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Taiwan Museum Should Give Chinese Bronzes to Beijing

Posted by: Frederik Balfour on October 7, 2009

The fate of the Chinese bronzes belonging to the estate of fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent has taken yet another strange twist. Taiwan’s National Palace Museum has rejected an offer from the estate to donate two bronzes stolen from Beijing’s Summer Palace 150 years ago on the grounds that it cannot accept looted art.

That seems a bit hypocritical considering that a good chunk of the Taipei museum’s treasures would still be in China if General Chiang Kai-shek hadn’t decided to move about 600,000 pieces of artwork during the final stages of the Chinese civil war in 1949 won by the communists. China has repeatedly tried to convince Taiwan, which it still considers a renegade province of the mainland and not a country in its own right, to return the relics which include precious pieces of calligraphy, porcelain and bronzes. However as a sign of the continuing thaw between Beijing and Taipei, the museum will stage the first joint exhibition in 60 years which includes 37 Qing Dynasty relics lent to it by Beijing.

So what will become of the bronzes? In February Pierre Bergé , Saint Laurent’s partner and executor of his estate angered Beijing when he put the two bronzes up for auction at Christie’s in Paris. The sale was scuppered when a mainland man who made the winning bid refused to pay for the artifacts, becoming a hero among nationalistic Chinese for thumbing the Frenchman in the eye. Then Bergé threw oil on the fire by offering to donate the works to China if it offered greater autonomy to Tibet.

Here’s a suggestion. Why doesn’t Taipei accept the bronzes from Bergé , and then present them as a gift to Beijing? Shipping wouldn’t be a problem either. When it returns the Beijing relics on loan in three months time, the Taipei museum could simply include the two imperial bronzes in the container. The goodwill created would be great for the improvement in cross Strait ties.

Reader Comments


October 8, 2009 12:25 AM

I am ashamed that the brainless rich Chinese still craved fro the french luxury items after the Anglo-French forces looted the YuanMingYuan.


October 8, 2009 1:58 AM

If a mob forcefully occupied your house, but you were able to escape with your most valued possessions, does the mob have the right to ask for your possessions just because they are living in your house?

It's the same idea here, except the occupiers are much more dangerous than your typical mob. Ironically, they destroyed most of the cultural artifacts and relics during the so-called Cultural Revolution, and they still ruthlessly suppress people living there. The economic freedom is only limited to a portion of the population, with the rest working in sweatshops or living in poverty. There have been more riots in the countryside than ever, and they've been working hard to quash them.

Would you trust these people with your people, relics and artifacts?


October 8, 2009 2:05 AM

Mr. Balfour obvious does not have any knowledge of the Chinese Civil War and should not speak of it as an expert, much less calling any one a hypocrite. The Nationalists moved the treasures south due to the invading Japanese forces. As for the move to Taiwan, it was a great step because the brainless Chinese Communists would have just destroyed the treasures during the Cultural Revolution!

C. H. Ng

October 8, 2009 3:44 AM

Offering greater autnomy to Tibet in return for two bronzes which were originally stolen from Beijing's Summer Palace years ago? Who is Mr Pierre Berge thinks he is? Instead of offering apology to the Chinese government and her people for holding goods stolen from the country, he got the cheek to try to make himself a hero to the Tibetans by using the stolen relics as bargaining tools.
If Dalai Lama is an honourable man as he made himself to be, he should had told Mr Berge off on his shanmeless antic and that he, Dalai Lama, would rather seek greater autonomy for his people in an honorable way. He should made sure not to associate himself with any help from blatant thieves.
Meanwhile the Chinese government & her people should banned & blacklisted all YSL products from selling in China until the stolen relics are rightfully returned to its owner.


October 8, 2009 5:09 AM

Since Taiwan is an independent country, Taiwan should return them to China.

Brijesh Prabhakar

October 8, 2009 5:25 AM

I think China needs to grow up. It cannot throw a tantrum everytime someone does something that it may not agree with.

