A museum in Hengshui, Hebei province has become an online laughing stock after a blog about the thousands of apparently fake “national treasures” on display circulated on the internet.
Hundreds of thousands of internet users were astounded by the shoddy, clumsy modern-day knockoffs that were displayed as ancient relics worth millions of yuan.
Exhibits that used modern-day colours, patterns and techniques were labelled as being from the “Tang”, “Han” and even “Xia” dynasties.
The online ridicule began when Ma Boyong, a popular book writer, published a lengthy post  with over a hundred photos on his blog showing the collections in the museum.
“Astonishing” and “beyond belief” were the words he used to describe how he felt when he saw the collections.
Among the bogus relics Ma discovered a vase featuring modern cartoon figures, which was deemed to be from the Qing dynasty, chinaware depicting characters from a novel that had not been written at the time the piece was said to have been made and china depicting a story from a famous novel but which featured incorrect characters.
Ma also expressed doubts over the suitability of the low-level security arrangements for exhibits that would be worth millions of yuan if the labels were true.
Despite Ma deliberately omitting the museum’s name in his post, internet users were quick to identify it as the Ji Bao Zhai (Hebei treasure house) Museum in Hebei province.
According to Chinese media, the four-storey, 14,000 square-metre museum contains over 2,200 privately collected relics and was opened in 2010, funded by a 54 million yuan (HK$68.34 million) investment.
Local government was promoting the museum as a certificated tourist attraction, calling it “Hengshui Patriotic Education Centre” and “Provincial Science Education Base”, according to Southern Metropolis Daily . Venues honoured with such titles often become destinations of trips organised by local governments, state-owned enterprises and schools.
The museum curator Wang Zongquan is a local village head who claims to be a collector of folk art, media said.
Wang said he accumulated the relics from all over China and that the collection “didn’t cost much money”.
“I wouldn’t be able to afford [these relics] if I bid for them in auctions,” he was reported as saying.
This is not the first time Wang’s collection has come under fire, the Daily said. But Wang’s response was “Everything’s fake if experts have not seen it before?”
On Monday, a museum employee denied the accusations online, insisting the relics on display were genuine, Nanning Evening News reported.
The local tourism administration on the same day confirmed the museum’s status as a certificated tourist attraction but said responsibility for identifying that the relics were genuine did not lie with the tourism bureau.