CHINA - FRANCE

Chinese Web fuming over auctioned bronzes

Chinese bloggers have been locked in a bitter dispute over the sale of two bronze relics stolen a century ago by French soldiers. The bronzes fetched €15.7 million each at this week's Yves Saint Laurent auction in Paris. While some demand their immediate return, others recognise they were better preserved in France.

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Chinese bloggers have been locked in a bitter dispute over the sale of two bronze relics stolen a century ago by French soldiers. The bronzes fetched €15.7 million each at this week's Yves Saint Laurent auction in Paris. While some demand their immediate return, others recognise relics were better preserved in France.

Chinese authorities had warned Christie’s against auctioning the rat and rabbit heads that were carried away by French soldiers following the plunder of Beijing’s Summer Palace in 1860. But the auction house went ahead and the two bronzes were sold for 15.7 million euros each. As with the threats of a boycott of the Beijing Olympics, or when US President Nicolas Sarkozy announced he would meet with the Dalai Lama, the auction ignited furious protests and a fair share of French-bashing. Yet, not all Chinese Web users point an accusing finger at France. Some acknowledge that if the relics had remained in China they would probably have vanished at the time of the Cultural Revolution.

This story was reported by Huang, one of our Observers in China. 

"Several precious artworks were destroyed during the years of folly"

Here’s my view: if the collector is a philanthropist who merely wishes to make a donation, then we could perhaps ask him to return the bronzes. But obviously if he’s in need of money he’ll sell them whatever happens. Some Chinese dream of having the bronzes returned for free. It’s ridiculous.

I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art a few years ago, where I saw artworks coming from the four corners of the world. I noticed that the works were protected and well preserved, using very expensive devices. So I wondered what might have happened if those statues had stayed in China. We shouldn’t forget that a lot of precious works of art were destroyed during the years of folly [that is, the Cultural Revolution].”

 

Published by Meng Reai on Feb. 25, 2009 on this forum.

A sample of the cartoons circulating on Chinese websites

"I want to go home." Posted by: Xinhua.

 

“Hey, outlaws, go put this outfit on” [the uniform in question is the one worn by French soldiers when they crushed the Boxer Uprising in 1899 and 1901. Published on a news website from Shanxi province.