nonsense…what do we want those two pieces of scrap metal for? What use would they serve? They are China’s disgrace. We should focus on developing the military, developing the economy, and if there is an opportunity, we can also invade them, take the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, etc., bring them all over to China, then ask a high price and just tell them to buy them back…I truly do not understand why China’s government is always acts so low-key, reserved, taciturn, silent in the international community…can they not be more arrogant???

Comments from Sina:


My opinion is, however they took them, one day we  will use the same method to take them back.


Seeing China’s plundered cultural relics being auctioned is as if I was painfully seeing the shadow of the time period our ancestors were killed, robbed, and pillaged!!! It cannot be like this!!! Now the French want to again hurt the Chinese people a second time!!!
French people, how can you be this way!!!
This is the benefit that the French people chase after??? What benefit can the French people get from hurting the Chinese people’s genuine feelings!!!
The Chinese people cannot agree to this!!!
Resolutely oppose!!


The French’s way of thinking is a little hard to understand.
If they consider the current economic situation,
they should be standing on the Chinese side.


Getting angry with the French is to flatter them. The French treat politics like a toy, playing with it very happily.


We should keep going! Keep up our tough stance!
Go to hell, evil French creatures!


I really hope for the current China to truly become strong and powerful, and not return to the period when the Summer Palace was destroyed.


They are always saying how civilized they are~~but actually they are not even fit to be human anymore~~They should just vanish from this world~~Our own things and we still need to listen to their commands?~~Sooner or later they will regret it~~sooner or later we will settle things with them~~make them pay us an even bigger price~~so us Chinese sons and daughters must all jia you~~and do our part for our motherland~~jia you, my motherland~~


When there are different positions and different ways to explain history, only by becoming powerful can you rewrite history.
The roar of the weak in a low moan not worth mentioning to the strong.
History cannot be forgotten, so use this as motivation, to speak with power/strength.


Why should we go buy what belongs to us?
Just leave it with them, it is evidence of their crime.
There will come a day when they will unconditionally return them to us.
I believe that day will come soon.


Chinese people’s artwork, to be known by the world, is also our contribution. Although this kind of process looks like there is a little humiliation, but in the midst of this process, what we need most is reflection rather than simply feeling aggrieved/wronged.


French people are truly shameless!


Do they still think China is the China of several decades ago?
If they want to talk about conditions, even one is unacceptable!

More English discussion about this issue can be found at Fool’s Mountain.

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  • Hans-von-Wurst

    [quote]To give them up is also a kind of dignity.[/quote]Very nice comment!

    But the first couple of comments from Sina frighten me…

    • omg

      Frightened this easily, what a pussy.

  • bob


    There is no dignity in selling looted relics.

    Maybe someone can explain to me why the involved parties have been able to skirt around the UNESCO Convention on illicit traffic and the UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects.

    • Vinowank

      there is dignity in selling your mom. china is fucked up. keep the relics safe

  • DBJ

    I’ve been following press reports on this story and after reading the translated comments here I’m quite surprised at how narrow some of the coverage has been. Le Monde came out with reports focused on China’s nationalism as if they were trying to downplay the claim on the relics. Inter Press Service h/t Atimes focused soley on the nationalistic side. AFP went with the snarky headline:

    China haunts YSL art ‘sale of the century’

    Interestingly without the translations I would have never noticed how superfical the coverage has been.

  • Pierre

    You’ve missed an important part of the story:

    Berge, who decided to sell the collection following Saint Laurent’s death last year, had offered to return the pieces to China in return for a pledge to improve human rights.

    But the Chinese foreign ministry dismissed his offer as “just ridiculous.”

    • Kai

      Pierre, even Berge knew it was ridiculous himself. He had zero expectation that China would accept and was instead just making another “Free Tibet” political statement that was NOT just about “human rights.” Anyone well-acquainted with the Tibet conundrum probably would’ve reacted to Berge’s “offer” with a chuckle precisely because of its audacious and irrelevant flippancy.

    • Man

      May I stole something from your home and tell you:”I will not return it back to you unless you do……”?
      Those are diffenrent things.
      What the canting guy did is just looking for excuses. Human right? Yes, everybody do need it, but is there an accurate and mearsureable standard on it?
      The only result I can imagine is whatever the stolen stuff will not be returned back.

  • bob

    He also demanded Tibet to be handed over to the Dalai goons, which makes his proposal ridiculous.

  • omg

    You have to admit, Berge has balls but it still amounts to blackmail.

  • Peteryang

    the chinese business delegation is buying technologies in europe now but they shun french, it seem that french gives no fuck about china, so shall we give no fuck about them.

    and the demand that dalai go back to tibet is a monumental joke, whoever said it, I think he wasn’t even serious.

    and two pieces of bronze just ain’t worth 14 million euros, whoever bought them must be a stupid parvenu.

    on the other hand, some of these netizens need to chill the fuck out, they should know, like I always say, that the real treasures are in Taiwan’s 故宫博物院, as long as we are getting closer to taiwan the rest doesn’t matter, let them have it if they want to waste craps on some crap bronze.

    • The Grudge

      They are not parvenu, they spend your money on safe heavens that will prevail on this crisis.

      I’m in your wallet, spending your moneyz!

  • Truth Hurtz

    I think what Berge said simply was just another way of saying ‘never gonna happen’ both in returning the bronzes (for free) and China allowing Dalai back to Tibet. That said, the ‘dunce’ move was initiated by the lawyers which given these ‘overrated’ pieces international press and publicity which in turn jacked up the prices. As for those that fell victim to the fanning of nationalism it only displayed to the world once again these guys are easily startled and a bunch of drama queens. Also, the burning of the palace had its own reasons and most choose to not point that out but if interested look it up and read a bit on Lord Elgin – nuff said.

  • Peteryang

    umm.. not very excited about this, next time germany turns nut are we gong back to french?? where would the vicious cycle end sigh..

    • jamar

      With Africa, apparently.

  • Peteryang

    french are ideologues, if they drop their nose and be pragmatic they can easily exploit china’s lack of innovation, and weak-handed diplomacy.

    they need to learn from hillary clinton, she got a huge welcome here because she wants actual WORK, she wants thing get DONE, not throwing reprimands around. chinese know fully well the human rights problem and the ordinary people are fighting it everyday online or IRL but tibet and stuff just ain’t got ntohign to do with it, they mixing every shit in one pot and turns out all have failed.

  • Johnny Depp

    I suggest using the 200million into ICBM research.

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  • The Grudge

    “The Frenchmen still don’t get it?”

    They are just not willing to sell their soul to China for a pile of junk.

    It’s called: social and ethical evolution, don’t worry, your country might get there one day, but probably not in your lifetime.

    • Kai

      It sounds like you’re in no rush for China to “get there” so you can continue feeling socially and ethically more evolved.

      • The Grudge

        Don’t speak for me please, that’s not what I said.

        If it could happen tomorrow, I’d be quite happy about it, and so would be the rest of the world.

        As far as I know, Western nations are not the ones socially stuck in time and haunted by a jingoistic inferiority complex fueled by 1984’s style propaganda coupled with an ad nauseam victim speech.

        China’s Gov: “Bring back the magic sacred relics or suffer the wrath of the Red Dragon!”

        The World: “Fuck Off China!”

        China’s Gov: “You have to play by my rules! I decide how to play this game! Otherwise I’m not going be your friend anymore and I’ll tell my father and my 1.3 billion friends and we will all have our feelings hurting. And also, I will not invite you to my birthday party and you won’t be able to have a slice of the cake!”

        The World: “Fuck Off China!”

        – China’s Gov runs to his bedroom, slam the door, start crying on the bed and write the events in his pink diary.-

  • Teacher in China

    I was actually surprised how many of the Chinese comments were like “I don’t give a shit”. I felt angry on China’s behalf when I heard this story. It’s a bit like a kick when you’re already down – we burned down the SP, stole shit from you, and now if you want it back you have to pay us xxx millions of dollars. How about (like a few people said) show some class and return it? Especially considering the people in that country already have a grievance with you; seems like the perfect chance to show a little international friendship (and maybe get some sweet business deals as some icing on the cake ;) )

    • Peteryang

      surprisingly, I don’t think chinese should give a shit, ever. what they are trying to do is hurt out feeling(excuse me I used this word), so the best defense is “china gives no shit”.

