Grave robbers sentenced for stealing 1,500-plus cultural relics
Published: Feb 07, 2023 10:53 PM
Some of the cultural relics the grave robbing gang stole. Photo: Procuratorate Daily

Some of the cultural relics the grave robbing gang stole. Photo: Procuratorate Daily

A gang of grave robbers have received sentences of up to 12 years and have been fined for stealing more than 1,500 items of cultural relics in the past decade, including seven precious bronze chime bells from more than 2,600 years ago, media reports said. 

The bronze chime bells, which are from the Spring and Autumn Period (770BC-476BC) and rank as China’s state-level grade-two cultural relics, were stolen by eight members of the gang in East China’s Shandong Province in 2012, the Procuratorate Daily reported on Monday. 

The gang, after hearing that someone had secretly dug up jade in Shandong’s Tengzhou City, drove to an abandoned site with grave robbing tools like shovels and plastic buckets. They dug a hole along a river bank near the site, and unexpectedly dug out a total of seven ancient bronze chime bells that night.

They sold the bells to an underground antiquities dealer for 1.2 million yuan ($176,800). The bells were resold several times and were acquired by an antique lover in Beijing before being seized by police.

As well as their chime bells “find,” the gang dug at and damaged many other ancient tombs and historic sites across the country in recent years, eventually stealing more than 1,500 cultural relics.

Most of the relics were bronze or iron ware from China’s Warring States Period (475BC-221BC), the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-AD25), Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The court sentenced the chief culprit in the gang surnamed Zhou to 12 years in prison and fined him 55,000 yuan for the crime of illegally excavating ancient cultural sites and tombs. It also sentenced 25 other members of the gang to 3 to 11 years, and fined them between 3,000 and 50,000 yuan for similar crimes.