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Palace Museum accused of covering up four more artifact mishaps

08-06-2011 10:35 BJT

BEIJING, Aug. 6 (Xinhuanet) -- After admitting that a priceless porcelain dish had been broken by accident, the Palace Museum is now faced with allegations that it tried to cover up four other mishaps that damaged important artifacts.

On July 31, the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City admitted that a 1,000-year-old dish belonging to its collection of invaluable porcelains had been damaged while scientific research was being conducted on it.

The piece that was damaged was one of the State's first-class celadon-glazed dishes and a masterpiece of Ge kiln porcelain from the Song Dynasty (960-1279). A researcher accidentally smashed it into six pieces after incorrectly operating a testing instrument, according to an investigation conducted by the museum.

The museum's confirmation came only after a blogger named "Longcan" wrote about the accident on his micro blog on July 30. He said the museum had tried to cover up the damage.

The whistle-blower returned to the Internet on Tuesday, writing in his blog that the museum had covered up four other accidents in which important artifacts had been damaged in recent years.

"In 2006, they destroyed a talisman of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and in 2008, a Buddha statue," Longcan said in his blog, adding that he got the information from an unnamed insider.

"And an artwork that had been carried in the armpit of a staff member named Ren Wanping was also smashed. Don't you remember?"

The post soon received thousands of clicks and was forwarded by various media outlets.

On Friday, Feng Nai'en, museum spokesman, told China Daily that Palace Museum officials know of the allegations and have ordered an investigation in response.

"We are verifying the situation and will soon give a report," Feng said. "Before then, we will release no further information to the public."

According to the Law on the Protection of the Cultural Relics of China, museums should tell cultural authorities of any damage that is inflicted upon grade-one artifacts in their collections. The law, though, does not go so far as to specify how quickly such cases should be reported.

Pan Shouyong, a professor of the Minzu University of China, blamed the alleged accidents on the fact that there are few professionals among museum workers.

"The repeated occurrence of accidents in the Palace Museum shows that the workers there lack professional qualities," Pan said.

In 2008 and 2009, nearly 90 percent of museum employees in China did not have college degrees and very few of them had studied museum-related subjects, according to a survey conducted by Pan. He said the display and daily maintenance of cultural treasures requires specialized knowledge and that people without professional training cannot do the work properly.

Perhaps for that reason, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage has been calling since 2010 for the establishment of a vocational qualification system to be used in finding workers for China's museums.

The country's museums now have 59,900 employees, and only 4.5 percent of them are senior professionals and technical personnel and 13 percent are intermediate professionals, according the administration's website.

Another rumor recently spread on the Internet held that the Palace Museum bought five rare Song Dynasty letters during an auction in 1997. But in 2005, the five letters showed up again on the auction market and were sold for three times the price they had fetched in 1997.

Asked about the rumor, Feng said: "The Palace Museum never bought the five Song letters in 1997."


Investigation team to look into porcelain accident

Today we continue our coverage of the priceless Song Dynasty porcelain plate, which was damaged during a test by research members of the Palace Museum in Beijing. An investigation team was immediately commissioned by the Museum to look into the cause of the incident. Representatives of the team responded on Monday, saying there was never any intention to cover up the incident. Full story >>

Museum: Broken plate not shown on website

An ancient porcelain plate that was accidentally destroyed was an invaluable part of the Palace Museum's collection but not the best piece of its type, museum officials said on Tuesday.

"The porcelain plate shown on the official website is another piece," said Feng Nai'en, a spokesman for the Palace Museum, dismissing speculation that the museum was presenting a shoddy substitute in its advertisements.  Full story>>


Photos of damaged ancient plate raise doubts

Comparison pictures show the difference between images of a 1,000-year-old porcelain plate released by the official website of the Palace Museum (L) and China Central Television (R), Aug 2, 2011. The porcelain plate, a grade-one cultural relic from the Ge kiln called "Celadon Plate with a Mouth in the Shape of Mallow Petals", was crushed and damaged on July 4 when a laboratory researcher used a device to examine it, according to a statement from the museum. The difference has aroused doubts online. Netizens are doubtful of whether pictures are of same plate.  Photo album>>


Palace Museum admits damage to ancient plate

The Palace Museum has admitted many facts about the damage first unveiled on Internet. On Sunday, managers of the Palace Museum confirmed the damage was caused by an accident that occurred while conducting research that involved examining the artifact with an analytical device.  Full story>>

The porcelain plate broke into 6 pieces on July 4th, when a laboratory had made a
mistake in operating the device.

The porcelain plate broke into 6 pieces on July 4th, when a laboratory had made a
mistake in operating the device.

The porcelain plate is a grade-one cultural relic from the Ge Kiln, entitled as it
looks, "Celadon Plate with a Mouth in the Shape of Mallow Petals".


Palace Museum criticized by public for breaking priceless antique

The Palace Museum in Beijing is once again being criticized by the public. After its safeguard system was broken by a theft in May, one of its researchers has since made a mistake when testing a priceless porcelain item and broke it into pieces on July 4th. Rather than informing the public at the time, the museum kept quiet about the issue until it was made public by a netizen from Sichuan.  Full story>>


Netizen: Song Dynasty porcelain in Palace Museum destroyed

A message posted on China's domestic version of Twitter called "Weibo", or micro blog, seized a lot of attention over the weekend. A netizen named Long Can revealed that a thousand year old porcelain piece collected by the Palace Museum was damaged. The museum admitted the damage one day later.  Full story>>

Porcelain plate of Ge kiln damaged by Palace Museum (File photo)


Backgrounder: Mysterious Ge kiln, distinctive porcelain

Ge kiln was one of the five most famous kilns in the Song Dynasty from the late tenth century to the late 13th century. Porcelain products from Ge kiln are among the most coveted for collectors, both for their distinctive quality and for the limited numbers of exiting pieces. It's estimated that there are no more than three hundred porcelain pieces from Ge kiln in the world.  Full story>>

Porcelain of Ge kiln (File photo)


Editor:Zhang Pengfei |Source: China Daily

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