    • Kai

      Well, although biased, the poll does show that an overwhelming majority (at least on Sina) cared enough to oppose it. But yeah, the translated comments included a lot of “I don’t give a shit” comments. I think some of them are being both mature and pragmatic, which is fair. It’s a good thing when Chinese rhetoric progresses from incessantly playing the victim card to having the self-confidence to say “let’s work on improving ourselves and revisit this issue later.”

      • Peteryang

        true dat. chinese need to know criticisms and prejudice are part of life that no one can escape, and so is hypocrisy.

        if china wants to be a mature and responsibile international stakeholder, as it has always dreamed to be, and something I 100% support, she MUST learn to deal with(or more likely, ignore) criticisms the right way, instead of hurling craps whenever she feels “humiliated”.

        grow up China!

  • Teacher in China

    @ The Grudge
    Please enlighten us as to how France is displaying “social and ethical evolution” here. Read my previous comment before you answer.

  • Chrisbert

    Thank god the foreign devils looted those precious little critters otherwise they would haven been melted to worthless metal during Maos great leap forward.

    • Kellen

      uh, 顶。

  • gave one?

    Helloooo? Doesn’t anyone realise that no one really does give a shit about these things at all? It is a complete Chinese media hype-up to keep the focus well off any other bad news along unemployment / recession / protest or public disorder-type stories that might otherwise find their way into the news or be the topic of conversation in Chinese communities.

    The story is a perfect fit. Inspires nationalism and rallies the people behind their proudly-chinese leadership.

    I saw groups of University students on campus having “meetings” to “protest” the sale of these things. I can assure you that those meetings wouldn’t be happening unless someone had OK’d them as being ideologically safe.

    • Peteryang

      that’s an ILLUSION. nothing can distract people from real life concerns, absolutely none. thats why you only see students willing to protest, because they have a lot of free time.

      assume if you lost your job and are about to starve, would you even care reading news?? no.

    • Peteryang

      thats why the propaganda ministry is stupid, they presume it’s still the red era and everyone must think they same way they do. stupid bunch of goons.

    • Mau Mai

      @ gave one?
      I agree that this issue is a minor one. The REAL issue might be those people who set themselves on fire…an accident? Can we find some news about that? At list a bit of truth!

  • The Grudge

    “(and maybe get some sweet business deals as some icing on the cake ;) )”

    AKA as: bend over and take it deep.

    Your last comment is the perfect example showcasing the West’s hypocrisy toward China and its politics.

    Who cares if millions of people live in abject conditions and poverty, that we turn a blind eye on Black jails, as long as we are making “sweet deals”.

    As we speak now, China is about to receive a very special guest and good friend, Kim Jong-il, while at the same time increasing the repression in Tibet, while at the same time shutting down sensitive political “porn” sites

    • Teahcer in China

      Ok Grudge, +1 for you, that was careless of me, although it was meant to be a little tongue-in-cheek.

      My main point is that the French aren’t exactly showing “social and ethical evolution” by trying to resell stolen goods which they looted from another country in a war which most people can agree was pretty fucked up, as it can all be traced back to trading in opium!

      And please don’t give me the “well, they’re destroying human rights, so we’re keeping their stuff” argument – two wrongs don’t make a right.

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  • Mike

    This kind of stuff wouldn’t seem so hypocritical if China actually, right now, did more to protect and preserve the tangible cultural heritage it has left. Centuries old hutongs are leveled, chunks of the Great Wall are used for road-fill, and most construction projects, even in the heart of old cities, never even have an archaelogical review. The whining about the destruction of the Old Summer Palace and the looting of these bronzes at the hands of the evil Frenchies 150 years ago just seems so ignorant and insincere when those same people completely ignore the current destruction and looting of vast blocks of Qing and Ming Dynasty relics right outside their windows.

    • omg

      It’s always amusing when people start to whine about the hutongs. You go there take a few pictures feel good about yourself and then you can leave. But people have to live in those slums, 5 families to a bathroom, no in door plumbing, no sanitation, no in door heating, so they can applease your tourist ego, I guess it’s a good thing you don’t live there.

      • Mike

        omg… don’t make assumptions about me, my nationality, and my life experience. So, you know all about me cause my name is Mike? For all you know my granddad still lives happily in his Tianjin hutong and is sad that all the rest are being torn down. Trying to argue against the importance of preserving cultural treasures based on some hutongs being run down and unlivable is silly. Plenty of the best preserved buildings in New York, Paris, Istanbul, or Marakesh that are now boutique hotels and fancy restaurants used to be nasty slums, dirty old pubs, barns filled with animal crap, or tenement houses. The majority of people who worked to preserve the hutongs or other aspects of China’s architectural or cultural heritage are the people who actually live there. Those old places are their homes. Do you really think they get a nice new apartment when the government takes their hutong for a new shopping mall?

        • Kai

          Mike, what you bring up is a good question for introspection by Chinese. However, it is a bad justification for foreigners to use to resell stolen property.

          If you see your neighbor abusing or failing to maintain his car, does that give you the right to go take it and then justify it by saying he didn’t treat the car well?

          That might fly for living beings, such as people and pets, but for physical property, no. Whether or not China cherishes, protects, or preserves aspects or representations of its cultural heritage is its own business. As a foreigner with a vested interest, you may make entreaties, but you have no legal or moral right to make decisions about other people’s property just because you personally don’t think they’re doing enough to satisfy you.

          Whether or not China takes care of its relics or destroyed its relics in the past is irrelevant. Its their relics to do as they please.

          For the record, I agree that China can do a better job cherishing, protecting, and preserving many things. I would like them to do so too. However a lot of history is lost due to the demands and whims of the present. It happens, both here in China and elsewhere around the world.

        • omg

          First off, I never made ANY assumption about your nationality, you’re projecting your own viewpoint. Tell me where in NYC there are large swaths of preserved buildings from the 1800s? I find it very difficult to believe that modernization has not claimed the majority of those buildings just as it’s happening in Beijing. Finally I have no need to argue against preservation, the people of those hutongs have already made that decision. If the majority valued decrepitated buildings over living conditions they wouldn’t have so readily taken the governments money and left.

  • shinrai

    ^+1 for Mike.

    also, china should just manufacture fake ones just like they do with everything else from the civilized world, stop crying, and move on.

  • badboy

    What provoked the looting of the old Summer Palace?

    • Mike

      In general the Opium War, specifically, a large part of the Anglo-French armies’ delegation sent ahead to Beijing to discuss conditions and reparations being tortured and killed by the local Yamen.

      • Teacher in China

        I’m no history expert and haven’t studied this in a lot of detail, but what I have read tells me that the hostilities of the second opium war and the arrow war would have been less had it not been for the previous “1st” opium war. So, I don’t think it’s unfair to link the burning and looting of the summer palace to the 1st opium war.

  • badboy

    Have the Chinese Govt. compensated the descendents of those delegation members who were tortured to death?

  • washingtondude

    I love this :)

    they are very nice. the new owner will have pleasure with the.

    chinese stole so much land, destroyed so much culture in yunan,tibet,xinjiang,mongolia.. but are really quick to say mimimimimimi bad foreign devil is the source of the demise of our culture.

    chinese people look at the truth the way it suits them best.

  • Matt

    I love the Chinese, really…

    but 30 some odd years ago they were burning every cultural relic they could find, and now they want a piece of their history back?

    maybe all national relics should be taken out of china to ensure their safety. it is their history, yes, but can we trust them to preserve it?

    • Matt

      if the relics weren’t looted, they probably would not be here today.

      the only reason the chinese want the relics back is because they do not have control over them. it is an extension of the type of extreme nationalism which has become a major facet of the psyche of the younger chinese generation today.

      younger people do not know the past for which the older generations are to ashamed to speak of.

