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Posts Tagged ‘Cultural Relics’

Reactions and comments on two articles that have recently come out, one in the British newspaper, The Telegraph, and the other just today in the New York Times have garnerd a great deal of public opinion.

Trolling the comments pages is fascinating because it allows us to guage how the general public feels about these issues, and whether or not they are aware of any potential truths and falsehoods behind the rather succinct reports.

If you haven’t yet read the articles, I have linked to them above.

And for those of you who have read the articles, but don’t have the time or energy to troll through pages and pages of what other people write, I have selected a few choice excerpts to display here.

From The Telegraph article:

My prediction is that in 50 years time, Britain will not be in a position to say no to the return of the artifacts. The balance of power is inexorably shifting from West to East and all the arguments based on right will be eventually settled by might, as they have been since the beginning of history. – H. Yates

It’s about time that these artifacts be returned to their countries of origin. The British and French have no right to them. Besides, it would do French and British culture some good, the returned artifacts will make room for native French and British artifacts. China should join with Italy, Greece, Iraq, Egypt, Iran, and any other country who has artifacts looted by these two imperial powers and demand their cultural heritage back. And united front in this matter would be the best strategy. – Old School

please respect the research team.Their mission is to document not to ask for return.So just focus on it.
It is a great and difficult task to show the whole pictures of that invasion history, which shall not be forgotten . – Nikita

I think the artifacts should stay where they are. The British museum has taken better care of them than the chinese would have. If the chinese government is taking an interest in it’s history, it should be thanking the museums and private collectors who have been preserving chinese artifacts. If these artifacts had been left in china, they most likely would have been destroyed in the cultural revolution. The fact that they are in museums in britain is the only reason that they still exist today. – Dave

Of course EVERYTHING looted should be returned. Museums would be emptied until copies could be made. But, the originals should be returned. It is an arrogant response to state “we took good care of them” Since they belong to other countries, we stole them. It’s that simple. Even if they were destroyed and lost by staying in the country of origin, it is the business of that country. Not ours. When I see people use any excuse to drag Tibet or Taiwan into this argument I have the same response. Not your business. Not mine. It is the business of China. I also wonder how we would feel if China or Iraq or any other country were to start poking noses into UK affairs or policies. Send it all back to the country of origin, with apologies for being thieving bastards. Say we are more civilized now, our ancestors were not. – Dave T.

From The New York Times article:

One must wonder how many of these art treasures would have survived Mao’s Red Guard while they mindlessly destroyed all evidence of the “old ways”….China has a long memory when they wish to bring to the attention of the western countries that they were exploited…China has a convenient memory when it suits them. – Hooter

Beijing’s determination to reclaim its cultural heritage would bear a good deal more credibility if they’d stop ransaking the culture of their own Tibetan and Uighur minorities. – Stu Freeman

…the Chinese want to portray themselves as victims of colonial aggression – Andy

Actually, I, as a citizen of the socalled People’s Republic of China,completely agree that those antiquities are better to be preserved in the great USA museums.With good,scientific,well-intended caring and highly-efficient study,they can be in a greater situation of protection and of greater use and value.
I fundamentally disagree with the visit of the delegation…I want to ask that who payed for the fees of the “reclaiming”?…why dot’t you(the communists of CPC) put the money to render better protection of the remnants of relics at home? ……Are the untold number of antiquities and relice ruined in the notorious Cultural Revolution more vulueable and treasurous than those plundered from Yuanmingyuan? And……who should be responsible for ruining and destroying so many great antiquities in the damned Cultural Revolution? Maybe we should hold a debate at home instead of going abroad in vain! – Isaac

This bemused and farcical account does a great disservice to readers who rely on the New York Times for objective and insightful journalism.
The Summer Palace was not just a single palace, but rather, an 860-acre estate which served as one of the world’s foremost repositories of art and architecture. In terms of its cultural and administrative importance, the Summer Palace stood in contrast to the “Winter Palace,” which is a famous structure shown in many postcards today depicting Beijing tourist sites.
The Summer Palace was plundered, five hundred of its unarmed custodians were massacred or driven out, and its buildings were burned to the ground during the Second Opium War by French and English troops on the orders of the eighth Earl of Elgin (ironically, the son of the seventh Lord Elgin infamous for relieving the Parthenon of its marble friezes).
Lord Elgin’s orders were issued when the Chinese Imperium refused to allow the sale of narcotics in their land. To provide an imperfect fictional modern analogy, imagine if a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan (and not the U.S.) were the world’s foremost superpower, and then imagine if Afghan forces marched a “world coalition” into Vatican City, stole or destroyed all of the art and relics there, murdered the clergy, and then dropped an atomic bomb on the city because the Holy See refused to allow Taliban drug cartels to traffic heroin in the streets of Vatican City. Just as we would be appalled and outraged by such an occurrence for generations to come, the citizens of China understandably remain appalled and outraged by the destruction of the Summer Palace.

