Sat, Mar 14, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Looted Chinese relic said to be in Taiwan: report

AFP , TAIPEI

A relic looted from China is in the hands of a Taiwanese collector who dropped plans to auction it after Beijing’s wrath over sales of other stolen antiques from the same set, an expert said yesterday.

Wellington Wang (王度), a well-known local art collector, told TVBS cable news he was contacted by a businessman who claimed to have a bronze dragon’s head and was initially looking to auction it.

The relic, along with the rabbit and rat bronze heads auctioned by Christie’s last month, were stolen by British and French forces from China’s imperial Summer Palace toward the end of the Second Opium War in 1860.

“He said he was willing to sell it if the [Christie’s] auction went well. He didn’t expect such fallout and now everybody is afraid,” Wang said, indicating that the dealer had changed his mind.

The owner reportedly bought the dragon’s head for US$200,000 from a European antique dealer around 1988 and has since stored it in central Taiwan, Wang told the Chinese-language Apple Daily.

Wang declined to name the collector and said he had not seen the artifact.

The dragon’s head could be more valuable than the rabbit and rat if sold because of its highly symbolic status in Chinese culture, the newspaper said, quoting another local antique collector.

The two bronzes, part of the art collection of late French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge, sold for 15.7 million euros (US$20.3 million) each at the Christie’s auction in Paris last month.

Authorities in Beijing had repeatedly called for the sale not to go ahead and called for the relics to be returned to China.

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