      • Kai

        Sorry, Matt, it just isn’t your decision to deprive others of their property simply because you value it more than they do. It is still THEIR property.

        Again, the conundrum with THIS issue is that the property has already been deprived and people are asking: Okay, so what now? Should we forget the fact that they were stolen and continue reselling them because they’ve already been resold? Or should we return them or make reparations as a gesture of good-will apology?

        You’re trying really hard to justify the looting of them with the fact that they’ve been preserved IN RETROSPECT 150 years later. The original looters, the ones who committed the crime, did NOT have ANY inkling that Mao or the Cultural Revolution would’ve happened, or even considered who would better preserve the what would eventually be considered “relics.” They were looting whatever looked valuable or interesting as spoils of war. I’d give you another analogy but I don’t think you’d get it. You’re still caught up with the ends justify the means, except the end of the original looters weren’t even the same ends as the ones you’re upholding right now.

        • matt

          please prove whose property it is

      • AndyR

        If you actually bothered to read any history on these objects, you would know that the looters did not behead them. The empress Dowager disliked the fountain from which these statues came (fountain was designed by a Jesuit missionary for the Kangxi emperor, statues designed by a Westerner as well, so I guess you don’t have complete claim to them as YOUR HISTORY), and had it dismantled, the bodies of the statues were melted down because of a copper shortage and the heads were put away. As much as you would like to imagine a bunch of “laowai” cutting off the heads of these sculptures, that is not what happened according to the historical record. I would think that you would do a little more research on something you seem to care so much about. So you aren’t an “ism”, just another jackass who doesn’t know what the hell they are talking about.

  • Ted

    Thanks Fauna!

    If Sarkozy was smart he should just bid for the statues with government money and give it as a gift to China as a gesture of kindness. What they’ll gain in return from PR and increased Chinese consumption of French goods will far outweigh the cost of the two heads.

  • bob


    I also love the Chinese, really…

    but 30 years ago, kids were sent to work in labor camps in the country side, and now kids are treated like kings.

    maybe all kids should be taken out of China to ensure their proper development. It is their kids, yes, but can we trust them to raise their kids properly?

    • Matt

      its called adoption bob. it is one of chinas fastest growing economic markets.

      • Kai

        Matt, that was kinda atrocious for you to say.

        The primary motivation for Westerners adopting babies from China is because they can’t have one of their own. It isn’t as if China is actively selling them or Westerners are actively and selflessly trying to “rescue” Chinese babies from China.

        • matt


          check out ben kingsley’s “the lost children of china.”

          that is just what chinese will do to each other. i am sure many corrupt individuals are making a killing off of baby factories.

          • Kai

            Matt, congratulations, you’re a fucking idiot who can’t distinguish between a documentary about a real social ill in China and mistaking it for the Chinese government/people/society officially accepting, sanctioning, supporting, and promoting that social ill.

            Should the Chinese read the news about American teenage girls pimping each other and then declare “this is what Americans will do to each other!”?

            My point still stands that the Chinese as a collective whole are not actively selling babies contrary to your prior implication about it being so as “one of China’s fastest growing economic markets.”

            My point also stands that Westerners are not actively and selflessly “rescuing” these children, as you were trying to correlate to Westernes having “rescued” these cultural relics from those Chinese who can’t be trusted to preserve them. Westerners largely adopt Chinese babies because they want a baby, just like the looters stole these relics because they wanted them and NOT because they predicted future events and said to themselves “gee, we should take these to preserve them!”

          • matt

            kai, i can distinguish between the two, thanks. when you read a story about a crime committed in america, it usually entails details of an arrest and trial for said crime. is the same true in china? lets just examine the chinese government’s food safety regulations. do you expect me to believe members of the government had no idea its food safety regulations (as lax as they were) were being completely ignored during the melamine crisis? only a handful of bottom feeders tried (and executed) while the real criminals roam free.

            I have seen the corruption with my own eyes. I have lived in an expensive apartment complex in a city in northern china, whose many inhabitants worked for the local government and drove everything from bmw 7 series to RR phantoms.

            Just down the road from this 5 star complex was a shanty village in the heart of the city. Before thinking about these important relics, why doesn’t the government help the individuals living in their own filth?

            it is you who is the ‘fucking idiot.’ “wah wah i want my relics!”

          • Kai

            If you can distinguish between the two, then please avoid making such ridiculous comments.

            Seriously, what are you trying to accomplish? The Chinese are probably far more accutely aware of the inadequacy of rule of law in China than you are. This website alone is a fucking great example of how frustrated many Chinese people are that crimes and corruption continually occur without justice. The Chinese people WANT things to improve, but things like this are always easier said than done.

            You’re lecturing from a position of self-righteous moral (if not cultural) superiority. At the very least, your comment seem more intent to lecture the Chinese on how bad you think they are than any sincere or genuine interest in helping things get better. You ignore that the relics are their’s and you go on and on about how the Chinese can’t be trusted, that they destroyed their history before, that they sell their kids, etc.” and THEREFORE, it must be “obvious” that these relics should remain in “civilized” hands. The logic in that argument is fucking INFANTILE.

            Only an idiot confuses two issues. By your logic, Americans have no right to criticize the Chinese for human rights abuses because of their own human rights abuses, right?

            Matt, unlike you, some people are capable of holding two thoughts in their brains. There’s no reason why Chinese people cannot simultaneously be against government corruption AND against foreigners reselling property stolen from them. How arrogant can you be to actually tell the Chinese what they should care about and to shut the fuck up because you think they should care about something else.

            You know what, Matt? You should shut the fuck up about the government corruption here in China and go worry about the government corruption in whatever country you’re from. If you agree me telling you that is unreasonable and patently retarded, then you should take a hard look at how fucking stupid you sound.

          • Kai

            pug, that’s actually a good question. The truth is “very rarely.” The reason is because exceedingly few people in real life will say the same “fucking idiotic” things they say here and that I’m responding to with such equally strong venom.

            People hiding behind a keyboard and the anonymity of the internet often express things they would have the good sense NOT to express in real life, whatever their private feelings. When they don’t say such things in real life, there’s no cause for me to respond in kind. If you’re not an ass in real life, I’m not going to be an ass right back at you. Fair, yes?

  • Mau Mai

    So much about bronze relics! What about those who set themselves on fire in Bejin! No news about that on Chinasmack? Why?

    • Kai

      Probably because it has too many political overtones linking to separatists (er, “splitists”), Tibetans, or whatever. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    • Peteryang

      just so you know, reporting sensitive political story will get this site banned.

  • unkfynzm

    Didn’t bother reading all of the comments but I know there’s a lot of arguing and defending back and forth.

    For those that hate China, I want to know why do you have enough interest in China to be reading these types of sites?

  • Matt

    more secrets plz

  • bert

    How many years did China steal from Nike, Adidas, Microsoft, Levi’s ? haha.

    Anyway, is there an international statute of limitations on things like this? I don’t think so. I guess if it is owned by a national museum it would be nice to offer them back but if they are in private hands it seems, “sorry Charlie”.

    “I also love the Chinese really!” Why do things like this need to be said? Does this need to be said everytime someone has been made to feel guilty for speaking what they think?

  • Peteryang

    this just in:

    the buyer is suspected to be a chinese, which bolds well for return of the relics.

  • ST

    Erm… the Winter Palace was looted, burned and destroyed. Not the Summer Palace. You can actually still visit the ruins outside Beijing. So everyone is saying these were looted from the Summer Palace but… wasn’t it actually the Winter Palace? Yes? No? Just wondering.

  • matt


    you have a point. your thinking is very logical. yet, if you contend that the pieces are of special cultural value, than you must admit that the chinese should be thankful these artifacts were out of the country during the cultural revolution. they should be given to a museum.

    if you contend that the pieces hold no special value other than their worth as private property, please determine the original owner of this property and any records indicating a crime took place. if they are to go to the government to be ‘preserved,’ well, i think its quite a phony attempt to fool people into believing the CCP now cherishes its countries pre 新文化運動 history.

    • Kai

      Matt, I used some harsh words with you above. I trust you can review your comments and understand why. To respond to you here:

      Many Chinese ARE aware, in retrospect, that these pieces probably exist today because of what later happened, such as the Cultural Revolution. Did you read the translated comments above at all? It’s the silver lining, some get it. No one denies that.

      The question is not whether or not they would have survived, the question is what should be done with them NOW. You’re focusing on the former to avoid the issue of how these relics were misappropriated. Your argument is the same argument as the one China uses to defend its control of Tibet. You say the West stole these to preserve them. China says they stole Tibet to emancipate the serfs. Can you see just HOW morally dubious your argument is?

      Next, I never contended that these pieces hold no special value. Don’t put words in my mouth. The value they have is the value accorded to them by the beholder. However, there’s a difference between a beholder and an owner. No matter how much the West values these objects, it doesn’t change the fundamental principle that their rightful are the Chinese, and these objects were taken from the Chinese without their consent. The heads were commissioned by the Chinese emperor to be installed in the Old Summer Palace. There are records of this as well as records of the British and French looting and burning down the Old Summer Palace. Holy shit, man, you sound like a Holocaust denier.

      You’re further mistaking and (I suspect) intentionally mischaracterizing this entire issue as whether or not the CCP cherishes China’s pre-Cultural Revolution history. That is NOT the issue. Nevermind that the CCP today is NOT the CCP under Mao during the Cultural Revolution and that it does actively try to preserve many historical artifacts, architecture, etc., the basic issue is that these relics were stolen from the Chinese and now the Chinese are forced to buy back what was their’s in the first place. Is that right in your eyes? In your heart?

      If so, tell me where your car is.

      • matt

        you did not read my post thoroughly. what part of “they should be given to a museum” didn’t you understand?

        How do you know what my views on Tibet are? You may be a great writer, but you are surely not clairvoyant. I do not agree entirely with China’s actions in Tibet, however I do feel that the Tibetans are playing a dangerous game murdering the very same people that have attempted (and have in many cases succeeded) to bring prosperity to the region.

        The issue of how the relics were appropriated is of little importance due to the fact that the goods have been sold and resold many times over the course of the 20th century, leaving a clear chain of ownership, and ample time for the chinese government or agency such as the arts foundation that brought the suit in french court, to request a legal injunction to prevent any sale of the pieces in question and a ruling by the court as to their rightful owner. such action was not taken for 150 years, as you claim.

        it is legally irresponsible to render a judgment punishing the owner of the piece today in an attempt to right the wrong of the actual perpetrator of the crime. this is how the french court saw it, and i too am inclined to see it in this light. my heart tells me the pieces should return to china. my head tells me that might not be the correct solution.

        • Kai

          Matt, give them back to the Chinese to let THEM decide what they want to do with them. Let THEM decide if they want to give them to a museum and which museum they’d like to give/loan them to.

          Okay, Matt, tell me what your views on Tibet are. It sounds like you’re saying there should be no controversy whatsoever about China claiming Tibet belongs to them just as there ought to be no controversy that these bronze heads belong to foreigners now. I just want to be sure.

          Yes, I’m aware of the “clear line of ownership” factor. Did you forget that I wrote: “The confounding legal factor here is that ownership has changed hands and the owners subsequent to the original looter all paid good money for them”??? I wrote it all the way back up there. ^^^

          So yes, now you’re onto a better argument, far better than trying to lecture everyone on how untrustworthy the Chinese are, that the Chinese should care about other things, and how it is better for foreigners to make decisions for the Chinese about their own property.

  • Jim

    Not sure why Chinese people are bothered – these never belonged to “the Chinese people”, they were for the private enjoyment of the Manchu ruling elite (the ones who kept making all those humiliating deals with the imperial powers) and bar the original craftsmen and a few servants doubt many Chinese people ever even got to see them before they were stolen.

    • Kai

      Would the British be upset if some foreigners came and stole the Crown Jewels of England? Would the French be upset if some foreigners came and stole Louis XIV’s outfits and paintings that he wore and commissioned for his private enjoyment that, barring the original craftsmen and a few servants, few French people ever got to see them?

      I’m baffled by how do some of you people can even think this way.

      • matt

        if someone stole the crown jewels of england, yes, english people would be upset. is it really fair to compare a bronze sculpture of a pig head to the crown jewels of england? bearing in mind that the chinese government has known for years and years that the pieces were on the market, yet did nothing about it until now?

        kai, you mentioned my car in your last reply. if my car was stolen 150 years ago, and i just got around to doing something about it now, i would have no legal recourse.

        • Jim

          I’m English and I wouldn’t give a toss – pile of useless tacky baubles adorning the heads of the various flotsam of Europe who’ve taken the crown. Captain Blood had the right idea. Most nationalism is stupid; nationalism in the interests of a tiny ruling elite is just farcical. I’m baffled that adults can still buy into these childish myths.

        • Kai

          Matt, earlier you were arguing for the special value of these bronze relics. I told you they have value in the eye of the beholders. Yes, the English people would be upset, just as the Chinese people are upset today that they’re being asked to pay to get back what is their’s. Now you’re trying to say “oh, but the Crown Jewels are more valuable than some bronze sculpture of a pig head.” Are you seriously making a value-judgement, arguing that the these relics are not nearly as important as the Crown Jewels and thus the Chinese shouldn’t be upset?

          It sounds like it.

          Matt, ask yourself: if your car was stolen by someone who came into your house and burned your house down, and then your wife divorced you, your children disowned you, your neighbor came in and squatted on your territory, then your long lost cousin from the countryside decided that he was better at managing your affairs than you were, proceeded to burn all your clothes, and finally after all this time things are starting to be look a bit better and less chaotic, you notice that the guy with your car is reselling it, would you feel like “hey, that’s my car, man”?

          There are few real legal recourses for cross-boarder, international issues. Even the UN Charter and international laws don’t always apply on scales so large. As I already mentioned, we’re aware of the confounding legal issues. What I’ve taken issue with you specifically were the deluge of terrible arguments you’ve been making otherwise.

          • matt

            i would have little sympathy for the english if their crown jewels were stolen and it took them 150 years to get around to asking for the jewels back.

            and yes, i think a value judgment is acceptable here. many more people are familiar with the crown jewels, a national symbol of england, than they are with the bronze pig head. go on the streets of england and ask who has heard of the crown jewels, and compare that number to the number of chinese people who have heard of the great pig relic… i would bet that the great majority of chinese people have never even heard of these pig relics before this story broke, and could care less.

            you are being obtuse. i have already told you that i think the just thing to do would be to return the relics. that does not make it illegal for the relic to be sold. the two don’t always mesh.

          • Kai

            Matt, the heads are of a rat and a rabbit, two of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. As other commenters have mentioned, they symbolize the burning and looting of the Old Summer Palace and a time when China was at the humiliating mercy of foreign powers. Are you saying there’s not enough Chinese people who are aware of this for them to legitimately want these bronze relics back, however less valuable compared to the Crown Jewels they are to YOU?

            Again, you’re being arrogant, making decisons for the Chinese people. You mentioned clairvoyance earlier when I brought up Tibet. I don’t think you’re so clairvoyant as to know what these bronze heads mean to the “great majority of Chinese people” and how much they care. Or are you?

            I’m not being obtuse. We’re just responding to each other at the same time on multiple threads, in such a way that one person may actually not have yet read what the other “already” wrote. You can look at the time-stamps. This is one of the problems with threaded comments compared to the old chronological comments. We can reply directly to an old comment, but its harder to see the sequence of replies.

            I’ve noticed that I’ve been repeating myself. I think I’ve explained VERY clearly my objections with many of the comments you’ve made here. We’ve squared away that you now agree there’s a confounding chain of ownership legal issue with regards to the bronze heads.

