China-US cooperation helps 361 repatriated cultural relics find new home in Nanjing
Global Times

Photo: CCTV

Having witnessed the passage of time from the Neolithic Age to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), 361 cultural relics that were returned to China from the US were revealed in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province, on Saturday.

Thanks to five years of trace-and-return efforts by China's National Cultural Heritage Administration and the US government, China reclaimed the 361 relics from the US in February 2019. While 22 of them were exhibited later that year, now all 361 items have finally been revealed at the Nanjing Museum. They will remain at the institution, one of the three major museums in China, as part of its permanent collection.

Recovered by the FBI office in Indianapolis in 2014, this batch of returned cultural relics include various objects such as jade and stone items from the Neolithic Age, bronze and pottery works created in the Spring and Autumn Period (770BC-476BC) and wooden carvings dating back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). A majority of these items were burial objects from ancient tombs in China.

While two other batches of items have been returned to China from the US since the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on restricting import of Chinese relics in January 2009, this third batch is the largest to date.

The MOU specified terms such as calling for the US to restrict importations of "archeological material" suspected of originating from China, Chinese cultural heritage objects from the Paleolithic Period to the end of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and sculptures and murals that are more than 250 years old.

"It is the most direct legal basis," Huo Zhengxin, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law and an expert on the laws regarding the return of cultural relics, told the Global Times on Tuesday while discussing whether or not the MOU has played an effective role in the return of cultural relics from the US.

"At the present, China has similar bilateral measures with 23 other countries," Zheng noted.

"It [the one with the US] was signed in 2009 and is renewed every five years. So far, it has been successfully renewed. Therefore, the return of Chinese relics from the US is the result of this bilateral agreement between the two countries," Zheng emphasized.