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Sunday, 29 March, 1998, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Thieves steal oldest statue of Buddha from house in Beijing

The oldest-known stone statue of Buddha has been stolen from a house in the Chinese capital Beijing, the city authorities in charge of historical relics announced on Sunday.

Xinhua news agency said that police had been working round the clock for the last four days to locate the valuable object.

Carved in 499 AD, the 165cm-high statue has remained safe and intact in a stone house in the village of Dong'erying in the western part of Beijing for the past 1,500 years.

According to police, robbers pried it off its base with crowbars and hauled it away sometime last Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

The family who have looked after it for four generations reported it missing immediately.

"Police had previously advised them to use better anti-theft measures after the house was opened to the public, but the smugglers seemed to be just one step ahead of them," the agency said.

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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