            The rest of my objections were with what I felt were you arrogantly lecturing the Chinese and making decisions for them. You haven’t been willing to back down on that, and you continue to throw arguments based upon the assumption you have the authority to do so. You may not even be aware of what you’re doing. Either way, I don’t think I can convince you otherwise and I’d only be even more foolish to continue representing the counterpoints I’ve already presented.

            Suffice to say, this is indeed my effort to stop arguing with you and move on. You and others will take what they will from our lengthy exchange. For us, sooner or later, we have to rest our case. Content that I’ve made solid rebuttals to and arguments against you, I’m resting mine. Throw in your closing argument if you want but otherwise, till next time, eh?

          • matt

            i laid out my thoughts for you

            -the claim that these relics are in some way valuable cultural relics is not supported by the actions, rather the lack of actions china has taken towards obtaining the pieces in the last 50 years.
            -punishing the current owner of the pieces by seizing the goods is not legally justifiable seeing that he did not commit the theft, purchased the goods legally, and a detailed record of ownership has been has been available to the chinese for quite some time.

            the UN has definitely dealt with situations like this before. to this day, priceless pieces of art stolen by the nazis across europe during ww2 are being returned to the heirs of its rightful owners. the difference is that in these situations, the art was either missing or presumed destroyed. there was no record of where the pieces were. the victims of the theft reported crime, and if the art was discovered to exist the case went to court to determine if the claim was valid. if so, the art was returned.

            2 can play your game, Kai. it would be relatively easy for me to say “hey, kai, pretend you are a Tibetan, and someone burned down your house, killed your family, etc etc etc etc etc blah blah blah, you would be really upset and demand it back, right?”

  • fireworks

    I agree the stolen imperial relics should be return. It is no use justifying because it is outside China or its been in the hands of Yves Saint Laurent. A thief is a thief back then and today. Thats how Jackie Chan told the press.

    The imperial relics from Christie’s auction was different. It was “stolen” by British and French forces when China was pinned down by the 8 powers.

    Therefore its cultural and emotional significance is one of national humiliation and the relics must be return to undo the victimization and humiliation of the burning of old summer palace era. China’s emotions is like yearning for the return of Hong Kong and Macau.

    Buying at the auction only legitimizes the theft.

    Oh, The British Museum is one of the worst offenders in the cultural world. It needs to stop its paternalistic attitude about protecting relics and return the Parthenon to Greece.

  • FangYao

    Relics are priceless, they are telling the darkside of the human history. i dont care who has them as long as they are full protected.
    also hope this part of history wont be repeated. for Chinese the feeling is painful. but it is the same way when communist invade Tibet, burn down the temples.
    as chinese we are not living Tibet so there is no the right for us to judge Tibet freedom. it always should be their own people.
    as foreigner,there is no right for you to judge Chinese people. if you want it should be the communist government.

  • matt

    You know what, Kai? The last time I checked this is Chinasmack.COM, not .CN, and is a site in ENGLISH. I assume it is to give westerners a look at the popular news stories of the day (Xinhua Xinhua Xinhua Xinhua). You sound fucking stupid claiming that you give a shit about some fucking relic pig head. You clearly have your priorities in order… oh wait.

    I never lectured you, Kai. I stated that the relics might be safer in the hands of westerners than in the hands of chinese (as history has proven) and that there are individuals in china who make money selling babies. you obviously unwilling, or unable to take a deep, hard look at your own national identity, and you are so incensed by this you repeatedly attack me personally.

    by your logic, everything that has ever been stolen should be returned…! you are the fucking idiot who has failed to grasp the complexities of the situation. the only one being infantile is you with your incessant need to reach a flawless victory against your ‘western oppressors.’

    i do like your writing style though. you are a good writer. native speaker?

    • Kai

      Dude, are you seriously trying to make a statement with the difference between .com and .cn? This website IS to give westerners a look at the popular news stories of the day (few of which are actually from Xinhua). The comments are enabled for people to discuss these stories. You offered your views, I’m offering mine. What’s the problem? Why does it matter if it is .com or .cn?

      Since you have a short memory, let me show you what looks like you lecturing the Chinese:

      it is their history, yes, but can we trust them to preserve it?

      the only reason the chinese want the relics back is because…

      that is just what chinese will do to each other.

      the chinese should be thankful these artifacts were out of the country

      its quite a phony attempt to fool people into believing the CCP now cherishes its countries pre 新文化運動 history.

      lets just examine the chinese government’s food safety regulations…

      Before thinking about these important relics, why doesn’t the government help the individuals living in their own filth?

      it is you who is the ‘fucking idiot.’ “wah wah i want my relics!”

      You actually did lecture (insult and attack) me in all of that, both by extension and directly, telling me what I should care about instead of this, as if I can’t care about more than one thing at the same time.

      History has proven that the West has destroyed much of its own history during their own development, industrialization, and modernization. It’s what often happens regardless of race, society, culture, or country. It may suck in retrospect, but they were decisions made at points in time. It happens. Don’t pretend like the West or Westerners are innately more conscious of preserving history than the Chinese are. You’re not respecting historical context.

      More importantly, history has proven that a respect for PROPERTY is a powerful social contract between people, people and government, and between governments/countries. You repeatedly fail to understand why the Chinese are upset. At the very least, you understand but you have the audacity to dictate to them that they should be more upset about other things. This shows me you fundamentally do not understand or respect the very concept of property, or at least when it is “Chinese” property.

      Please show me where I’m unwilling or unable to take a deep, hard look at my own national identity, presuming you actually know what my national identity is just by looking at my Gravatar. Then show me why that has anything to do with whether or not I can be incensed by your brash comments about this particular issue. I’m not sure if I’ve attacked you personally for no good reason, but I do fully acknowledge I’ve called you a fucking idiot while debating your excuses, rationalizations, justifications, and arguments.

      Actually, yes, most people do think things that are stolen should be returned whenever feasible. Where to draw that line of feasibility is always up for debate.

      As for the “complexities of the situation” (the legal issues of ownership and reselling) I grasped and commented about them 11 hours and 24 minutes before you even uttered a word here. The closest you got to mentioning something similar to the “complexities of the situation” was when you capitulated 25 hours and 50 minutes later. Before that, you were, as I said, busy dragging in other negative “Chinese” things you could to lecture the Chinese on what they should care about.

      My “western oppressors?” Careful before you elevate this to an issue of racism. You’re replying more on the basis of what you see in my Gravatar than on the issue of these bronze heads.

      • matt

        i asked the question “it is their history, yes, but can we trust them to preserve it?” answer me asshole. thats all i want from you. yes, no?

        my adoption comment was a bit sensationalist, however the point still stands… you must know as well as i do that if there is an opportunity to be exploited in china, it will be exploited. don’t lie to yourself.

        if the relics are so important, than yes, the chinese people should be happy that they still exist. that doesn’t say either way how i feel about them being returned, does it?

        most of my comments are directed at the government’s phony claim of ‘preserving cultural relics.’ you have turned this into a battle between you and the chinese people, and me. i said nothing about what YOU should care about. does it make a difference that i am not chinese? if the us government decided to massacre 20,000 people tomorrow, would you say “hey, not my problem…” (i am assuming you are chinese from your avatar and the fact that you seem to be a moderator on this chinese news site)

        • Kai comment a lot but he is not a moderator of this website.

          • Mau Mai

            Is Kai a member of Chinasmack team?

          • Hi Mau Mai,

            No he is not.

  • I would like to draw attention that there is a term for this called Elginism. My country tried to get back looted Parthenon Marbles and friezes that were illegally taken from Athens by Lord Elgin.

    Coincidentally it was the seventh earl of Elgin that looted your relics while his father the 8th earl looted ours. The same excuses were used as I see here, such as proclaiming the friezes and marble would have been destroyed by the Ottomans if we didn’t take them away, in a bid by the British to try and diminish the moral obligation in repatriating the friezes. I hope you get the Bronze relics back.

  • Peteryang

    you all chill out.

    I think the bottom line is, if the french wants it they at least need to give a shit about protecting it, keep it in the museum or whatever, but not selling it around.

    a lot of ancient chinese treasures are in museums across europe, china gave up asking them back long time ago, if they are kept safe then china wouldn’t care, but selling them off is a completely different story.

