Museum probes claim of broken relics cover-up

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 August, 2011, 12:00am


Bosses at Beijing's Palace Museum are investigating claims of a cover-up over the breakage of four precious antiques.

Administrators said that an accident in which a researcher broke a rare porcelain plate on July 4 was the first breakage at the museum caused by human error.

But blogger Long Can, a former reporter from Chengdu, Sichuan province, alleged there were four other previous accidents involving priceless relics.

Long, the whistle-blower who first exposed the breakage of the Ge Kiln porcelain plate online on July 30, wrote on Tuesday that the museum had not reported any of the accidents to state cultural departments.

'The reason for the cover-up was that no one would notice the damage as long as the pieces were stuck together and put back,' Long wrote.

Museum spokesman Feng Naien told Xinhua an investigation into the allegations was under way and its results would be made public.

Deputy curator Chen Lihua was quoted by Beijing Times as saying the museum always followed regulations and that all the facts of the case could be traced.

But questions about the management's ability and integrity continue to be raised after the breakage of the plate from the Song dynasty (960-1279), which was put down to an 'operational error'. A laboratory researcher input the wrong data into a device to examine it on July 4, causing it to break into six pieces. The breakage was only reported a day after Long broke the story and 27 days after the incident occurred.

It is the latest in a series of alleged cases of mismanagement. Seven exhibits on loan from a Hong Kong museum were stolen in May and a palace hall was reportedly turned into an exclusive club for wealthy patrons. The museum denied an allegation that in 2005 it sold five letters dating back to the Song dynasty after it acquired them at an auction in 1997, China Youth Daily reported yesterday.

'There must be some sort of inevitability behind such an incident,' Long said. 'I haven't seen any sincere gestures from the museum to improve its management.'

The Palace Museum was established in 1925 shortly after the expulsion of Puyi, the last emperor, and comprises most of the Forbidden City. Much of its collection was removed by Nationalist soldiers in 1931 to stop it falling into the hands of Japanese invaders. That treasure was removed to Taiwan during the Chinese civil war, where it is housed in the National Palace Museum in Taipei.