Tree trunk pulled from Chinese river and dumped in factory backyard turns out to be rare US$3m treasure

Timber turns out to be golden thread wood that was once reserved for the use of royalty

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 3:15pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 5:41pm

A rare piece of 600-year-old wood that was once reserved for the use of the royal family has been found lying in the backyard of a furniture factory in central China, local media reported.

The Phoebe zhennan tree trunk, also known as golden thread wood, had been lying among the weeds at the factory in Jiayu county, Hubei province for five years before it was identified.

It has now been valued at 20 million yuan (US$3 million), but rather than cashing in the owner has decided to donate it to a museum, Chutian Golden News reported on Thursday.

Lei Jun, owner of the factory, told the newspaper that the wood had been found in a river in December 2012 and a local fisherman had asked for his help in removing it.

They hired a crane to carry out the operation, which took them hours.

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“The wood was more than 19 metres long, wider than my waist and weighed more than five tonnes. It was too long to be transported, so we had to saw it into two parts to move them into the factory. It cost 90,000 yuan,” Lei told the newspaper

For the next five years, Lei did not pay any particular attention to the wood, leaving it in the backyard until the National Day holiday this year, when he attended a treasure appraisal event in Wuhan.

Experts who were sent to appraise the wood say they believed it had come from Ya’an in Sichuan province where the trees are found and had been in the water for around 400 years.

They suggested it may have been lost when it was being transported from Sichuan to Beijing for use in the Ming dynasty’s imperial palace.

Cai Jiwu, a member of the China Cultural Relics Academy, said the golden thread wood was very rare in China and was usually reserved for royalty.

The wood’s value derived from its rarity and its texture was ideal for architecture. When polished it acquires a golden sheen and was used by royalty for building palace walls, ceilings and pillars.

Lei, 46, is the father of three children. However, he refused to sell the wood despite being offered a high price for it.

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“I read the news and know there are many Chinese historical relics overseas. It’s a pity. The wood belongs to the country and should return to its home in the Palace Museum in Beijing,” said Lei.

A curator from Beijing’s cultural heritage department said she will contact the Palace Museum for further authentication and to make handover arrangements, the report said.