Sack this!

67 Comments
Distraction Free

I need to rant. I was hoping I could hold my tongue on the issue, because I know what I’m about to say will only go towards stirring even the most moderate Chinese nationalist into fenqing-edness.

But I can’t do it. This comment was the last straw.

The looted treasures from Summer Palace are legal to put into auction, so why not a pirate movies?

- Comment by From Tornto[sic]

This was in justification of the rampant DVD piracy in China, and in particular about the recent theft of X-Men Origins and its subsequent distribution in Chinese DVD shops.

Two of the Haiyantang brass sculptures
Two of the Haiyantang brass sculptures

I’m entirely fucking tired of this “looting of the Summer Palace” argument. The Haiyantang water-fountain sculptures are no more modern China’s than France’s, England’s or Fiji’s.

China, at the time, was ruled by foreign invaders — the Manchu — and the Haiyantang fountain was created for the Manchu emperor, Qianlong (1711-1799)1, and owned by him/them.

The French and the English destroyed and looted the ruling Manchu’s summer gardens. Han Chinese seem to love this “Century of Humiliation” argument and painting themselves as the victims of Western imperialism, but their humiliation started long before 1860 and from nations much closer to home.

Or does national humiliation only count if the conqueror’s skin is white? Wait, no, then we wouldn’t have all the undying anger towards the Japanese and their imperialistic cruelties.

Maybe then it is only relevent if the culture that conquored them has now been near-fully assimilated into Han culture — a la a good number of The Steppe nations?

So, if the Manchu’s clearly saw themselves as outside conquerors who were looking at maintaining land-right legitimacy based on heredity to the Mongol-ruled Yuan Dynasty (another group of foreign invaders) and not the Han-led Ming Dynasty, and the Han Chinese clearly saw the Qing as outside colonizers at least as late as the 1911 revolution that overthrew them; how then can modern China claim ownership to things taken by “imperialistic invaders” that were owned and created by “outside colonizers” with a straight face?

Now, I’m not saying I agree with or want to white wash the terribly brutal, oppressive and manipulative things European powers did over 300 years of colonial expansionism. Nor do I agree that treasures of historical importance should be sold to the highest bidder and kept in private collections.

Additionally, I completely support the return of the brass zodiac heads to Beijing. Not, however, because China has any “right” to them, but because it’s the right thing to do. This isn’t a property issue, it is a moral issue and must be dealt with, successfully or not, on moral grounds.

It is most DEFINITELY NOT a means to justify blind nationalistic fervor, the furtherance of propaganda-based “history”, nor the theft of intellectual property (indeed, from people who had no part in the sacking of the Old Summer Palace) as some sort of “get back”.

1 I understand there is debate over Qianlong being half Han Chinese. There is no argument however that he identified himself as Manchu, and that China was ruled by Manchu’s at the time the Old Summer Palace was sacked by the English and the French.

Talk on Sack this!


67 Comments
  1. I’m about as sick of reading fenqing comments as the next person (my Chinese wife included), and I agree with what you’ve written above. I’ve been wanting to write something about the fenqing cry-baby’s myself, but, I’ve been unable to remove the emotion from my writing and everything ends up being too biased. You have done a very good job of stating facts and keeping the bias out of the equation.

    I will state, however, that I can already see some fenqing commentor stating that Han, Manchu, Tang, Tibetan, etc etc etc are Chinese, so taking the statues from the Summer Palace, regardless of who was “in-charge” at the time is taking from Chinese (even though the Han people didn’t see it that way x-amount of years ago).

  2. 顶 x ∞

    and if they’re all chinese and all chinese stick together then why the hell are the uyghurs shat on at every turn. that’s in support of qarped0ne’s comment, not in opposition.

  3. I am fucking sick of this ranting on Chinese piracy issue.

    You call these who have different opinions on these IP issuse, fenqing, so what do you call yourself ranting everytime something not as good comes up? Last straw or not, it’s a valid point!!!

    Please don’t stand on your moral high piont and and rant.

  4. warped0ne

    So you don’t know that France court ruled it legal to put these items into auction recently? It’s not X amount years ago…

    if a gang looted your home and court ruled that it’s legal to sell looted items from your home, and looters demanded that you have to donate x amount of money to help gang members, I am sure you would think differently.