All the colonies - India, China, Egypt, Turkey have parts of their heritage stashed away in some museum or private collection. No need to throw such a fit.

@Brijesh Prabhakar

October 8, 2009 6:24 AM

China was a colony? Of whom?

Read up some history, Prabhakar. Not everyone was a colony as India once was.

While India was a top-down complete colony of Britain, at the height of British power, the maximum the Brits could achieve was to get some concession areas at several port cities China's Eastern seaboard such as Shanghai, etc., with vast Chinese heartlands being controlled only by their own warlords.

The notion that the Chinese called China as a half feudal-half "colony" society at the time is drastically overstated. China was far far from being colony of anyone.


October 8, 2009 6:32 AM

According to the comments from director of Taiwan's National Palace Museum, there is no clear message from Pierre Berge to state that these two imperial bronzes were to "donate" to Taiwan as the director met Pierre Berge this June. Also, the director also claims that Taiwan might be not suitable to participate such controversial ancient stuff issue.
If Pierre Berge wants to "donate" these bronzes to French's or Taiwan's museum(French television station RTL), why not just send these two pieces back to China?

@Brijesh Prabhakar (2)

October 8, 2009 6:34 AM

In fact, only HongKong and Macao were colonies as China leased them to the Brits and Portuguese for 99 years and 97 years respectively, after lossing the Opium Wars.

China itself was never a colony as it's totally under the administration of its last Emperor, albeit a weak one.

Sean Lin

October 8, 2009 8:57 AM

To Brijesh:

So, you knew that HongKong and Macao were only two colonies, why you wanted to includ China in your above statement? Just want to make yourself feel better? Or want to misleading people that China was same weak like India?


October 8, 2009 10:12 AM

Tell me Mr. Ng, how is Tibet supposed to gain it's independence in an honorable way? China won't even hear of such talk. Tibet has been asking for decades.


October 8, 2009 10:14 AM

The author may also want to mention that, that 650,000 pieces are the top cream of the all the collections in Chinese Royal Palaces, of its total 2,500,000 pieces

Xiang Yu

October 8, 2009 10:30 AM

Because Chinese don't want the thief to return the stolen treasure as a "gift" to the rightful owner.


October 8, 2009 11:08 AM

I really hope China and the West will have a more mature relationship in the near future. This whole attitude from the West that China is a great threat and the Chinese view that the West was a still is an evil colonial force out to destroy China result in nothing good for either side. The West needs to accept the fact that China's rise is and has always been irreversible since 1978. But the view that regards China as a threat is a self-fulfilling prophesy. The more the West treats China as a threat, the more unfriendly remarks and gestures persist, and the more resentment will come from the Chinese people. Over time, this resentment will be very hard to undo and China might really become an uncooperative or even unfriendly country to the West. Why create a powerful enemy when you can't do anything to prevent its rise to power? Chinese should also remember that China's rise has been largely dependent on investment and consumption from the West. If the West played a big role in helping China become richer, then logic dictates that its intentions cannot possibly as sinister as you believe them to be.


October 8, 2009 12:57 PM

China is no threat to no one! China does not want foreign land, they have plenty of their own (unlike Japan). China does not want to conquer foreigners, they have plenty of their own (and quite diligent too). China does not want anyone's resources, they can buy them from everywhere (with hot cash, 2.13 trillion dollars), China does have some ICBM, but United States have more, and ready to shoot within 20min (from the commands of the President's football), China does not even have an aircraft carrier (yet), and we have 11 active aircraft carrier groups (throughout the world) and a few more in the docks. And also, traditionally and historically Chinese people do not like to venture into the unknown foreign land (that was one of the reasons Ming emperors stop Zheng He). All they want is money, and they send them back to buy US bonds, so why don't the journalists stop doing 'copy and paste' in their cubicles and stop these propaganda. Open your eyes, go to Walmart and K-mart and start shopping, it is good for economy and everybody can fill their house with 'cheap' Chinese goods and make themselves feel better. There is no need to be jealous at the Asians, they work for it! Do we??


