Two imperial bronze sculptures, looted from Beijing’s Yuanmingyuan Garden in 1860, are handed over to the National Museum of China during a donation ceremony on Friday.
By Liu Xiangrui
BEIJING, June 29 — Two imperial bronze sculptures that were looted from Beijing’s Yuanmingyuan Garden were handed over to the National Museum of China during a donation ceremony held on Friday.
The sculptures of a rabbit head and a rat head will be added to the collection at the museum and exhibited soon, Li Xiaojie, director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, said at the ceremony.
Vice-Premier Liu Yandong and Francois Pinault, a French collector and businessman who donated the sculptures, unveiled the gifts at the ceremony, and an honorary donation certificate was presented to Pinault by Cai Wu, China’s minister of culture.
Francois-Henri Pinault, Francois’ son who spoke on behalf of the family at the ceremony, said he expressed the idea of helping the two sculptures return to their home when he met President Xi Jinping in Beijing in April.
He said: “I believe the donation is a testament to the deep friendship between our two countries.
“The two pieces are part of China’s history and cultural heritage. We deeply understand that art sometimes has richer symbolic meaning, just like Victor Hugo described in his letter about the garden.”
Hugo criticized the looters of Yuanmingyuan, or the Old Summer Palace, in his Expedition de Chine after British and French expeditionary forces invaded the garden in 1860 during the Second Opium War.
“We believe when the two pieces are exhibited in the National Museum, they will tell their own story to audiences from different cultures and inspire them. Then our goal will be realized,” Francois-Henri Pinault added.
A notice on the website of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage said on Thursday that both sides had active communication over the matter after the Pinault family made the announcement, and the two pieces were shipped to Beijing on the morning of June 25.[db:内容2]