Up to 49 valuable cultural and historic artifacts have gone missing from Greater Tainan’s Koxinga Museum, prompting outrage from local politicians and antique art experts.
“It’s a disgrace for Greater Tainan’s reputation as the cultural capital of Taiwan,” Tainan Councilor Hung Yu-feng (洪玉鳳) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) said on Thursday. “Who was responsible for managing these artifacts? They should take a lie-detector test. We can not just accept it when officials say the items can not be found.”
A recent inventory at the Koxinga Museum, carried out by the city government’s Cultural Assets Management Department, showed 49 items were missing. Aside from four items that have been known to be missing since an inventory check in 2007, 45 other items were found to have vanished in the most recent audit.
Among them were valuable artifacts, such as stone tablets, paper rubbings of tablet inscriptions, calligraphy, pottery and ceremonial offering items.
Other missing items included a rhyming couplet on a bamboo tablet by Qing Dynasty artist Lin Zhaoying (林朝英) and paintings on paper fan and bamboo leaf fans by Qing Dynasty artist Xie Guanqiao (謝琯樵).
A cigarette-lighter wooden box from the “Real Garden Brothel” (真花園妓院), a well-known establishment located in Tainan in the Japanese colonial era, was also missing. The item, along with a permit issued for the operation of the brothel and other related documentation, were donated to the museum by the owner of the building that housed the “Real Garden Brothel.”
Experts said it is absurd that these cultural items are now missing and that no one in the city government’s Cultural Affairs Bureau has a clue as to their whereabouts.
The incident suggested mismanagement and lax handling of the items by the relevant agencies, Huang said, adding it has also damaged the city government’s credibility as items donated by citizens have also gone missing.
In response, Yeh Tse-shan (葉澤山), head of the Cultural Affairs Bureau, acknowledged that a comprehensive inventory was not carried out when Tainan City and Tainan County were merged and upgraded to a special municipality in 2010. Changes in management personnel also made the inventory process difficult, he added.
Police have formed a task force to investigate the case, according to the city government.
According to an antique arts and furniture dealer named Huang (黃), some antiques and historic treasure items on the market came from state archives and government agencies as a result of the latter’s lax management.