Thu, February 26, 2009
China > China & World > China-YSL relics row

Looted Chinese relics sold for 14 million euros each

2009-02-25 19:17:59 GMT2009-02-26 03:17:59 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

Christie's auctions a bronze rat head made for the Zodiac fountain of the Emperor Qianlong's Summer Palace in China from the collection of late French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent at the Grand Palais Museum in Paris February 25, 2009. [Agencies]

The bronze sculpture of a rabbit's head, which is an ancient Chinese relic, is auctioned in the Grand Palace of Paris in Paris, France, Feb. 25, 2009. (Xinhua/Zhang Yuwei)

The bronze sculpture of a rabbit's head, which is an ancient Chinese relic, is auctioned in the Grand Palace of Paris in Paris, France, Feb. 25, 2009. (Xinhua/Zhang Yuwei)

PARIS, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- Two controversial ancient Chinese relics were auctioned off on Wednesday night for 14 million euros (17.92 million U.S. dollars) each by anonymous telephone bidders in Christie's sale of the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge in the Grand Palace of Paris.

The bronze sculptures, a rat's head and a rabbit's head, were looted by invading Anglo-French expedition army in the 19th century, when the invaders burned down the royal garden of Yuanmingyuan in Beijing.

Li Huan, a Chinese student in France, told Xinhua that the two bronzes are news for the French, but history for the Chinese. Earlier this night, some Chinese students in France voluntarily went to the Grand Palace, distributing sheets introducing the history of Yuanmingyuan and the Second Opium War in 1860.

"They should know more about the history. Although we failed in the lawsuit, justice will not fail," said Li.

The Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris ruled against stopping the sale of the two bronzes on Monday, and the Association for the Protection of Chinese Art in Europe (APACE) was ordered to pay compensation to the defendant.

Ren Xiaohong, a lawyer for APACE, told Xinhua that it was "of great significance" to file the appeal. "We hope to arouse public attention in Europe on the fate of numerous Chinese works stolen in the past, to help keep those relics well protected and collected," Ren said.

The Chinese government formally called on Tuesday for the cancellation of the auction of the two bronzes. "The State Administration of Cultural Heritage has formally informed the auctioneer of our strong opposition to the auction, and clearly demanded its cancellation," said Ma Chaoxu, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman in a press conference.

The two bronze sculptures are part of the art collection of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. So far, five of the 12 bronze animal fountainheads have been returned to China, while the whereabouts of five others are unknown.

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