Tang Dynasty Sculpture Presented to China This Week
Ottawa, Canada - April 20, 2001
« La sculpture de la dynastie Tang rendue à la Chine cette semaine »
Last week, the National Gallery of Canada announced its decision to return the relief sculpture Figure of an Arhat (c. 700-720 A.D.) by an unknown artist from the Tang Dynasty to China for ethical reasons. In a ceremony at the Imperial Palace Museum in Beijing yesterday, the sculpture was presented to the People's Republic of China by Pierre Théberge, Director, National Gallery of Canada and, on behalf of The Honourable Sheila Copps, Minister of Canadian Heritage, Sophia Leung, Parliamentary Secretary, National Revenue and Member of Parliament (Vancouver Kingsway).
"Our efforts to right the wrongs of the past were embraced with a warm reception at the Imperial Palace Museum today," said Pierre Théberge, Director, National Gallery of Canada in a telephone conversation from Beijing yesterday. "I was deeply moved by China's response. It was a good day for the art world and for Canada. I am very proud of the decision we made to return the sculpture."
Chinese conservators confirmed the authenticity of the 84.3 cm high limestone sculpture as a fragment of one of the full-length Louhans (Arhats in Sanscript), or Buddhist holy men, from the Longmen Grottoes in the east bank of the Yi River. The relief was carved into the Kanjing Si, a temple cave commissioned by the empress Wu Zetian who reigned in 700-720 A.D. The area is one of the great artistic complexes of China and consists of a large number of decorative grottoes and niches, many of which have been pillaged and destroyed by antiquarians in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The United Nations Educational and Cultural Organization has inscribed the Longmen Grottoes on its World Heritage List, identifying them as "an outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity." Visit UNESCO's web site at http://www.unesco.org/whc/sites/1003.htm for details.
In keeping with the Gallery's acquisitions policy to act in a responsible manner to preserve humanity's artistic heritage, the National Gallery of Canada decided that the rightful place for Figure of an Arhat is in its original home, at the Longmen Caves in China.
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