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2,300-year-old Ding returned to China

A 2,300-year-old bronze ding, or tripod, returned to China from Europe on Monday to a new home in Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

The relic was presented to the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Heritage Bureau by Bernard Gomez, a noted French archaeologist and an expert on Chinese antiquities.

Bronze dings were common during the Shang (1,600-1,100 BC) and Western Zhou (1,100-771 BC) dynasties and were still used in the Qin (221-206 BC) and Han (206 BC-AD 220) dynasties, symbolizing the power and prosperity of a state or country.

The ding was approximately 17.5 cm high and 24.5 cm in diameter, said Liu Yunhui, deputy-director of the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Heritage Bureau

The body of the ding bore about 50 inscribed characters, making a record of the states or dynasties that had kept it in ancient China. The keepers included "Han", a state in the Warring States Period (475-221 BC); Xianyang Palace of the imperial Qin Dynasty and Linjin Palace of the Han Dynasty.

The marks show that the ding was of great importance since it had been handed down formally as an emblem of authority, said WangHui, a researcher with the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Heritage Bureau and an expert on ancient Chinese characters.

A ding with inscription characters of so many states and dynasties was very rare, Wang acknowledged.

It is believed to have been excavated in Shaanxi about 100 years ago at the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and then smuggled to Europe.

As with a host of antiquities lost overseas, its movements and record of ownership after leaving China remain unknown.

Gomez spotted it when helping authenticate ancient Chinese bronze ware two years ago and immediately recognized it as an invaluable ding.

He decided to buy it and send it back to China. He met with the owner in Paris early this year and persuaded him to sell it so that it could be repatriated.

He declined to disclose the cost, but experts say each inscription character on a ding raises the price by US$3,000 and it may be worth millions of dollars.

"I almost went bankrupt obtaining the Ding," Gomez joked.

 He came to China in 1986 and has been devoted to Chinese antiquities ever since. He set up an Association for the Protection of Chinese Art in Europe in 2004 to help retrieve relics lost overseas, after seeing so many Chinese relics sold at auction abroad.

The association is made up of Sinophile culture and antiques enthusiasts, including politicians, nobles, artists and entrepreneurs in Europe.

Recovering lost Chinese relics required a lot of support particularly from governments and business, he said.

Chinese relics protection departments had limited funds and should seek private assistance to retrieve the lost items, he said.

"For example, the return of the ding received financial help from a real estate company in Xi'an," he said.

About 10 million Chinese relics have been lost overseas and most are kept by folk collectors, according to China's Lost Cultural Relics Recovery Fund, the first non-governmental organization to retrieve relics lost overseas.

"The ding, now called the Xianyang Palace Ding, has witnessed the prosperity of many dynasties in ancient China and now it has returned," Gomez said.

"It is just my first gift to China. I hope that it will set a fine example and inspire more people to help Chinese relics return home," said Gomez (57). The ding will be exhibited at the terra-cotta warrior museum.


 Source :   Editor: WuLin
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