Promoting the Protection of Chinese Cultural Heritage
When were the sculptures removed from Xiangtangshan?
The objects shown in this exhibition were taken from Xiangtangshan between 1910 and about 1930. The majority passed through the hands of the Chinese art dealer C. T. Loo, who had commercial operations in Beijing, Shanghai, Paris, and New York. Other dealers handling these sculptures included Edgar Worch, based in Paris, and Yamanaka & Company, located in Kyoto and New York.
Museums in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere purchased these objects or received them as gifts between 1913 and 1952, many decades before international laws were enacted to promote the protection of cultural patrimony. The museums have conserved and shared the objects with the public for more than half a century.
What policies and regulations are now in place to protect sites like Xiangtangshan?
In 1970, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed the first international convention to protect cultural property and prohibit its illicit sale. Along with many other countries, China, the United States, and the United Kingdom ratified this agreement, which forbids the acquisition or display of works illegally removed from their nation of origin after 1970.
What work is underway to preserve Xiangtangshan?
While they are still active sites of Buddhist worship, the Xiangtangshan caves are governed by the Fengfeng Mining District Office for Protection and Management of Cultural Properties. This supervisory government agency—responsible for protecting, documenting, and restoring the caves—actively contributed to this exhibition.
For more information about these issues visit http://www.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/XTSprovenance.asp.
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