Stolen artifact on display in Beijing after more than a century
Updated 19:42, 31-Jan-2019
Wu Yan
01:39

‍A long-lost relic stolen during a looting of the Old Summer Palace in 1860 is back in Beijing and on display at the National Museum of China. 

The long-lost Tiger Ying relic is a bronze vessel dating back to the Western Zhou period (1046 BC-771 BC). It is only one of eight known "ying" bronze vessels. It's lost-and-found history is detailed in the "Tiger Ying: New era, new fate" exhibition. 

Visitors view the Tiger Ying at the National Museum of China in Beijing, January 29, 2019. /VCG Photo

Visitors view the Tiger Ying at the National Museum of China in Beijing, January 29, 2019. /VCG Photo

Before it was stolen, the Tiger Ying was housed in the Old Summer Palace, a Qing Dynasty royal residence located in northwest Beijing. During the looting of the Old Summer Palace by the allied Anglo-French forces in 1860, Tiger Ying was taken abroad by British military officer Harry Evans. He confessed to taking the vessel in a letter that was kept by his family.

In April 2018, the vessel was listed in an auction by Britain's Canterbury Auction Galleries in southern England, which triggered anger among Chinese and protest from Chinese authorities. It was eventually sold for 410,000 pounds (536,000 U.S. dollars).

Visitors view other bronze vessels at the National Museum of China in Beijing, January 29, 2019. /VCG Photo

Visitors view other bronze vessels at the National Museum of China in Beijing, January 29, 2019. /VCG Photo

With efforts from the National Cultural Heritage Administration and the Chinese embassy in London, the buyer, whose identity still remains unknown, expressed a willingness to return it to China, and it was shipped back to China in November 2018.

Artifacts lost overseas, including the Tiger Ying, are indispensable part of Chinese cultural heritage, whose fate are closely connected with the country's fate, said Wang Chunfa, director of the National Museum of China.

(Qi Jie also contributed to this article)