Bronze dragon head believed to have been looted from Old Summer Palace during Second Opium War purchased by anonymous Chinese buyer at Paris auction: reports

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/19 18:53:40

A bronze "Rabbit Zodiac" head goes under the hammer at a Christie's auction in Paris on February 25, 2009. Photo: VCG

A screenshot of a bronze dragon head from the Tessier & Sarrou auction house website

A bronze dragon head, believed to have been looted from Beijing's Yuanmingyuan, or Old Summer Palace, during the Second Opium War (1856-60), was purchased for 3 million euros ($3.4 million) by an anonymous Chinese buyer on Monday at a Tessier & Sarrou auction in Paris.

Originally the Old Summer Palace was home to the famous Zodiac Fountain - a water clock made up of 12 bronze statues, each one representing one of the animals in the Chinese zodiac.

When French-Anglo forces razed the palace to the ground in 1860, the heads of these statues were stolen by the invading forces. 

Considered national cultural relics of China, the Chinese government and private individuals have worked hard to locate and bring them home.

To date, seven of the heads have been returned to China. The bronze heads of the Ox, Monkey, Tiger and Pig now reside in the Poly Art Museum in Beijing, the Rat and Rabbit are part of the National Museum of China collection and the Horse calls the Capital Museum in Beijing home. The whereabouts of the rest of the heads, except for the Dragon head if it proves to be the original, remain unknown.

The news was first announced by Liu Yang, a member of the Academic Committee of the Summer Palace Academy, in a Sina Weibo post on Monday along with photos of the dragon head going under the hammer in Paris. In the post, he claimed that the long missing bronze dragon head from the palace had been successfully purchased by a Chinese buyer that Liu says was a friend.

As the news spread, some netizens questioned the authenticity of the dragon head sculpture.

In response, Liu said that after examining the head up close, he is very confident that it is the original head from the Old Summer Palace.

In an interview with the Beijing Youth Daily on Tuesday, Liu said most of the antiques at the auction, including the dragon head, belonged to the French Semalle family, the descendants of the Count de Semalle, a member of the French legation to Beijing during the Second Opium War. Going by the Chinese name Xie Manlu, this count was fond of Chinese culture and mentioned the Old Summer Palace several times in his memoirs, according to Liu.

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Posted in: ART

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