  • FangYao

    relics are history you cant changed what you did.
    for a truly honest person if I made mistake long time ago, one day I realized that i would return all the stuffs and try my best to fix the problems.
    for a dishonest person what are you expect for?

    • Mike

      Fangyao… really? you would give back the stuff? where would you start? Let’s look at China… if China started giving back stuff… since it has the longest history, it also has the longest history of war, conquest, plunder, and looting. If you did your research, you just might find some precious Chinese treasures that were looted themselves or made from looted precious metals, precious stones. Don’t you think there might be a few Yuan Dynasty artifacts, either in the Beijing or Taibei Gugong, that involve bits and pieces from conquered lands? If Afghanistan or Iran, right now, could make a legitimate claims to Persian pieces of China’s national treasures would China give them back?

  • hoklodude

    death by a thousand cuts to those napoleanic cheeby foreign devils.

  • Rick in China

    *Yawn yawn yawn*

    Relics have been plundered by and from every civilization throughout history. Many culturally significant pieces reside in museums and personal collections far from the original place they were plundered from, shit, haven’t any of you been to The Met? or Art Institute of Chicago? There are many museums in many countries with relics stolen, purchased illegally, donated, etc – from people other than the original creators…they are sold, auctioned, publicized, put on display, and demands for them to be returned by the royal families or countries of origin are often sent upon deaf ears – frankly, the world is a better place for having treasures from the ancient past to be spread around to other modern cultures, peaking interests and expanding knowledge.

    • Kai

      It is one thing to turn a deaf ear to the requests of the original owners and another thing to actively belittle or denigrate their genuine feelings and explicit desire to have them returned.

      • matt

        these aren’t the original owners. get off of it. you are really smart. smarter than i. you’ve got it all figured out! for the love of god, the original owners are dead and gone, and these artifacts are the flare used to decorate their rich aristocrat houses. i love this site. i love china. i can’t stand some of the shit that goes on over there (neither can a large portion of the chinese people).

      • Rick in China

        First of all – I don’t see any quotes by Berge which make me feel he’s trying to “actively belittle or denigrate” anyone. His asked for a pledge for improved human rights, which the whole world and amnesty international is also pressuring the Chinese government for. They refused, of course, because that would be a ‘ludicrous’ admittance to the deaf ear turned to the majority of Chinese living in poverty, there’s a reason there are more riots (although not called riots) in China than most other nations, Kai, although you may not see them on the streets of Shanghai.

        “The Public Security Ministry estimated the number of riots and demonstrations at 87,000 during 2005, up more than 6 percent from 2004 and quadruple what it was a decade ago” [ ]

        Who exactly had such “genuine feelings and explicit desire” to have them returned? Do you feel that every item from wars, invasions, plunders, and pillages throughout the history of the world should now ‘return’ from modern private collections, that which was taken? What do you think would happen with those ‘returned’ items, do you know how much corruption exists with officials in charge of excavations auctioning (privately?) relics worth undefinable amounts of money to their friends and family for a few yuan? Haven’t researched that, have you. ‘Returned’…what a farcical ideal. If someone pillaged some shit from my great great grandfather’s town, I certainly wouldn’t be crying about why oh why is someone selling it now, and give it back to my family..’Returned’…what a farcical ideal.

        • Kai

          First of all – I don’t see any quotes by Berge which make me feel he’s trying to “actively belittle or denigrate” anyone.

          Rick, I was referring to Matt and several other comments here, not Berge.

          there’s a reason there are more riots (although not called riots) in China than most other nations, Kai, although you may not see them on the streets of Shanghai.

          Please explain to me why you assume or insinuate that I’m not aware of the social unrest in China. Just because I’m based in Shanghai?

          Who exactly had such “genuine feelings and explicit desire” to have them returned?

          Look at the poll above for starters. Beyond that, the point was that Matt isn’t one to dictate how Chinese people should feel or whether they should care about these bronze relics. Your comment is ridiculous. Some Chinese people say they’re upset, they oppose the sale, they’d like to see them returned, etc. and now you’re saying “no, I doubt that you have such genuine feelings and desires”?

          Are you serious, Rick?

          You’re denying them their opinion?

          At least have the decency to respect that others genuinely believe or feel what they say they do.

          Rick, you surely have read my statement that yes, most people believe it is right to return things that were stolen whenever feasible. You’ll also have read that I acknowledge that “feasibility” is debatable. “Returned” or the concept of “being made whole” is not a farcical ideal. It is the fundamental premise behind “damages” in law. You do believe in law, right?

          Two wrongs don’t make a right. You’re still using the argument that “Person A values Item B more than Person C so Person A is justified in stealing Item B from Person C.” That’s the basis of your “oh, do you know how much corruption exists…” argument. Should I steal your Ferrari because I believe you’ll illegally speed with it on public roads whereas I won’t?

          Look, everyone understands the arguments you’re alluding to in an effort to justify why these items should remain in the hands of people you think would be better caretakers of them. None of it changes the fundamental fact that it violates the principles of property. Western liberal democratic ideals are heavily founded on a respect for those principles of property. You’re bending if not breaking those principles out of convenience.

          • Rick in China

            “Rick, I was referring to Matt and several other comments here, not Berge.” & “Please explain to me why you assume or insinuate that I’m not aware of the social unrest in China. Just because I’m based in Shanghai?”
            I didn’t insinuate you don’t know they happen, I insinuated you may have neglected the facts behind the issues supporting Berge’s request for a pledge for human rights improvement on the premise you were replying to ME, not to MATT, as your reply was to my post not to another tier of the thread (as one did not exist), and I only mentioned the facts of the matter, not the posts on this board…if I was replying to posts on this board, I would have replied within a thread. Posting the numbers simply went to support the reality which creates such a notion of wanting to ‘push’ a government through that kind of offer. I didn’t assume your “actively belittle or denigrate” were reacting to other people, as it was replied to my base thread, where I didn’t mention other people’s posts. Maybe it was a miscommunication.

            RE: “and now you’re saying “no, I doubt that you have such genuine feelings and desires”?”
            I don’t recall saying that. Nor do I recall implying that. I simply said who? as in who are you talking about – the government? “the people”? WHO are “the people”? Random people on the street? The manchurians the relics were plundered from? The groups who started the cause for returning them? WHO was a question, not an implication, and I’ll not bother replying to the portion of your post along that thread.

            RE: “None of it changes the fundamental fact that it violates the principles of property.”
            Your whole notion of law is wrong. Who owns them? They were not stolen from anyone alive today, nor any existing government, they were stolen, yes, but there is a HUGE difference between stealing your Ferrari last week, and buying something from someone who got it from someone else who got it from somewhere else who had it handed down from generations who had purchased it from someone else years, and years, and years ago, which was ultimately the result of theft – consider this Kai, in the rawest of terms, almost everything of years past has been stolen, who are you to identify the “true” owner? If my father buys something, and hands it down to me, but I found out it was stolen 100 years ago from a jungle in Cambodia, and I want to sell it – are you saying it is NOT mine, and should be illegally taken from me, in order to return to *random people* with no connection other than physical residence in the same place it was originally from 100 years ago? That is theft, Kai.

          • Kai

            Rick, you didn’t even mention Berger in your first comment of this thread. You said requests to return stolen artifacts fall on “deaf ears.’ I agree that happens. I then said ignoring requests is different from what some people like Matt are doing. People like Matt are not just ignoring the request, they’re belittling and denigrating that request. I was indeed responding to you, and in doing so, I made an allusion to Matt because I’m making a statement about how your thought contrasts with his. Does that make sense now?

            How am I neglecting the facts behind the issues supporting Berge’s request when I’m not even talking about Berge’s request and neither were you originally? Please review the record. Might there be a misunderstanding?

            You’re right you didn’t say that in those exact words. I was clearly paraphrasing you and using quotation as a grammatical element. You said:

            Who exactly had such “genuine feelings and explicit desire” to have them returned?

