Going . . . going . . . but not actually gone. The happy ending to the story of the looted Chinese treasures is that they are returning home - no longer to be shut away in forbidden palaces but, according to reports, on view in a museum where all can see them. Better still, at a place where they will join a collection of other antiques reclaimed long years after they were lost. If these items had been stolen, say, 10 years ago and were being sold by the thieves, there would be no controversy. But pieces that have passed from hand to hand for more than a century, and were legitimately acquired by their present owners, cannot so easily be reclaimed. Buying them back is one excellent option. That approach might even prompt a few benefactors to chip in with funds for future purchases, as the China Poly Group did when it learned the auction would go ahead despite Beijing's objections. Perhaps even private collectors will make voluntary donations to the collection in years to come. Beijing's desire to see such treasures back where they belong is understandable. But it is always difficult, and often impossible, to rectify the past. Sadly, some important artefacts can never be restored. And throughout history, not all plunder and destruction is carried out by invading armies. The Cultural Revolution was responsible for wholesale vandalism of China's treasure store. One poignant icon of that terrible era is a photograph of Red Guards taking sledgehammers to the tomb of Confucius. Nothing can change the past but, as this episode shows, there are ways to resolve these dilemmas to the satisfaction of all sides. It may be galling to buy back treasures that, in one sense, rightfully belong to the country. But $16 million is an affordable price tag for national pride.