Chinese terracotta warrior experts to visit Philadelphia to assess damage to ancient statue

Home of China’s clay army says it will reconsider its loan policy on artefacts in wake of ‘thumb-gate’ incident

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 February, 2018, 5:17pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 April, 2018, 1:58pm

China will send two experts to the United States to assess the damage to an ancient terracotta warrior vandalised while on display at a museum in Pennsylvania, according to a Chinese newspaper report.

A 24-year-old American man, Michael Rohana, was charged earlier this month with breaking off and stealing the left thumb of the 2,000-year-old sculpture from the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia on December 21.

The Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Centre, which arranged for the loan of 10 items from its world-famous Terracotta Army, had assembled a team to carry out the repairs, but would wait until the two specialists had visited the US museum and made their assessment before deciding how best to proceed, Beijing Youth Daily reported on Monday.

Other experts were reviewing pictures and videos sent by the Franklin Institute, a representative of the centre was quoted as saying.

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The terracotta statues, which have been on show in Philadelphia since September, are part of a clay army of about 8,000 soldiers, charioteers and horses unearthed in Xian, capital of northwestern China’s Shaanxi province.

Rohana was caught with the help of the FBI, and charged with the theft and concealment of a major artwork. He was later released on bail.

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The official from the cultural centre repeated an earlier appeal for him to receive a hefty punishment.

“We call for the American side to punish this act of theft and vandalising of precious heritage,” the official was quoted as saying.

The centre is also seeking compensation from the Franklin Institute, where the warriors will remain on show until March 4.

“We have now started the process of claiming compensation … [for] the cost of repairing the damage … the loss of value to the cultural relic as a result of the damage … [and] the damage done to the reputation [of the artefacts] due to this incident,” the official said.

In light of the incident in Philadelphia, the World Museum in the British city of Liverpool, where another group of 10 terracotta warriors is on display, said it would take extra steps to ensure the relics’ safety, the report said.

Officials in Shaanxi said they were reviewing their loan policy as a result of the matter, it said.