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Home >> Life
UPDATED: 08:06, March 20, 2006
China Focus: Treasures from British Museum bring enjoyment, pain to Chinese audiences
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It's taken the British to bring to Beijing artifacts of ancient Rome, Greece, Africa and Egypt.

While the British Museum's touring exhibit "Treasures of the World's Cultures" has left many people here in awe, the collection of 272 ancient artifacts have also raised a number of concerns and questions. Why are there no Chinese artifacts and to which civilization do the objects really belong?

After visiting the exhibition at Beijing's Capital Museum, 19-year-old Wang Wei had a typical reaction to the show "I was really shocked by the beautiful artifacts from the different cultures, but why are there no Chinese antique? I'm sorry I couldn't see Chinese artifacts collected by British Museum," Wang said.

A Chinese cultural official, who would not give his name, said whether the Chinese artifacts collected by British Museum should be returned to China is a "sensitive issue"and the two museums avoided touching the issue.

More than 20,000 Chinese artifacts including paintings, textiles, jade and metal objects are housed in the British Museum. Most of them were robbed or purchased for pennies more than 100 years ago.

The British Museum has been under pressure in recent years from Greece, Egypt and China as they have requested the return of artifacts to the original countries. So far all requests have been refused by the British Museum.

At the opening ceremony of the show in Beijing, Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, said, "The intention of the British Museum is to bring the whole world into one building."

The British Museum is "not a museum of the whole world, but a museum for the whole world," said Macgregor.

Guo Xiaoling, curator of the Capital Museum said, "It's not a bad thing for the artifacts, if they are well preserved, to be in the British Museum, since the artifacts are the cultural heritage of all human beings."

"But they should return a part of the huge collection of the Chinese antiques as a gesture of friendship. That will make Chinese people very happy," Guo added.

According to the agreement signed by the British Museum and Chinese cultural heritage department, more treasures from British Museum will be shown in China in the future in cooperation with the Palace Museum and the National Museum of China. China will also send treasures to Britain.

"Treasures of the World's Cultures" is held at the Capital Museum until June 5.

The collection includes a 3,000-year-old mummy, an ancient statue of Dionysos and a 2,100-year-old gold pendant featuring Aphrodite and Eros.

"Each of the 272 items is a masterpiece from the British Museum's vast collections and together they demonstrate the long history of human civilization worldwide.

The two and a half month exhibition will enable Chinese audiences an opportunity to enjoy the collection of a world class museum without going abroad," Guo said.

The exhibited antiques were selected from the over 7 million artifacts housed in the British Museum which itself is more than 250 years old.

"We get to know the outside world in order to better understand ourselves," said Guo.

Five lectures on world history have been arranged during the exhibition. British Museum Director Neil MacGregor gave the first lecture, titled "Around the World in 20 Objects", at the exhibit's opening on Saturday.

The Treasures of the World's Cultures collection has shown in Japan and the Republic of Korea, attracting 1.3 million during its four city tour in Japan and an 600,000 in Seoul. Guo expects at least 400,000 visitors to the show in Beijing.

Source: Xinhua

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