  5. “China, at the time, was ruled by foreign invaders — the Manchu — and the Haiyantang fountain was created for the Manchu emperor, Qianlong (1711-1799)1, and owned by him/them.”

    Ryan: Loot is loot, no fact can change looted treasures be legal to sell, action….

  6. @From Toronto: Please read my comment again and then correct your comment about “X amount of years ago…” as is, you look kind of foolish.

    In addition, I am aware that a French court gave permission to sell the really ugly looking bronze heads (something I neither condoned, nor cared about). I’m also aware that the person who made the winning bid for these really ugly bronze statues did it as a political statement and has no intention of paying what he promised (equally not cool).

    I agreed with Ryan based on the stealing is stealing train of thought. If it’s not right to sell “treasures” (aka: really ugly bronze statues), then it’s not right to pirate someone elses “treasures” (movies, music, clothing designs, etc). And just because one party does something wrong, that doesn’t mean it’s right to go do something wrong yourself (you know, 2 wrongs do not make a right). I, like a bunch of people who came to this country with high hopes and dreams of a more civilized people (based on 5000 years of time to grow up), would like to see China and the Chinese take the moral high road for once.

  7. warped0ne

    first wrong: the looting hundreds years ago
    second wrong: recent court decission

    In no way do I support the argument that A did something wrong can B do samething wrong. My point is, A and B did same “wrong”, why do people always pick B up and rant like a cry baby….

  8. warped0ne

    first wrong: the looting hundreds years ago
    second wrong: recent court decission

    In no way do I support the argument that A did something wrong can B do samething wrong. My point is, A and B did same “wrong”, why do people always pick B up and rant like a cry baby….

    —“I agreed with Ryan based on the stealing is stealing train of thought. If it’s not right to sell “treasures” (aka: really ugly bronze statues), then it’s not right to pirate someone elses “treasures” (movies, music, clothing designs, etc). ”

    Can I read your logic like this:
    the French court ruled it RIGHT to sell, then it’s right to pirate,

  9. @From Toronto: You can read “my logic” anyway you’d like to, but you seem to be ommitting the fact that I said the following,

    “I am aware that a French court gave permission to sell the really ugly looking bronze heads (something I neither condoned, nor cared about).”

    Condone: to pardon or forgive

    If I don’t condone something, then I’m not pardoning it as right, or forgiving the fact that it was done.

    When I said I didn’t care about it, I meant that it’s such a trivial issue that I didn’t think making an international fuss was necessary. If plans for a new, top secret fighter jet were stolen from the military, then I could see an international fuss being made, but these are just ugly, old bronze statues from rulers that China hated so much they were removed from their thrown.

    So, I’ll stick with my previous statement that I neither condone (do not approve), nor care that Christie’s is selling something that was stolen 200 years ago from rulers the Chinese people didn’t even want.

  10. warped0ne:

    Ugly or not is not relevant here. Only thing relevant is right or wrong.

    How convenient it is for you to selectively favor one and rant the other.

  11. @From Toronto: Please stop leaving your responses in multiple comments – particularly when they are addressed to the same individual.

    Your argument’s logic is so flawed it is barely worth mentioning. But well – my dog got me up early, I’ve not had my coffee and you’re sorta pissing me off.

    You’re absolutely right when you say “Only thing relevant is right or wrong” – and, you’re absolutely wrong.

    There may be an argument against what I ranted about above, or about what warped0ne said – as is the way with such things – but you’re not hitting it.

    In fact, you’re so far off I’m having trouble even understanding your point.

    I *think* you are arguing that because France and England stole cultural artifacts 150 years ago that were located in China, a Canadian today can’t bring up the issue of China having rampant disregard for intellectual property rights.

    Problem is, as much as Fenqing geography seems to be made up of only: “China”, “Jap Bastards” and “Everyone Else”. There are a good number of other countries out there and they all are independently responsible for their own actions. So, how exactly is it right for China to steal from a nation that isn’t even involved in the Haiyantang/Christie’s/France argument? I mean, if it was French movies – you might have a point – but that’s a BIG might.

