Art Theft at the Forbidden City

China Travel News — By on 12/05/2011 1:30 pm

Priceless Art Stolen from Forbidden City – Blow to Travel in China

pic3 Art Theft at the Forbidden City

Art Theft at the Forbidden City

Good news and bad news for the Forbidden City.

Bad news is that last Sunday there was a theft of a number artifacts from the Forbidden City that were on loan from a private Hong Kong museum. I’ve listed an article from The Telegraph below on this heinous theft.

Good news is that police have arrested the theif and recovered many of the stolen artifacts. This article from Fox News has also been listed below.

Can’t help feeling dismayed by this theft because the Forbidden City is an wonderful site and items contained in the grounds on exhibit greatly ehance the experience for tourists. Damaging the Forbidden City or stealing from it just harms China’s incredible heritage. Stealing artifacts lent by a very generous private museum adds insult to injury.

The Theft

Police in Beijing are hunting for a 27-year-old man suspected of stealing several items from the Forbidden City, in a rare theft at China’s ancient imperial palace.

Officials at the Forbidden City told police that seven items belonging to an exhibit on loan from a private Hong Kong museum and valued at up to 10 million yuan (£1m) were stolen on Sunday, the Beijing News said.

After viewing video surveillance tapes, police are seeking the man as the chief suspect in the theft, the paper said.

Telephone calls to the Forbidden City went unanswered on Wednesday, but a posting on the Palace Museum’s microblog confirmed that the theft took place.

The missing items, which date from the early 20th century, include jewellery boxes and women’s make-up cases, the report said.

The items were taken from the Zhai Gong exhibit hall in the northeastern part of the sprawling palace, where the display was to continue until June 27, it added. The section was closed to tourists following the incident.

The exhibit was on loan from the Liangyicang museum, which is owned by a Hong Kong collector identified as Feng Yaohui, the paper said.

In the most recent theft attempt at the heavily guarded Forbidden City, police in 1987 captured a man identified as Xiang Dexiang, who was unsuccessful but was still sentenced to life in prison, the Global Times reported.

According to police records, only four thefts have been recorded at the Forbidden City between 1949 and 1987, the paper said.

Located in central Beijing, the Forbidden City was first built in the early decades of the 15th century and served as the imperial palace of China’s Ming and Qing Dynasties. It was transformed into the Palace Museum in 1925 after the fall of the Qing.


The Thief Arrested

Police have arrested a man they said broke into China’s famed Forbidden City, the heavily guarded former home of the country’s emperors, and stole seven art pieces made of gold and jewels, state media reported Thursday.

It was the first theft in 20 years from the historic site, the tourist attraction’s spokesman Feng Nai’en said, adding that security would be increased.

An investigation found that nine pieces — all small Western-style gold purses and mirrored compacts covered with jewels made in the 20th century — were missing from the temporary exhibition, on loan from the private Liang Yi Museum in Hong Kong.

Two of the missing items were recovered nearby shortly after the theft and were slightly damaged.

State media said Thursday that police had caught a man called Shi Bokui in an Internet cafe Wednesday night who confessed to the robbery. The China Daily said some of the seven remaining stolen pieces were recovered, but did not give details.

Feng said Wednesday the entire Palace Museum will be checked to see if any other items are missing.

“For this to happen here shows us that, No. 1, we need to speed up the modernization and installation of our security systems,” Feng said. “No. 2, we need to investigate carefully and find out if we can implement better, more modern and more sophisticated security systems.”

Wang Xiahong, curator of the Liang Yi Museum, refused to reveal the value of the stolen items, which belong to Hong Kong art collector Fung Yiu Fai. She said that despite the theft, the exhibition would continue and other pieces would be added to the show, which is temporarily closed but expected to reopen soon.

The museum’s deputy director, Ma Jige, told reporters he felt “very guilty and sorry” about the theft. He stood up and bowed to Wang in a show of remorse.

Karen Smith, a Beijing art curator and historian, said the theft was “a big loss of face” for the museum but would probably result in much improved security at the sprawling landmark.

She also noted that the robbery targeted items of relatively low value and prestige, not the museum’s best-known treasures such as its large collection of rare and delicate scroll paintings. Those pieces are undoubtedly much better protected, she said.

“If you were really going to go and steal something from the Palace Museum, there’s a lot more valuable things you could make off with,” Smith said.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether future cooperation with other international exhibitors would be affected by the incident.

Hundreds of thousands of rare and valuable pieces originally housed in the Forbidden City were secreted away to Taipei’s Palace Museum when Taiwan split from the mainland during a civil war 62 years ago.

China still claims Taiwan as part of its own territory and insists the art at Taipei’s Palace Museum rightfully belongs on the mainland.

Beijing’s Palace Museum lent dozens of items to Taiwan for an exhibition in 2009, but Taiwan is still hesitant to lend China artifacts out of fear that they would not be returned.

An official with Taiwan’s Palace Museum said the ownership concerns mean there are no immediate plans for an exhibition in China. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because she is not authorized to talk to the media.


pixel Art Theft at the Forbidden City
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