Dutch collector puts conditions on stolen Buddha statue's return to China

Updated: 2015-12-08 17:12


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Dutch collector puts conditions on stolen Buddha statue's return to China

The face of the Buddha statue with a mummified monk inside. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Experts say the statue should return to its original owner, especially when the ethical principle is concerned that human remains should be repatriated to their original country. According to Dr. Inge C. van der Vlies, professor of constitutional and public law at the University of Amsterdam, there were cases that artistic relics were returned at requests of choosing museums with the ability to well protect and display the relics, if the relics are proved to be really precious and in a fragile state. However, the statue of Patriarch Zhanggong is obviously not only an artistic relic, but also a cultural and religious relic.

"As a statue of Buddha, it makes no difference whether the temple is grand or small, ancient or new. The only factor to judge whether it could be well treated and protected should be the people, the believers and users of the statue," said Ms. van der Vlies who is also vice-chair of the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War.

She suggested that villagers of Yangchun should prove that the statue belonged to the village in history and show the world that the statue is still a key part of the cultural and religious life in the village.

The worship of Patriarch Zhanggong never stopped in the village. In an interview with a journalist from China Daily, Lin Yongtuan, a Yangchun villager and one of the first residents to recognize the Buddha from pictures of artifacts in a public exhibition, said the Buddha statue was stolen in 1995, and the annual ritual of worship was never interrupted. Lin also noted that they were busy preparing for the worship ceremony of 2015.