October 8, 2009 1:20 PM

@squeezebox: everybody should be independent, such as Northern Ireland, Corsica, Kashmir, Hawaii, all the Native American reservations, Quebec, Puerto Rico, Guam, Native Australians, Basque people, Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Chechnya, Sri Lanka minorities, Scotland, Wales, bikini islands, etc, etc. And don't forget: Give 40 acres and 1 mule to each African-American. Got the message??

Edward Eng

October 8, 2009 9:59 PM

In the words of Rodney King, "Can we all get along?"


C. H. Ng

October 8, 2009 10:09 PM

1) @Brijesh Prabhakar

I wonder what was your score/mark you got for your history test during your schoolday? Bet you must had scored poorly. No wonder you didn't get your facts correct on your so-called colonialisation of China by foreign powers. For your infor, only certain parts of China were under foreign control, such as Qingdao under the German, Manchuria under the Japanese, HK under the British, Macau under the Portugese..etc. But the WHOLE OF CHINA was NEVER under any foreign control except maybe if you want to mention about Genghis Khan from the Mongolian power who controlled a great part of China but still not whole of China.

Your country, India, was under British rule for many years and before they relinguished control back to your people, split your parts of your country as East (now known as Bangladesh) & west Pakistan. If you don't mind what the British had done to your country and/or had looted your historical relics, that's your problem. But to try to talk and/or cover up for blatant thieves who took advantage of their power at that time on countries & people whom you are not even belong to, is ridiculous on your part. So please shut up lest people consider you as a running dog of the former (or current) imperial powers who you unashamely think that w/o them, the whole world is going to end.

2) @Mr or Ms Squeezebox

I wish I know how (which might make me one of the recipients to this year Nobel Peace prize); but one thing I know is that if he, Dalai Lama, a revered holy spiritual leader as claimed to be, is going to associate himself with thieves and/or terrorists in pursuit of seeking indepedence from China, then please step down from his lofty post. He should just (I don't meant any disrespect here) become head of any Tibetan group which doesn't care a damn how they can achieved their goal in whatever means.
NB: Btw I think seeking greater autonomy for his Tibetan people is a more likely solution than total indepenence from China. This is my own personnal view and I am not from any political party or connected with PRC government.


October 9, 2009 3:26 AM

It's the same idea here, except the occupiers are much more dangerous than your typical mob. Ironically, they destroyed most of the cultural artifacts and relics during the so-called Cultural Revolution, and they still ruthlessly suppress people living there.

holidays to Egypt


October 9, 2009 2:46 PM

Is the author comparing the French with the Chinese? What an idiot? There is a big difference with a Chiang Kai-shek and Pierre Bergé. The Chinese don't want crappy foreign lands, they build the Great Wall to protect their treasured country. You can't even pay China to colonize other parts of the world like Westerners. The reason is China is called the middle Kingdom. It is central landmass on earth, and because of that it is not too hot and not too cold. It is the first land mass for sunrise. Chinese protect their treasured country at all cost..something Westerners need to pay attention to.

Media Shame

October 10, 2009 12:48 AM

Mr. Balfour should follow up on this piece of 'news'. This whole circus turned out to be fabricated by Taiwan's Liberty Times, a media mouth piece for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party. Since their crushing defeat last year in Taiwan's legislative and presidential elections in 2008 and continuing investigation of the corruption of the former DPP goverment, DPP and its supporters has been increasingly desperate. The Liberty Times attempted to distort a piece of English news from Reuters in which Pierre Bergé supposedly said he THOUGHT ABOUT donating his loot to either French or Taiwan museums, but CONCLUDED himself that those museums will NOT accept these stolen problem items, so was determined to continue to find a BRAVE buyer. Taiwan's media, especially those associated with the DPP, has long been proven to be a fabricator and distorter of fact. BusinessWeek, increasingly, seems to be following that path.

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