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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 17:20, January 30, 2007
How many Chinese cultural treasures "lost" overseas?
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The vast amount of priceless Chinese cultural treasures which have been "lost" overseas is simply amazing due to historic reasons and the temptation of the reality. With a take-off of Chinese economy in recent years, however, a growing number of Chinese, both at home and overseas, have followed with great interest and tracked this phenomenon and retrieved some of the these treasures.

About 10 million pieces of Chinese cultural relics have been flowing or "drained" overseas, mainly to the Europe, the United States, Japan, and Southeast Asian nations

More than 10 million pieces of invaluable and marvolous Chinese historical and cultural treasures have been "sunk into oblivion" in Europe, the United States, Japan, and Southeast Asian nations and regions after the Opium War of 1840, and about 1 million pieces of them are raked as the first and second class categories of Chinese archeological objects, according to the Chinese Archeological Society.

Meanwhile, relevant statistics from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) note that more than 200 museums in 47 countries boast a total of 1.64 million Chinese relics and over 10 times more Chinese antiques are being stored by ordinary people worldwide today.

The two groups of statistics indicate a figure of proximity, that is, the number of Chinese cultural relics scattered globally exceeds the 10-million mark. Of course, all of these relics are not necessarily "vanished". Niu Xianfeng, deputy secretary general of a special fund to rescue Chinese cultural relics overseas, acknowledges that "To be specific, these relics should be termed Chinese treasures kept overseas," adding that during the period from the Opium War of 1840 to the establishment of New China in 1949, the number of relics looted in war years and got lost because of theft, burglary, and trade by dishonest and illegal means, which are now scattered globally is really too difficult to calculate and reckon.

The 10 million-plus Chinese cultural treasures "stored" overseas comprise priceless calligraphy and painting works, ancient bronze ware, pottery and porcelain, sculptures, oracle bone inscriptions and classical works, which are distributed mainly in Britain, France, the U.S., Japan and other countries. There are more than 23,000 pieces of Chinese relics in the British Museum alone, including the national-grade gems and unrivalled art works and ace ancient bronze ware objects.

The U.S. has kept most of the traditional Chinese paintings. There are over 1,200 Chinese painting pieces in the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. alone, and in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, there are close to 500 outstanding Chinese painting works. And the British Museum is famed for most exquisite Chinese paintings it has kept, with a "picture of lady officials" by Gu Kaizhi, a top painter of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420 A.D.) most eye-catch