Latest News:  

English>>Life & Culture

Billionaire says he'll return looted treasures

(Shanghai Daily)

08:50, April 27, 2013

French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault is to return two bronze animal heads that were looted from Beijing's Summer Palace 153 years ago.

He said yesterday that he was returning the artefacts on behalf of his family, which runs French luxury goods conglomerate Kering.

In a statement, the Pinault family said it went to "great efforts to retrieve these two significant treasures of China, and strongly believe they belong in their rightful home."

The bronze heads belonged to several European collections before they were acquired by French businessman Pierre Berge and the late Yves Saint Laurent in the 1990s. The family said it would work with the Cultural Heritage Administration to return the bronzes "as early as possible."

It didn't say how the bronzes were acquired, but thanked the auction house Christie's, which managed an auction in 2009 and is part of the Kering group, along with Saint Laurent.

The pieces were among 12 animal heads looted by French and British troops in 1860.

The heads formed the zodiacal clepsydra (water clock) decorating the Calm Sea Pavilion in the Old Summer Palace of Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795).

They were designed by the Italian Jesuit missionary Giuseppe Castiglione for Emperor Qianlong in the mid-18th century.

They were looted when the palace was burned down by French and British troops. The palace's elaborate buildings were left in ruins, and the bronzes spirited abroad into private hands.

The plundered pieces are considered national treasures.

Despite Chinese protests, the heads were auctioned in Paris in February 2009. Chinese businessman Cai Mingchao won the bid but refused to pay, which caused the auction to fail, and Pinault later bought the sculptures from their owner.

In 2000, the cow, tiger and monkey head sculptures were returned to Beijing.

Macau billionaire Stanley Ho bought the pig head for 6 million yuan (US$973,000) in 2003 and the horse head at HK$69.1 million (US$8.9 million) in 2007.

The five pieces were later donated to the Poly Art Museum in Beijing.

The dragon is reported to be stored in Taiwan while the other four pieces, the rooster, snake, dog and goat, are missing.

The State Administration of Cultural Heritage said Pinault's offer was "an expression of friendship toward the Chinese people."

"The Chinese side offers its high praise for this action and considers that it conforms with the spirit of relevant international cultural heritage protection treaties," it said following a meeting between Pinault and administration deputy director Song Xinchao.

Pinault is in China with French President Francois Hollande on a visit aimed at strengthening economic ties.

We recommend:

Zhang Yuqi, Wang Quanan get married

Super kittens that make you laugh

Never-seen photos of Madonna on display

"Low-carbon fashion" show held in China

Hold on to the last tattoo of Li people

11 most creative elevators in the world

World's most precious diamonds

Cute baby and his little bulldogs

Angelababy poses for VOGUE magazine

Email|Print|Comments(Editor:LiXiang、Ye Xin)

Leave your comment0 comments

  1. Name


Selections for you

  1. Israeli military naval ship and helicopter

  2. Soldiers in earthquake relief

  3. Bangladesh collapse death toll rises to 195

  4. Photo story: Flight attendant's daily work

  5. Images of Hong Kong in 15 years

  6. Lingyin Temple raises money, prayers for quake-hit area

  7. 'Qing Dynasty Queen' hosts sacrificial rites

  8. China Graduate Fashion Week opens in Beijing

  9. Entrepreneurs see potential in market

  10. No new stimulus needed as economy remains stable

Most Popular


  1. Looking forward to higher level of Sino-French ties
  2. Domestic dairy firms have lost credibility
  3. Lax food hygiene leaves bad taste
  4. Urbanization to fuel China's economic growth
  5. Supervise, don't smear Red Cross
  6. Offering security protection for co-development
  7. Insisting on wrong road, Japan has no future
  8. US 'turns blind eye to human rights'
  9. Are cities expanding too fast and too soon?
  10. Homework, games limit kids' reading

What’s happening in China

Doing yoga in the cell

  1. Kindness amid the chaos in the quake zone
  2. Fudan med student is charged with homicide
  3. Phone bookings for taxis
  4. Overseas parties' lawsuits surge in Shanghai
  5. Screens found to be dangerous