The tone of the article conveys little sympathy with the Chinese perspective of things. It dismissively characterizes the delegation’s work as “a spectacle sponsored by a Chinese liquor company,” recounts the delegation’s activities in a most diminutive way (e.g., “The Chinese pronounced themselves satisfied, smiled for a group photo, and drove away.”), and gives great weight to reports of ulterior motives in the delegation’s mission…….As the NYT’s own columnist Thomas Friedman admonishes, we live in a globalized economy where an accurate understanding of other cultural perspectives is imperative to professional success and successful economic engagement. By portraying China in such a buffoonish way on a matter of great importance, and by downplaying the very human yearning of the Chinese people for redress of a serious crime committed against their nation and their forefathers, this article performs a great disservice upon its readers and falls far short of the high standards of journalism which the paper professes. – Dexter H.

They certainly have played up the repatriation of relics in recent months, and there is not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that this tour was as motivated by politics as any genuine hope of reclaiming stolen history. I also realize that the Summer Palace museum is in need of a modern overhaul, and that chances are most of the looted items are in private collections today (though, I’d bet that they are far more successful in the UK and France than the US, being that those countries were the actual perpetrators of the looting). However, despite these problems, I think this is overall a good quest. – Shanghai Expat

Why not cooperte with the chinese government and jointly devise a plan to uncover and resolve any issue with the “looted” chinese treasuries if there is one. There is a lot of history and cultural significance in these objects. And China probably is the best to find out the historical significance and value in the chinese and the world history. – Jim

..and so on.

Take a gander at the articles if you are interested in this ongoing saga. Or better yet, check out an upcoming post on the SAFE blog, SAFECORNER, written by yours truly that will be coming out in the next few days.

If these article piqued your fancy, you might also be interested in reading about the views and positions of various Chinese Nationals about China purchasing looted Qing Dynasty antiquities, much like the ones they are currently surveying and examining in the West.

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According to a couple of articles that came out in years past, the Silk Road has been undergoing a long-term application process to become a World Heritage site. That means, according to one article, that sites and cultural relics along the Silk Road would have to be improved and protected,and adovacated for tourism. Apparently, in 2006, “more than 50 experts and heritage officials from UNESCO and China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan reached an agreement for a multinational application for Silk Road in UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.”

Going further, it would mean that the Chinese section of the Silk Road, specifically, the Oasis, or Northern, Route of the Silk Road, which includes Kashgar as a main oasis point, would be deemed a “cultural route,” which UNESCO defines in terms of “space (the route ran through sites, monuments, constructions, buildings, ways, and areas of influence); time (the beginning and end of its use, its frequency, intensity and variations) and cultural criteria (impact of spiritual and/or material exchanges; impact on human memory or experience, impact of the volume and nature of the exchanges).”

This project has been going on for quite some time, though it has not completely been approved yet.In 2006, a workshop was held in Turpan, Xinjiang in order to discuss the issue of nominating the Silk Road to World Heritage status, and to layout some ground plans for how to prepare the nomination. It was attended by members of the UNESCO World Heritage team, as well as experts and officials from Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and China, all of whom hold a stake in profiting from Silk Route protection and tourism. The mission of this workshop was to “develop a systematic approach towards the identification and nomination of the Chinese section of the Silk Road, and in particular the Oasis Route which, together with the Steppe Route and the Maritime Route, is one of three intercultural routes along the Silk Road., that will tell the story of the Chinese Silk Road in a comprehensive manner.”

Clearly, despite the efforts of international organizations, Kashgar is not being preserved well. What should be asked is: IS China’s current plan to demolish 85% of Old Kashgar legal within the parameters stipulated by the nomination of the Oasis Route of the Silk Road to the World Heritage Site list? Will the demolition threaten the nomination? Should it threaten the nomination? If Old Kashgar is destroyed, wouldn’t it cheapen the overall affect and “comprehensive manner” in which the Chinese section of the Silk Road should be presented to the public?

Or is there, as I’m afraid there might be, some loophole in which a site along the Silk Road can be destroyed and rebuilt, as long as it is rebuilt with attention paid to how the site SHOULD look? If this is the angle that China is trying to play, I’d like to know exactly what they are going to do to keep true to how Old Kashgar looked in the past, and how they are going to do it.

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“When people talk of cultural relics, they usually relate them to something ancient…but since China has undergone rapid changes in the past three decades, any place or institution that helped that transformation can be a cultural relic And the farm where Yuan grew his hybrid rice is one of the best examples of such a place.” These were the words of Shan Jixiang, director of China State Administration about Cultural Heritage (SACH), from a recent article about the making of “farmer” Yuan Longping‘s hybrid rice paddy in Hunan province, as well as the Anjiang School of Agriculture in the same province into cultural relic sites.

Any thoughts on this issue?

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