Stolen Buddha head finally returns home

Updated: 2016-02-27 07:57

By Wang Kaihao(China Daily)

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After two decades overseas, a stolen 1,500-year-old Buddha head returned home on Friday.

The 47-cm Buddha head belonged to a statue in a pagoda at Youju Temple in Hebei province. It was carved in white marble following an edict of Gao Rui, a royal family member from the Northern Qi Dynasty (AD 550-577).

However, the head was stolen in 1996, and the rest of the statue was later moved to Hebei Museum in the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang.

A Taiwan businessman, who wished to remain anonymous, brought the head back from overseas and in 2014 donated it to the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist temple in Kaohsiung, which was founded by Abbot Hsing Yun.

"It's fortunate, but it's also regretful," said the 89-year-old abbot. "Chinese cultural heritage has been the victim of many thefts in the last century, and Buddhism is not able to avoid it either. Nevertheless, it's fortunate that the lost head came to Fo Guang Shan."

The abbot and a group of pilgrims escorted the Buddha head across the Taiwan Straits. The body of the statue, together with the head, had been exhibited in Fo Guang Shan since May, 2015.

"It's not acceptable to see many lost national treasures of China scattered overseas," he explained. "After traveling abroad for so long and coming to Taiwan, it should go back home."

"The statue represents the highest level of statue-making techniques in the dynasty," said Liu Jianhua, an expert with the National Committee of Cultural Relics.

He said it was the only found Buddha statue with a clear record of its connection to the royal family from the Northern and Southern Dynasties period (AD 420-589), which was a zenith of Chinese Buddha statues.

"It is one of the most precious Chinese cultural relics that was lost overseas but finally returned," said Liu Shuguang, deputy director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.

The complete statue will later be permanently housed in Hebei Museum.

According to Zhang Lifang, head of the Hebei provincial administration of cultural heritage, a restoration project has been designed for the head, and it will be set back on the body and exhibited as a whole.

 Stolen Buddha head finally returns home

The body of a Buddha statue, together with the recovered head, is displayed in Fo Guang Shan Buddhist temple in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, on Monday. Zhang Guojun / Xinhua

(China Daily 02/27/2016 page4)