    And here’s why:
    1. The France of today is very different than the France of 150 years ago. We’re talking about actions six generations ago. Your grandfather’s grandfather. Holding a nation up for actions of such a long time ago doesn’t make much sense. It has no end, and arguing so opens up the debate of Qing-led legitimacy to large swaths of what is *now* considered part of China. Time passes, the world changes and moves on.
    2. France (and England) did not steal from the Chinese – they stole from the Manchu rulers – not Chinese. Lets put this into some (slightly) more modern terms. During the 1930s Japan conquered what is now 东北, and though they installed Puyi as a puppet, they were very much its rulers. Suppose they had constructed some Shinto statue displaying the glory and might of Japan and neglected to take it with them while they were running away from the advancing Russian army. Suppose that statue had then been looted (from the Japanese) by the Russians and now resided in St. Petersburg. Can you actually argue that China would have a *right* to it simply on the basis that 东北 is now ruled by Chinese?

    Or, here’s another arbitrary, but more modern, example. I live in China. I have a damn nice computer. Some damn Italian dude (sorry Italy, you really are a beautiful country full of beautiful people – but I need a European nation for this stupid argument) breaks into my house and steals my computer. Would China then have a right to complain to Italy that she stole China’s computer?

    Of course not. Italy didn’t steal my computer, the Italian dude did. The computer wasn’t China’s, it was a Canadian’s. The only thing attaching these events is that it happened on Chinese soil. But that’s just not enough.

    I suspect you will continue to do your countrymen a disservice and continue forwarding an argument large in ignorance and small in intelligence. Have at it.

  12. Looted art… Let’s put it this way. Many countries do not care about these two heads, simply because they have even bigger problems than China. Let’s talk about Russia for example and their “trophy art” collected by the Red Army during, and right after, the WWII. Not even German artefacts, but also Eastern European and of Holocaust victims(!) was looted by the eager Stalin’s agents on his orders. As for Soviets at that time it was not really too clear, where Germany started and/or ended. Why China needs to be special, when there are countless museums, galleries and families who can’t get their 5 minutes of fame?

    Maybe in the future, one of the owners of these statues will decide to give them back to Chinese people and Kremlin will do the same to, at least some, of their so-called “trophy art”. What would the new owners in Beijing then do, if a new finding would find its way to the public, that the bronze used to build the sculptures was used from melting old, precious Vietnamese bronze artefacts, looted in some old, distant war long time ago… History has proven to do dirty tricks on us in the past and it will in the future.

  13. Well I for one think “From Toronto” has a great point.

    In fact, China pillaged and set up my ancestral homeland 缅甸 as a tributary state X number of years ago. So I feel it’s perfectly within my right to head down to the local brothel, sleep with a bunch of girls, and sneak out the back without paying. After that I’m going to grab me a mean dish of jiaozi, and walk out without paying for that to. It’s only fair right? I mean we had to pay them so much for nothing back then, I think I’m perfectly within my right.

  14. In all honestly, this kind of reminds me of what happened with the black community and Latin/Middle Eastern store owners in Detriot during the Coleman Young Era. The whole “slave” issue fell on deaf ears when shoplifters and other troublemakers ran into folks that didn’t really want to bother with trials or police reports – and just busted some heads.

    Cripes, I can still hear the Detroit City Council screaming “Majority Minority”…

  15. “the Han Chinese clearly saw the Qing as outside colonizers at least as late as the 1911 revolution that overthrew them;”

    There was no concept of a han race in the 1860s. It wasn’t invented until later by western-educated reformist intellectuals who used it as a way to fight against the Qing and foreign powers of the time.

    It’s a mistake to look back on past events and attribute people with nationalist sentiment when there was none. Chinese at that time had no concept of a Chinese nation in the modern sense which is sometimes so beautifully articulated by the fenqing. They certainly didn’t give a damn about the summer palace, much less a couple of statue heads.

    Anyways, this doesn’t mean that those statues shouldn’t be ‘returned’.

  16. Profile photo of

    @Ryan II: Hope you don’t mind, but I needed to change your name to something a bit more unique so as not to confuse you with myself. I hate when I do that.

  17. @curator re the vietnamese statues thing, i totally agree. but it does end. it ends arbitrarily at the time that is the most beneficial time to stop. as i often witness, the argument seems to go as follows: [insert chinese province/artifact/whatever past or present] belonged to china in year Y. of course it belonged to ___ in year X and someone else in Z, but shut up. it was china’s in Y and so is a rightful part of china.

    agreed on wishing to write more like ryan.

  18. A country that rule it legal to sale looted items from other coutry is any different from the country that did that actural dirty work?

  19. What a load of logically inconsistent crap!

    Chinese as a concept especially in the realm of ethnicity and nationality can have somewhat different edges between people even at this very moment. It surely stands for VERY different ideas in different historical moments. As time passed, history unfolded — unknown future events became known historical events, older generations died off and newer generations were born, the inclusiveness of people as a group gradually shifted. You CANNOT use a historical meaning of such concept to apply to today’s context.

    To make it easier to understand, let’s look at the concept of Americans that certainly are different from 1776, 1882, 1943 to today. If you base on the words or ideas of some Americans in 1882, which by the way was the start of the Chinese Exclusion Act, to define what are considered Americans, and apply that to today, you certainly can make a whole lot more interesting but utterly nonsensical observations as well.

    Now back to the arguments you made. Manchu was foreign in 1642 to the Chinese in 1642, but they weren’t so to the Chinese in 2009. Well even in the 1630s there were already a lot of Hans in the Manchu armies but that’s a historical lesson beyond the topics in hand now. Heck there are still quite some full blood Manchus (verifiable to the 1600s), why don’t you ask them?

    The Haiyantang water-fountain sculptures are no more modern China’s than France’s, England’s or Fiji’s.

    “Ryan owns this domain” is an air-tight 100% correct statement. Modern China is the rightful owner of those bronze animal heads is somewhat less than 100% accurate. However, somewhat less than 100% isn’t 0%. How the heck you compare to England or Fiji?

    The France of today is very different than the France of 150 years ago. We’re talking about actions six generations ago.

    Yet the France took a large sum of war indemnities back home (and then a lot more in the subsequent years with other countries). The money otherwise would’ve been invested in generations in education, infrastructure, etc. in China, went to France instead. Then one day a young man in China wakes up and realizes that despite he innately no less intelligent that his French peer and certainly working much harder, gets less in life… Do you see where the anger comes from? Not seeing it and getting angry over it, my friend, is a sign that you may be just another version of fenqing. Don’t get me wrong, the past wrongs can’t be righted, without creating more wrongs. We ought to live our own lives the most out of whatever we have. But please, for the hell sake, develops just a hair basic sense of the ability of standing in somebody else’s shoes.

    Lets put this into some (slightly) more modern terms. During the 1930s Japan conquered what is now 东北…

    The difference is we aren’t living in the parallel universe that Japanese successfully ruled the whole China for centuries and irreversibly change the future concept Chinese, in this parallel universe.

    Look, I think much less some of the comments by fenqing’s than yours, and your blog is kind of interesting. But honestly your whole piece is nothing more than a lot of shifting different concepts based on a same word, and hopping between what-if parallel universes whenever fits your points.

  20. i think this is a good exchange, but JXie’s argument brings us around to the larger point, and I hope it won’t seem too reaching to take it there… Even if China could have spent stolen money on things for China, the Communist Party over the last 60 years steadily destroyed all of its own cultural and monetary gains, only to work at restoring the money (forget culture) for the last 30.

    Every nation uses patriotism to distract from domestic failures; this does not mean that all patriotism is misplaced, of course — I myself am rather fond of a certain government with checks and balances and self-evident rights written into their founding papers — but it’s almost a sure bet with modern powers, be it the U.S., Russia, China, or anything smaller, that patriotism is a veil for suppression at home and overreaching abroad. Over recent years, we’ve all been watching the Chinese government hop from one historical injury to another, playing the victim while it revs its people up for the economic beatdown of our lives. It’s a tactic, not an argument, and it seems fairly effective.

    The arguments themselves become so frustrating because we can’t seem to address that larger sense that all of these issues are manufactured, if not in their facts then in the push-button ire that turns them into national causes overnight. It still seems worth trying to deal with them, though, because we worry what kind of nation China will be over time.

    Almost every other nation on Earth has moved on from old grievances. China is the only country, especially of any near its size, that constantly forces the world to face historical and civilizational claims, reminding us how badly it’s been hurt and how much it wants back. The reality, however, is that in the last century China has hurt itself worse than anyone else could have dreamed.

    If I, as a father, were the cause of my own family’s misery, I wouldn’t cast back to blame someone before me. I’m sure my family would find it more comforting to blame another person, who had made things hard for me, than to blame their own father, but that would only be wishful thinking. Even if I felt desperate after my own failures (if such crimes could be described so forgivingly), and tried everything to turn things around for my family, it would only be reasonable if my sons cast me out and tried to begin anew. That’s what the best father would do — he would make way for the next generation to live less burdened by the past. In China, there is a custom of seeing leaders as gentle parents, people who have secrets and hidden histories, but who nonetheless look out for their own. But governments are not fathers or grandfathers. As long as everyday Chinese people insist they are, they give a place to leaders who should have departed long ago, and they will stay a miserable family.

  21. Mr. McLaughlin:

    I always thought that people like me who adopted other country as second homeland would try best to accustom the new culture, new customs, instead of jumping around to judge others while his own pant full of shit. I am always grateful that Canada gives me something different, and I though you would be the same.

    Yes, I was wrong. You are no differnt than those China bashers. You are just someone that regard selling/buying something stloen RIGHT, though you came from a country where buying /selling stolen thing is commiting crime.

  22. @Kellen: I live in this country long enough to know that this not uncommon for these arguments to happen. Thank you for your comments.

    @letssaybob: I second to that. Great post!

    @From toronto: You presume you live in Toronto, Canada and you are very proud of it. How do you feel living and supporting the very same people/nation that “looted” that area from Native Indians, some very long time ago? It must be very hard on you to live in such circumstances. But, wait… where you could move? Unfortunately, every country in the world was created on someone’s misfortune. That’s all, let’s live with that. Please read @letssaybob comments: “Every nation uses patriotism to distract from domestic failures”. Now we have recession, there are many unfortunate that lost their jobs, in China alone several million of them, so let’s focus on something else. These two animal heads won’t help anybody, they won’t bring the world from recession, they won’t give jobs to the unemployed, they won’t bring back demolished old, historical buildings, they won’t bring back the dead and they certainly won’t change world’s order. So far they only brought some misery to us: even though we have never seen them, we are arguing over them and they surely did not help raise enough money for AIDS research.

  23. Profile photo of

    @Mr. From Toronto (if that is, indeed, your real name): And the fenqing has reached for his last crooked arrow – that any criticism of a place must mean I hate the place. A lack of total acceptance and agreement must mean total opposition and ungratefulness. You’re a fool and China’s better off without you and your nonsensical, blind patriotism.

    @JXie: I think we’re using the same premise, history, to back up different ideas.

    Now back to the arguments you made. Manchu was foreign in 1642 to the Chinese in 1642, but they weren’t so to the Chinese in 2009. Well even in the 1630s there were already a lot of Hans in the Manchu armies but that’s a historical lesson beyond the topics in hand now. Heck there are still quite some full blood Manchus (verifiable to the 1600s), why don’t you ask them?

    Ask them what? “Are you Chinese?” I’m fairly certain they would say yes. The handful of 满族 left, like most minorities, have been indoctrinated and marginalized to better fit into modern China’s vision of itself. China’s not unique in this by any means (go-go Fenqing blocker).

    You’re right that there were many non-Manchus in the Manchu ranks, but we’re not talking about how Manchu’s used Han disloyalty to the Ming to suit their militaristic aims, nor how Manchus frequently kept Han slaves. There was definite mixing between the cultures on a physical level (as would be expected of any nations living so close to each other) – but I doubt there was any blurring of racial identity. Everything from before 1644 up to 1911 seems to indicate that the Manchu’s clearly saw themselves as a completely unique (and superior) group to the indigenous population they were ruling.

    Yet the France took a large sum of war indemnities back home (and then a lot more in the subsequent years with other countries). The money otherwise would’ve been invested in generations in education, infrastructure, etc. in China, went to France instead.

    I thought you were going somewhere with your argument, but you seem to have lost the plot. Nothing before or after the sacking occurred (either in 1860 or with “other countries” in 1900) indicated that the Manchu-ruled government had any plans of using its wealth in general, or the Haiyantang fountain specifically, to educate the plebes. In fact, so much the opposite seems true.

    I think I understand the point you’re trying to make. You’re trying to get me to see the “why” of the irrational anger springing forth from Chinese nationals towards foreign aggression and insult. I understand it, I truly do – but it’s wrong. It’s wrong for all the reasons letssaybob indicated above.

