A centuries-old Chinese sculpture is finally heading home after being looted from a 10th-century Chinese tomb in north China's Hebei Province in 1994.
The bass-relief sculpture was returned to China by the US Customs Service in a ceremony in New York on Wednesday. It is the first case of Sino-US cooperation in accordance with United Nations international pacts concerning cultural relics protection.
The statue of a guardian figure, one of 10 looted from the Five Dynasties (906-960) tomb of Wang Chuzhi, is listed in the "most valuable category" in China's classification of cultural relics.
The return is the latest step in China's moves to end the smuggling of artifacts.
Yang Zhijun, a senior official in the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, said yesterday a specialized department to stop illegal exports and trade was being established.
The Wang Chuzhi tomb sculpture was advertised for auction by Christie's in March 2000 on consignment from M&C Gallery in Hong Kong.
It was seized by US Customs agents prior to the auction.
In March, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Mary Jo White brought a civil forfeiture suit under the Cultural Properties Implementation Act that led to the sculpture's seizure.
China's State Administration of Cultural Heritage and the Ministry of Public Security examined the statue and determined it to be authentic.
Investigation into how the relic was smuggled out of China is still under way.
(China Daily 05/25/2001)