            Part of the answer to this question is above you in this post. While the above poll and translated comments
            do not represent every Chinese citizen’s feelings, it at the very least demonstrates a statistically significant population of Chinese people that have such “genuine feelings and explicit desire” to have these bronze relics returned.

            You can see that with your own eyes above, so why are you even asking the question? Why are you asking if it is the government or the people or the Manchurians if you can see above the translated poll results and comments of Chinese people? So yes, given that you’re asking a question that you have an answer for, I did take it as you doubting that the Chinese people do not have such genuine feelings and desires.

            Rick, I’m one of the first people on this post to comment about the complexities of the chain of ownership issue from a legal perspective. It comes natural to me given my background, and I can say with absolute certainty that I know the difference, and more importantly the legal difficulties, between stealing direct and purchasing resold stolen property.

            I also believe you’re sidestepping my point about the principles of property by alleging that my “whole notion of law is wrong.” Again, Rick, I’m going to point at my first comment on this post:

            The confounding legal factor here is that ownership has changed hands and the owners subsequent to the original looter all paid good money for them.

            Search this page if you don’t believe me. You’ve straw-manned me, arguing against me as if I’m not aware of this point, as if that was what I’ve been neglecting all along. That can’t be further from the truth. My argument, especially with Matt, is the arrogance of belittling and denigrating the Chinese people for wanting this back, for justifying and excusing the original theft of these relics on the retrospective basis that they MIGHT have survived BECAUSE of that theft, or rationalizing the original theft based upon racism. I have not once argued that we should eschew all consideration for the chain of ownership in repatriating these relics to China.

            Show me where I have.

            Hopefully, you’ll acknowledge that I have not and that you are indeed mistakenly and wrongfully attacking me on this point.

            I noticed you also avoided my point about “continuous identity.” The example you offer in rebuttal, while likely your interpretation of my position, is not what I’m saying. Here is a more accurate example you should be proposing:

            Your father buys something, and hands it down to you (or sells it to you), but then you find out it was stolen 100 years ago from another government/ruler in another country populated by another culture. You now want to sell it, but a significant portion of the modern descendants of that government/ruler, culture, and culture would prefer that you not and ideally return it to them because they regard it as historically valuable to their history, culture, and identity. You’re in a tough spot, because you’d be losing money, and after all it wasn’t YOU who stole it in the first place, right?

            Example over. The issue is: what next? Have you noticed not many people are actually reasonably discussing what could be done next that would be as mutually acceptable to the claimants of this matter? Have you noticed that most people have jumped to defending why Westerners should be allowed to retain ownership and why the artifacts should not be repatriated to the Chinese? Interesting, huh?

            It is also at this point that’s I brought up the notion of “feasibility.” For example, it isn’t quite feasible to return the land the United States rests on to the Native Americans. But it is feasible to honor the Native Americans and give them certain assistance and preferential treatment agreeable to both the Native Americans and the new Americans. So what is “feasible” with regards to the return of two bronze statue heads to the Chinese? There are orders of magnitude here, and it is definitely conceivable that arrangements for returning the heads to the Chinese can be discussed and entertained. Selling them back for 13 million Euros is qualitatively much more feasible than demanding the liberation of Tibet. Some people might scoff at both, but one is going to be scoffed at FAR more than the other. I know people love to criticize me for writing a lot, but they’re also the one’s missing these important nuances to my position.

            Going ahead and offering the Chinese the opportunity to buy back the heads through an auction is “feasible.” It just isn’t necessarily the most mutually acceptable/beneficial/preferred arrangement. Berge didn’t care. Fine. Others, like myself, would’ve preferred that something better could’ve been worked out. Oh well now, right?

            But back to PROPERTY. The principles of property are quite clear. You’re trying to articulate a unilateral statue of limitations that doesn’t exist. Moreover, the very notion of a statue of limitations is to reconcile the principles of property with real world conundrums like this. You’re trying to uphold your artificial statute of limitations in hopes that people will forget, ignore, or disregard the basic issue of property.

            You, or arguments like your’s, are trying to get people to think “gosh, it has been so long so who cares” instead of “gosh, it was their’s and it was taken from them.”

            Please review what my position really is. Then feel free to respond and tell me what exactly you disagree with and offer your arguments.

      • Rick in China

        I’d also like to add, Kai, that the relics belonged to a DEAD DYNASTY. They NEVER belonged to the People’s Republic of China, because the People’s Republic of China did not exist. Here’s some dates:
        Qing (Manchu): 1644 – 1911
        Republican China: 1911 – 1949
        The People’s Republic of China: 1949 – present
        These relics were plundered from the Qing dynasty. If you want to find the ‘real’ owners accordingly to the whole ‘return to the owners’ argument, then you must find the heirs to the Manchu throne…if there are any. No?

        Hey, why aren’t Peruvians up in arms to reclaim any ancient Incan gold being traded, auctioned, and exhibited? I certainly haven’t heard much about that..and I just came back from Peru.

        • Kai

          Rick, China is lauded as one of the world’s oldest continuous societies and cultures for a reason. Rulers and regimes have changed, but the identity has largely remained intact and, again, continuous throughout China’s thousands of years of history.

          You’re splitting hairs. The argument you’re trying to use would actually work well with an issue like Taiwan, but not for this.

          As for the Peruvians, you can ask them how closely modern Peruvians identify with their Incan ancestors. Then compare it to how the Chinese identify with their Qing Dynasty ancestors. This is the significance of a “continuous identity” in sociology. To echo your own snide comment above: “Haven’t researched that, have you?”

          Now, can you and I, by virtue of having been here longer than most, agree to avoid the snide comments here on out?

          • Rick in China

            RE: “As for the Peruvians, you can ask them how closely modern Peruvians identify with their Incan ancestors. Then compare it to how the Chinese identify with their Qing Dynasty ancestors.”

            Hahaha, if you have been to Peru you’d back track a bit on that one, buddy. Peru is a nation that wasn’t heavily intermixed with europeans, and most peruvians definitely look Incan, it’s not like Colombia, Brazil, or Argentina, where intermixing created beautiful people – Peru is still full of very Incan features….VERY Incan. If you rock around Cuzco or Aguas Calientes and see the local people living similar lifestyles as you’d imagine they lived a few hundred years ago, I think you’d realize how wrong you are in making the ignorant assumptions you’ve made in accusing me of having no clues. Not to mention they pretty much bank as much as they can off of the Incan culture, drink “Inca Cola” which is literally cream soda by Coca-Cola but yellow, have statues of Incan rulers put up mixed in with the churches of the conquering Spanish, etc..

          • Kai

            So are you saying Peruvians aren’t beautiful people? ;)

            I didn’t say you have no clue about Peruvians. I said you have no clue about continuous identity as a sociological tenet.

            I stand by what I said because it is not rebutted with Inca Cola and statues. I’d also suggest you then go to the next level of this issue and start considering “means of recourse.” It is a key historical factor in relation to this issue. To keep it simple, ask yourself whether the Chinese or the Peruvians, at this point in time, and in relation to requesting that their historical artifact be return, have more “means of recourse”?

          • Rick in China

            The native peruvians without mix, well, yeah, they’re hardly the epitome of what most people would consider beautiful, a far cry from it in fact. I’ve still added “incan woman” to my list of “to-do’s” *cough*.

            I’m not just talking about inca cola and statues, as I mentioned, they till the same fields in the sacred valley, most of which are in the same technological age as rural yunnan farmers (in fact, the scenery as well as the locals are strikingly similar in their appearance, lifestyles, and modernization). In my little experience, I do believe they have ‘maintained’ their lifestyle and belief structure closer to that of modern china to the Manchurian Qing dynasty.

            I don’t believe an ethical question like this issue has become is something we should bring to “who has more means of recourse” – that is like implying the rich and powerful have more right to justice than the weak or poor.

            In my opinion, in these cases, neither have claim to that which was taken or plundered in centuries past. As you’ve mentioned above, it’s debatable, and has been debated for years.

