China urges boycott of British auction of ‘looted’ ancient bronze vessel

Commercial gain from wartime seizure of cultural artefact condemned by State Administration of Cultural Heritage

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 April, 2018, 7:15pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 April, 2018, 1:58pm

China has condemned the British auction of a rare 3,000-year-old bronze water vessel seized by a British soldier from an imperial palace in Beijing in the 19th century, calling for a boycott.

Due to be auctioned in Kent in the south of England on Wednesday, the elaborately adorned water vessel with cover – referred to as a Tiger Ying because of its tiger decorations – was made between 1100BC and 771BC during the Western Zhou dynasty and has an estimated value of up to £160,000 (US$226,000), auction house Canterbury Auction Galleries said on its website.

It said the vessel was taken by a British soldier during the “capture” of what is now called the Old Summer Palace in 1860, towards the end of the Second Opium War.

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Beijing’s ransacked Imperial Gardens were an architectural wonder of Western-style palaces and gardens that were destroyed and looted by British and French troops in 1860.

The ruins of the palace are a popular tourist site covering an area of 3.5 square kilometres (865 acres), and a reminder of historical Western hegemony and British colonial rule.

China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage denounced the auction, stating on Tuesday that it “strongly opposes and condemns Canterbury Auction Galleries’ insistence on auctioning the suspected illegally discharged cultural artefact despite solemn protest from China and conducting commercial hype in the name of cultural relics of wartime looting”.

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It said it did not support Chinese individuals or institutions taking part in the auction and called for other possible buyers to boycott the sale.

A spokesman for the auction house told Reuters the item in question would be auctioned on Wednesday but declined to comment beyond information published on its website.