Friday, September 21, 2007

A Patriotic Duty

The Chinese media are hailing casino tycoon Stanley Ho today for rescuing the bronze horse's head from the Sotheby's auction block next month.

He reportedly paid HK69.1 million (US$8.84 million) for the bronze piece which was apparently plundered from Yuanmingyuan, the Summer Palace by French and British troops back in 1860.

And the Macanese did the patriotic thing by giving it back to the motherland.

"I feel honored to have played a role in saving lost Chinese cultural relics from overseas," the 85-year-old said in a statement.

Meanwhile, heritage officials are racing against time to preserve ancient relics from being destroyed by the effects of the US$25 billion Three Gorges Dam.

These archaeologists are madly trying to unearth as many pieces from the Yellow River Plain, also known as the "cradle of Chinese civilization". In 2010, water will be pumped down a 1,300km tributary to the Yangtze River that cuts through this plain.

The water will flood many historic sites dating back to the Xia and Zhou dynasties, dating back 3,000 to 4,000 years.

According to a report, heritage workers have cleared out more than 2,000 tombs, temples and cultural sites, and relocated 10,000 pieces of ancient copper, jade and bone objects. But apparently this is only the tip of the iceberg.

And not only are they trying to race against the clock, but are also competing with looters.

"Some of the excavation tools these modern grave robbers use are even more advanced than those the archaeologists are using," an official was quoted as saying.

Lack of funding and manpower has not only led to the slow pace of unearthing these treasures but also preservation work.

If the country is so keen to reclaim its cultural heritage, why not look in its own backyard and preserve what it already has?

Instead of saving a horse's head from the auction block, Mr Ho could have possibly saved thousands of relics from being wiped out in three years.

But of course buying back looted treasure is seen as a much more patriotic act than digging up one's own soil.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

I agree, it's hard to take seriously the desire to get one bronze sculpture back when the government constructs an enormous dam that wipes out communities, natural habitat, animal species, as well as archeological and cultural sites.