Jackie and Wang Ti sing Guo Jia
Summer Palace to pursue stolen treasures
Yuanmingyuan officials issued a call Monday for China to pursue treasures stolen from the site, also known as the Old Summer Palace, about 150 years ago.
The proposal called on entities and individuals that possess those stolen treasures to return them to China. It also called on people all over the world to boycott auctions and not to buy or sell Yuanmingyuan relics.
It was issued by the Yuanmingyuan Park authority at a gathering held last night in front of Dashuifa (Great Fountains), the palace's biggest attraction.
A drive to collect signatures of supporters was initiated Monday and will last one year. Jackie Chan, a famous kung fu movie star, was invited to act as a spokesman for the effort and he was the first to sign.
The proposal came during a month of commemorative activities. Under the theme "Peace, cooperation and harmony," a series of commemorative activities including academic conferences, exhibitions and Sino-foreign culture exchanges are being held in Beijing through the end of this month, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Located in northwest Beijing, Yuanmingyuan, which workers started building in 1709, was once a resort for imperial families in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Yuanmingyuan was pillaged and burned down by British and French troops on October 18 and 19, 1860, and again sacked in 1900, when the Eight-Power Allied Forces - troops sent by Britain, the US, Germany, France, Tsarist Russia, Japan, Italy and Austria - occupied Beijing.
Experts estimated that about 1.5 million pieces of relics were stolen and taken to many countries.
In 2006, the Yuanmingyuan Administrative Office called for the public to donate lost treasures and 85 pieces of previously lost treasure were recovered from universities, public institutions and citizens in Beijing.
The total number of the pieces of recovered treasure stands at about 150, according to the Beijing News.
Last year, the office sent a group of researchers overseas to look for those lost treasures.
The plan, however, fell apart after their first stop in the US because some overseas museums reportedly refused to cooperate.
The lost treasures were repeatedly sold in auctions overseas. Last year, two controversial relics, the heads of a rabbit and a rat, were auctioned in Paris for 14 million euros ($17.92 million).
They are among 12 animal head sculptures that formed a zodiac-themed water clock decorating the Calm Sea Pavilion in Yuanmingyuan.
So far, five heads that appeared in auctions have been bought and returned to China but the other five remain missing.
Xie Chensheng, an expert at China Cultural Heritage Association, said searching for lost treasures takes time.
"We should reserve the right to take those illegally exported treasures back," he said. "But we need to be patient."