Fabulous phoenix lands back home

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 May, 2004, 12:00am

A rare national treasure dating back 3,000 years to the Western Zhou dynasty has returned home thanks to a state-backed company that bought it from a Hong Kong antiques dealer.

A container known as the Bronze Phoenix and worth an estimated $80 million was bought for an undisclosed price by the Poly Art Museum of Beijing.

The bronze will be put on public display from today.

Curator Jiang Yingchun said the museum had been approached by the dealer, who claimed he had seen 'something strange' while overseas late last year.

The item was brought to Hong Kong from an undisclosed location and examined by the experts.

'I was completely astonished when I saw it,' Mr Jiang said. 'I had never seen anything like that. It is very well preserved and I could hardly find a defect.'

The Poly Group, which owns the Poly Art Museum, decided to buy the bronze phoenix from its overseas owner after verifying its authenticity with mainland experts.

It was taken to Beijing in March. Mr Jiang refused to reveal the purchase price. He would only say that it was impossible to place a value on the bronze's historical significance.

The bronze is a container 49cm tall and 41cm long. Its lid is decorated with a bronze phoenix.

Some carvings were found inside the lid, leading experts to conclude the bronze was owned by a noble clan surnamed Peng, in the Western Zhou dynasty, and that it was used for ritual purposes.

The dynasty lasted from 1100BC to 771BC.

The Poly Art Museum has close links with the People's Liberation Army.