Wednesday 16 January 2019

China points finger over terracotta thumb theft

Ten terracotta warriors were on display at the museum
Ten terracotta warriors were on display at the museum

Neil Connor

China has demanded an American man be "severely punished" after he was alleged to have stolen a thumb from a terracotta warrior after taking a selfie with the statue while it was on display at a museum in the US.

Chinese authorities have also demanded compensation for the €3.6m exhibit, which was on display at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

Reports said that Michael Rohana (24), from Delaware, was attending an 'ugly Christmas jumper party' at the Institute on December 21 last year when he made his way into the museum's special exhibit, Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor.

China's Xinhua news agency, citing the FBI, said Rohana "used a cellular telephone as a flashlight, looked at various exhibits displayed in the then-closed showroom, stepped up onto a platform supporting one of the statues, and took a selfie with it".

"Rohana, according to the affidavit, put his hand on the left hand of the statue, appeared to break something off from the cavalryman's left hand and put it in his pocket, and then left."

Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Centre, which arranged for the loan of 10 of the statues, "strongly condemned" the theft, according to a report in the Beijing Youth Daily.

An official urged the US authorities to "seriously investigate" the incident, to "punish severely the culprit" and launch "compensation procedures".

The centre said it had loaned statues over the last 40 years but had never experienced a similar incident before.

Another group of 10 terracotta warriors are currently on display at the World Museum in Liverpool.

The statues are among 8,000 soldiers, chariots and horses which were first unearthed in 1974 in Xian, in China's north-western Shaanxi province. The terracotta army guarded the burial site of Qin Shi Huan, China's first emperor.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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