Page last updated at 08:54 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 09:54 UK

'Looted' Chinese relic auctioned

Chinese imperial seal auctioned in Paris
The piece sold for more than five times its estimated value

A Chinese bidder bought an 18th Century jade imperial seal for 1.68m euros (£1.5m) at a Paris auction house, despite protests by Chinese officials.

Beijing said the Qing Dynasty relic was looted by British and French troops from its Summer Palace in 1860.

The Chinese bidder refused to give his name, but said he was acting on behalf of an art collector in France.

The piece sold for more than five times its estimated value after a tense bidding race with another Asian buyer.

Strong indignation

The authorities that manage Beijing's imperial Summer Palace said that all such relics should be returned to China.

They say the seal was originally taken by British and French troops from the palace in October 1860, towards the end of the Second Opium War.

The bronze rat and the bronze rabbit
China says the bronzes were taken abroad illegally 150 years ago

A statement said: "We once again express strong indignation at this sort of repeated action that hurts the Chinese people's feelings, harms their cultural interests, and violates international pacts."

The auction house said the seal, mounted with two carved dragons, came from the personal collection of a descendant of a French general who commanded some of the invading troops.

The sale comes two months after the contested sale of two bronze animal heads also said to have been looted from the Summer Palace.

A Chinese collector bought the heads of a rabbit and a rat for 15m euros ($19m; £13m) each, which were part of the collection of late French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.

The buyer then refused to pay, calling his decision an "act of patriotism".

The Chinese government, which had tried to stop the sale, denied any involvement. Christie's said the sale was legal, a position backed by a French court.

Print Sponsor

China denies art auction bid role
06 Mar 09 |  Asia-Pacific
China condemns Christie's auction
26 Feb 09 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese zodiac statues' origins
03 Mar 09 |  Asia-Pacific
China tries to stop Paris auction
20 Feb 09 |  Asia-Pacific

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific