A deep bloody scar has been left in the hearts of generations of Chinese by the invasion of Old Summer Palace (Yuan Ming Yuan in Chinese) in 1860.

That is why the recent auction of fountainheads in Paris headlined almost all newspapers in China.

The two items, bronze rabbit and rat head sculptures, are of  the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and were kept in Yuan Ming Yuan.

Beijing's Imperial Summer Palace was auctioned by Christie's in Paris from Feb. 23 th to 25th. They were lost when the palace was burned down by Anglo-French allied forces during the Second Opium War in 1860.

Tens of thousands of treasures were shipped out of the country, and the fire after plundering destroyed the magnificent palace dubbed "Eastern Versailles".

Auction backlash

The still-painful memory of being bullied is quite emotional and still felt throughout China.

After news of the auction spread, many online forums were flooded with angry demands for the return of the relics.

The three main Chinese news websites reporting the story ended up with 103,798, 48,309 and 23,797 comments respectively.

On the legal front, 81 Chinese lawyers spontaneously joined forces and wrote to Christie's in an effort to stop the sale.

People will find many Chinese movies on this subject, behind which the same kind of emotion can be sensed.

These films can help an outsider to understand why the Chinese were so angry with the auction.

Reason behind the anger

One of these films is the box office blockbusters-documentary YUAN MIN YUAN, named after the Summer Palace in 2006, which earned  ¥5,000,000 (about £500,000).

This film's first half is told from the viewpoint of Giuseppe Castiglione, an Italian who arrived in China in 1714.

As the emperor's painter, he witnessed the wonders of the Yuan Min Yuan gardens.

The latter half of the film is narrated by a missionary from an Anglo-French allied army, who described the destruction of this garden, which is the miniaturised landscape of China.

A summer palace for emperors

A touched viewer wrote on his blog after watching the film, "I held the arms of the seat tightly to help me hold the feeling of being about to cry when I was watching the movie.

If I were in my youth, I would cry at that time.

It is a summer palace for emperors, but it is a work of art for those architects, the sweat of construction workers' brow and the symbol of China."

For many Chinese, the destruction of Yuan Ming Yuan was the opening that industrialized nations forced the old agricultural country to take a new road to industrialization following their rules by speedy ships and fierce fire.


Photo by Peng Hua
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The scar of China

By: Peng Hua