TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A bronze horse head that belonged to China was put on display in Beijing’s Old Summer Palace (圓明園) in a ceremony on Tuesday (Dec. 1), marking the return of the first of the 12 Chinese zodiac statues looted by foreign forces in 1860.
The bronze-cast heads, originally placed around the Zodiac Fountain at Haiyantang (海晏堂) of the Old Summer Palace, were looted by French and British forces during the Second Opium War. The loss of the artifacts was accompanied by the burning and destruction of the imperial garden, which was later turned into the Yuanmingyuan Ruins Park.
The horse figure was purchased by the late Hong Kong-Macau billionaire Stanley Ho (何鴻燊) from auction house Sotheby’s Hong Kong at a cost of US$8.9 million in 2007. Ho donated it to China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration in November of 2019.
It will be featured in an exhibition at an Old Summer Palace temple, along with other exhibits about the garden and the plundered treasures, reported CNA. Repatriating the 12 zodiac animal statues and other cultural artifacts has been seen as an attempt by China to reclaim its national pride.
Among the bronze heads, the rat and rabbit are part of the collection of the National Museum of China; the ox, tiger, monkey, and pig are currently housed at the Poly Art Museum in Beijing; and the dragon, snake, goat, rooster, and dog are still unaccounted for.