October 26, 2023
BEIJING – Australia returned two precious cultural relics and a fossil and donated an artifact and an art piece to China in a handover ceremony on Wednesday at the Chinese embassy in Canberra.
The items included a ceramic figure of a person riding a horse, a gilded bronze Buddhist statue that can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907) or the Northern Dynasty (386-581), and a dinosaur fossil dating back to the late Jurassic or early Cretaceous period.
In addition, the Australian National Art Gallery donated a hairpin from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and a xizun, an ox-shaped bronze ceremonial vessel, to the Chinese government. Chinese experts said the vessel could be from the Ming (1368-1644) or Qing Dynasty, or even the contemporary period.
Since 2020, the Chinese National Cultural Heritage Administration, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Chinese embassy in Australia have worked closely with the Australian Office for the Arts to facilitate the return of illegally imported cultural relics, art items and fossils.
Chinese Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian said the return of the cultural relics demonstrates the shared commitment of the Chinese and Australian governments to the preservation of cultural heritage.
It also serves as a significant event in cultural heritage exchange and friendly cooperation between the two nations, Xiao said.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972, cultural heritage exchanges and cooperation between the two countries have grown, playing a positive role in advancing the development of bilateral ties, Xiao added.
Australian Minister for the Arts Tony Burke, noting that China possesses a rich historical and cultural heritage, said Australia places a high importance on the issue of stolen cultural relics and is committed to following international museum standards to facilitate their return to their countries of origin.
Burke said he hoped that the items returned on Wednesday can be displayed in museums to enhance the public’s understanding of history and the friendship between the peoples of China and Australia.
China and Australia signed a memorandum of understanding on cultural heritage protection in 2009. In 2015, Australia returned a cultural relic to China.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said that China appreciates the return of the items. She said this was another example of successful collaboration between China and Australia in the field of cultural heritage protection and the return of lost cultural relics.
The return of the items also serves as a vivid example of the close ties between the peoples of China and Australia, Mao said.