          • Kai

            @ Rick in China:

            Haha, that’s kinda mean, but honest of you. Beauty, like value, is in the eye of the beholder after all. Cool to-do list, btw. *cough*

            Regarding “continuous identity” or “continuity of identity,” I’m afraid there’s not really much more I can try explaining to help you understand. For what it is worth, identity is by nature self-professed and subjective. The other party, like you in this case, will make your own subjective decision on the “reasonableness” of a Chinese person who claims a continuous identity with the Chinese of the Qing Dynasty era or the otehr 5000 years of history. Confucius himself existed a long time ago, yet Chinese people still identify him as being part of them, not just because of still observing aspects of his philosophy/ideology but also by virtue of historical association. Again, I think you’re drawing a line subjectively (which, don’t get me wrong, is natural) but you’re also drawing it where it is convenient for your opinion on this issue (also natural).

            I don’t believe an ethical question like this issue has become is something we should bring to “who has more means of recourse” – that is like implying the rich and powerful have more right to justice than the weak or poor.

            No no, you’ve misunderstood. I’m not saying we should use “means of recourse” to justify any action or opinion about this issue. If I did, I would be saying the same thing as others who have said it is justified for the French/British to have taken the heads because, in retrospect, they may have been better caretakers. I’m saying we should consider “means of recourse” to better understand why and when a people request/demand something back. This was in response to your comparison with the Peruvians, so for example, you can compare the Peruvians and the Chinese and consider how their respective “means of recourse” affects whether or when they may ask for their looted artifacts back. I believe this is logically the next level above the issue of “continuous identity.”

          • Rick in China

            RE: “As for the Peruvians, you can ask them how closely modern Peruvians identify with their Incan ancestors. Then compare it to how the Chinese identify with their Qing Dynasty ancestors. This is the significance of a “continuous identity” in sociology.”
            I understand what you mean by continuous identity. Taking that back to your original statement, however, implies that you believe (although I’m not sure based on what) that Chinese identify with Qing moreso than Peruvians identify with Incan cultures. My arguments went to the contrary. It may be the case I don’t have as much knowledge of either Chinese or Peruvian modern/past society, but from what I have experienced and do know, that was my conculsion.

            I’m not saying Chinese do not identify with Qing, I am saying I do not believe they identify with Qing any more than Peruvians identify with Inca.

        • smickno


          Are you trying to say Statute of Limitation as in the Limitations Act? You wrote Statue of Limitation more than once, as if “limitation” has a statue just like the rat and Mao zedong. I have serious doubts if you are a lawyer.

          • Kai

            Thanks, smickno. I did indeed carelessly misspell “statute” as “statue” twice, but no, not the Limitations Act, whichever one you’re referring to. While I don’t think lawyers are impervious to spelling errors, I’m also not #CDE and have never claimed to be a lawyer in the first place. I believe you’re referenceing my legal education background, but just because I have a legal degree doesn’t mean I’m a lawyer by profession, much to the resentment of my aging father.

          • smickno

            It’s quite irrelevant which Limitations Act I was referring to. My question was: did you mean statute or statue? If you’d misspelled it (as in making typo error)I would as usual ignore it, but you wrote statue twice, which is why I sought clarification.

            Anyway, I did not say you’d said you were a lawyer. I merely said you are not a lawyer. That’s minus 5 for you. I also did not say your degree was illegal, so you need not tell us that you have a “legal degree” okie? Your score is now minus 10. hehe.

        • smickno


          Relics don’t belong to a particular era or dynasty. They belong to the country or the people (collectively) in that country.

          Can we say that it’s wrong if I had stolen something from the US when Bush was in power but since Obama is the president, it’s okie now? And so, it is wrong or right depending on whether the Democrats or the Republicans are in power? And by that extension, it will become eternally right, if both Democratics and Republicans should one day vanish from the face of the earth, and some new political parties going by some fancy names were to come into power?

          • Rick in China

            Are you implying that China of Today maintains the same society and culture that it did in Manchurian Qing dynasty? Are you fucking dreaming? We’re not talking about a change in ruler, but a change in the society as a whole – when Romans invaded Greece and become the new rulers, since the Romans now claim that area of the world to be Italy rather than Greece, do they then have the legal rights to anything previously plundered from Greece 200 years previous to their invasion? What’s different between the rebellions of Mao, the invasions of Manchu or Mongolians, etc? Symantecs. “the people” – Who are the people you refer to, I certainly don’t think anyone here follows Qing beliefs or way of life.

          • smickno


            To appropriately address you, I am quite tempted to add a P in front of your fake name, but refrained from doing so, in case mao mai is reading this.

            I don’t see why just because the present generation of Chinese does not live exactly like their grandfathers, it validates theft, which you seem to suggest with your examples of Manchurian, Romans and Greeks. Are you still insisting that if your grandfather intends to pass on a Patek Phillipe watch to you which he inherited from his great-grandfather, it is alright if I steal it and sell it off, and after the watch gets sold off another 20 times? Going by your illogical logic, it is not a crime because you don’t dress, speak, and fuck like your great-grandfather.

          • smickno


            No, it should be Rick’s grandfather’s great-grandafather, and not great-grandfather in your last sentence.

          • Rick in China

            Perhaps it’s a lack of ability in reading English, perhaps it’s a lack of ability to understand logic, but you clearly did not understand my analogy, at all, did you.

            It’s NOT like stealing something that belonged to my great grandfather that belonged to me, it’s like your great-great-grandfather stole something from my great-great-grandfather now I want it back because it was stolen by generations past. Is that right? To me, it’s not, that’s like stealing from you.
            If your family has any heirlooms passed down through generations, and it’s discovered some were the result of theft hundreds of years ago, and now they carry much value which you hold personally as prized possessions, are you compelled ethically to return them? Legally? Do you think many people would?

  • gth793y

    good ol’ nationalism at flames here.

    Technically these artifacts belong to the imperial chinese regime. not the current one.

    and I suppose Britain should cut Spain some reparation since Francis Drake kind of looted them dry.

  • fireworks

    Nearly all debates on the Internet degenerate into name calling, character assassination and maternal insults. I like Rick in China’s enthusiasm in quotes. “yawn…”.

    I like to add “down with the capitalist pigs” just for the sake of quotes.

  • Mike

    Weren’t the majority of major art and antiquities collections in the US, UK, Japan, etc. created through the wealth and generosity of their citizens? It would be nice to see some people with the means in China to put their money where their mouth is and do more to tangibly preserve China’s cultural heritage rather than just complaining.

    • Kai

      Mike, some of the previous heads that were put up for auction WERE purchased by wealthy Chinese doing, as you suggest, something tangible to preserve China’s cultural heritage rather than just complaining.

    • Johnny

      Stanley Ho (From Macau), bought one head for 1million USD When the organization he donated money to that bought the head seeked these two heads, they were quoted 10million each…

      • Mike

        Kai and Johnny… I know bout the specifics of the previous heads and don’t doubt there are many generous philanthropic benefactors to the arts in China… that’s why I said “DO MORE” thereby recognizing previous contributions and was specifically refering to the many people who are crying foul now and not really doing anything about it. My point being support for preserving China’s cultural heritage and the arts in general is usually all talk, little action. Also, excluding people from Hong Kong, Macau, or overseas Chinese, can anyone tell me the name of a major benefactor to the arts or culture in China?

  • Tommy

    Show me a Chinese person that would give up 200 million so they could “do the classy thing” and return something to another country like France.

  • Peteryang
  • effez

    Hmm… while it’s kinda understandable that the mainland chinese are pretty pissed about this… I somehow wonder perhaps a saying that “a nations greatest treasure are its people” would be a good realisation point.

    Rather than getting all angsty about this perhaps they should just ignore the french and focus on more “nation building” activities

    • Jim

      Too right effez; the real theft is that now about 1% of the population owns 70 to 80% of China’s wealth. Get that sorted, then worry about old bronze taps (nice as they are) being flogged to idiots with more money than sense.

  • Chinasmack seems to suck in a lot of jolted foreigner, highly amusing :O

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