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Controversy and Culture: Chinese Artifacts Exhibition at the British Museum

The British Museum, as one of the world's most renowned museums, houses a vast collection of precious artifacts from around the globe. Among them, there are numerous invaluable treasures from China, serving not only as representatives of Chinese culture but also as records of the profound history and splendid civilization of China. These national treasures include the "Admonitions Scroll," Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes artifacts, David Vases, White Marble Buddha Statue, and Bronze artifacts from the Shang Dynasty. However, the origins and ownership of these artifacts have long been a subject of controversy. Should they be returned to China?


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Chinese Treasures in the British Museum


1. Admonitions Scroll

This is the earliest surviving narrative painting on silk in China, hailed as one of the Ten Masterpieces of Chinese Painting. Created by the famous Eastern Jin Dynasty painter Gu Kaizhi, it depicts the education of women and spans over 1500 years of history. It is exceptionally precious, displayed only a few times each year.


2. Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes Artifacts

The British Museum has a dedicated Stein Room, showcasing a vast collection of precious artifacts from the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes. These artifacts were taken by the British explorer Aurel Stein from the Mogao Grottoes, including murals, scrolls, sculptures, etc., which record the valuable history of cultural exchange along the Silk Road.



David Vases
Photo Source: Wikipedia

3. David Vases

A pair of large blue and white porcelain vases made in Jingdezhen during the Yuan Dynasty in 1351, considered the "most famous porcelain in the world" and included in the BBC's selection of the "100 Most Valuable Artifacts in the World." They reflect the superb craftsmanship and unique artistic style of Yuan Dynasty blue and white porcelain.


4. White Marble Buddha Statue

A 5.78-meter-high White Marble Amitabha Buddha statue, carved during the Sui Dynasty between 581-618 AD. Originally enshrined in the Chongguang Temple in Huabei Baoding, Hebei Province, it was meticulously carved from more than 30 pieces of white marble, demonstrating exquisite carving techniques and the mature style of stone carving art in the Sui Dynasty.


5. Shang Dynasty Bronze Artifacts

The British Museum houses a large number of bronze vessels from the Shang Dynasty of ancient China, with both quantity and quality being outstanding. These bronze artifacts reflect the advanced level of ancient Chinese bronze metallurgy and unique artistic style.



Controversy over Returning Artifacts


The presence of these artifacts is not only a source of pride for the British Museum but also a symbol of Chinese culture. However, the origins of these treasures are often disputed, especially those from the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes, which were illegally taken by the British explorer Aurel Stein. With the increasing awareness of cultural heritage protection, more and more voices are calling for these artifacts to be returned to their countries of origin. The Chinese government and many civil organizations have been working tirelessly, hoping to bring these artifacts back to China to be displayed in their original cultural context.


The presence of these precious Chinese artifacts in the British Museum bears witness to the splendid history of Chinese civilization. However, the issue of ownership of these artifacts remains a significant international topic. Returning these artifacts is not only a matter of respecting history but also a manifestation of protecting cultural heritage. Returning these national treasures to China, allowing them to shine in their native cultural background, undoubtedly represents the best protection and inheritance of human cultural heritage. Hopefully, in the future, these precious Chinese artifacts can return to where they belong, continuing to showcase the long history and splendid culture of China.



England Ireland Cultural Tour

Would you like to delve deeper into these precious Chinese artifacts? Now you have the opportunity to join KTSF's England Ireland Cultural Tour, led by host JiaYu Jeng, to explore the British Museum in depth. Regardless of the controversies, let JiaYu guide you through a profound viewing of these precious artifacts, understanding the stories and cultural significance behind them. Come and join us for a journey filled with cultural charm!




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