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Old Summer Palace pauses treasure hunt

More than 100 palace pictures and cultural relics are exhibited on January 18 in Chengdu, capital city of Sichuan Province. [Photo from CFP]

More than 100 palace pictures and cultural relics are exhibited on January 18 in Chengdu, capital city of Sichuan Province. [Photo from CFP]

 

A yearlong research tour of western museums locating and documenting treasures looted from the old Summer Palace has been put on halt as researchers "need time to better prepare for their journey to resume," Yuanmingyuan authorities said Thursday.

Consisting of five researchers and four journalists, the expedition finished its ninth American museum in November last year. But they are not sticking to the original plan to visit Japan or Europe, communications officer Zheng Lihong of the Yuanmingyuan management department said Thursday.

"The trip to the US panicked museums in the western countries where the action was interpreted as China's attempt to claim back its long-lost treasures," the Xinhua News Agency's Globemagazine reported.

Paranoid museums and funding shortages are two reasons why the treasure hunt stopped, the magazine quoted Zheng as saying.

Zheng Thursday not only denied the quote in Globe magazine but added she had never even been interviewed by them.

"We've more work to do at home before we're ready for the rest of the journey," Zheng said. She declined to specify what work or when.

The trips to the US, Japan and Europe were intended to find out how many old Summer Palace treasures are in the possession of individuals or institutes outside of China, the Yuanmingyuan management declared on October 18 last year.

The treasure hunters located rare books, dozens of snuff bottles and vases that were believed to come from Yuanmingyuan, or the old Summer Palace, in US museums and archives including the Library of Congress and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

They also brought back more than 100 palace pictures which were then exhibited on January 18 in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

Management officials of Yuanmingyuan expected to compile a catalog of all their cultural items around the world this year, marking the 150th anniversary of the pillage of the royal estate by an Anglo-French expedition during the Second Opium War (1856- 60). Now there is no intention to stick to the plan, Zheng said.