Less than 150 years ago, the magnificent
Chinese Imperial Summer Palace in Beijing was robbed and burnt
by the British and the French. At the time, more than 1000 tons
of hard drugs a year were smuggled into China by Britain, who
used the military to protect their drug trafficking interests
from the Chinese government.
300 men and women were burned alive inside
the palace. 3,500 British troops carried out the destruction and
massacre. Charles Gordon of the Royal Engineers took part. “We
went out, and after pillaging it, burned the whole place... We
got upward of 48 pounds apiece prize money... I have done
well... You can scarcely imagine the beauty and magnificence of
the places we burnt... It was wretchedly demoralizing work for
Many of the treasures were more than 3,500
The wonderful palace grounds, known as the
Garden of Perfect Brightness, were destroyed so completely that
the area was used for farmland until the 1980s. Inside the
garden, there was an amazing zodiac water clock. It consisted of
twelve bronze statues representing the signs of the Chinese
zodiac. All these statues were robbed in the attack.
The Chinese Poly Art Museum is being helped
by billionaire Stanley Ho to recover the twelve bronzes. He
bought the horse for 6.3 million pounds in 2007 and gave it to
the museum. So far, the museum has recovered the tiger, the
monkey and the ox, as well as the horse of course.
In February 2009, the rabbit and the rat
appeared in an auction at Christie’s in Paris. They had been in
the possession of French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent
until his death. The price of the statues was estimated to be
worth 8.8 million pounds!
The Chinese government tried to stop the
auction and the film star Jackie Chan was very angry. “The
statues were stolen. It was stealing yesterday and it is still
stealing today. And now we are going to lose two more pieces of
the clock to who-knows-who.”
When the auction was held at Christie’s in
Paris, the rabbit and the rat were sold for 13 million pounds!
They were bought by Cai Mingchao. But now Mr Mingchao says he
will not pay for them.
The author of Les Miserables, the great
French writer Victor Hugo, gave his opinion about the robbery
and destruction of the Chinese Imperial Summer Palace in Beijing
in 1860. “ Two robbers broke into a museum, destroying, robbing
and burning. They left together with their bags full of treasure
and laughing. One robber is called France and the other
It is now March 2009 and the rabbit and the
rat are still in France.