    It’s wrong simply because China’s ills are not the world’s fault. And that’s exactly what the Christie’s auction was turned into – a giant statement of that mentality.

    As I indicated in my original post, I believe the heads should be returned to China – but that it’s an ethical question for the current owner. The nationalists aren’t saying “should”, they’re saying “must”. The latter implies ownership, the former concedes that China has no “right” to the property, but that they are part of a greater piece of art that would benefit from their return.

    But honestly your whole piece is nothing more than a lot of shifting different concepts based on a same word, and hopping between what-if parallel universes whenever fits your points.

    There was no “fiction” other than a random Shinto shrine in my follow-up comment, so not sure where the “parallel universes” bit comes from. As for the rest – that’s called rephrasing for clarity, and consistency of concept. Of course, perhaps I should adopt a more “self-importance with no point” approach. But then, it didn’t work for you, did it?

  24. Letsgobob, very apt comment. History has happened already, so all what-if questions are sort of like mental masturbation that will never quite get you fully satisfied. But consider this, Mao had only 7 years of formal education, despite being supposedly the smartest kid in his town. Had China not been so desperately poor and widely uneducated in the early to mid-1900s, the communist revolution, especially the ravaging Cultural Revolution likely wouldn’t have happened in China. If you will, China had been largely in a negative feedback loop.

    Personally tend to think that sense of victimhood will go away when the living standard in China catches up. It’s certainly understandable the lingering fear outside of China that at that time, China may be powerful enough to be hellbent to right the past wrongs. However,

    1. Historically China has never been very much into extremism, at least in the last 2000 years or so.
    2. We all (Chinese or non-Chinese) have no control over the history, but good control over the future. Everything is a 2-way street. I certainly hope Ryan’s blog helps the cause not hurts it.

    The last paragraph — I applaud your sense of personal accountability. We need more of that in the world today.

  25. Profile photo of

    @Curator: Well said.

    @JXie: Equally well said. Your point about China catching up and then getting over its penchants for being the victim in all things is very valid. However, it feels like you’re blaming foreign aggression in the 19th Century for China’s poor education and lack of modernization. This simply isn’t true.

  26. The handful of 满族 left, like most minorities, have been indoctrinated and marginalized to better fit into modern China’s vision of itself.

    Actually Manchu started most of that. Manchu quickly started full Sinification once it controlled the whole China. The acid test for the attractiveness of a civilization is when foreign invaders overrun your nation, they end up assuming your cultural identity.

    Nothing before or after the sacking occurred (either in 1860 or with “other countries” in 1900) indicated that the Manchu-ruled government had any plans of using its wealth in general, or the Haiyantang fountain specifically, to educate the plebes. In fact, so much the opposite seems true.

    The war indemnities toward the latter days got especially large. In the case of the Boxer Rebellion and the first Sino-Japanese War, both were worth some 10 times of Qing’s total annual taxation. The Qing Court didn’t produce the money — the average Chinese families did. The direct result was much heavier tax on average Chinese from the middle 1800s to early 1900s. Actually if you end up spending time to study some Chinese families’ history, almost universally they got poorer between 1840 to 1920, during which there was generational decline in education.

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    @JXie: Regarding Manchu Sinification – most, if not all, Steppe invaders cum rulers of China did just that going as far back as the Northern Wei, 1500 years ago. I can’t say for certain if it’s for the overall benefit of a people to shed their heritage for a “better one” when it comes along, but I tend to think it is. The nomadic and rather war-torn Steppe people (at least at the time) certainly gained from the then much-advanced Chinese culture.

    I think that’s a bit different than a non-ruling class that is subjected to Sinification.

  28. Curator:

    The point here is not the looted animal heads, the point here is the legalization of selling looted animal heads.

  29. Since the statues were designed by some Italian guy, I think they belong to the Italian government. The fact they are not in Italy is hurtful to the feelings of Italians. hehe.

    @From Toronto,

    It’s a lot more complicated than saying “they stole it from us, and now they won’t give it back.” You are completely overlooking all the individuals involved and treating China and France as if they are two timeless, organic, living, breathing entities. So, instead of getting worked up and letting your nationalism destroy your thinking, you should consider the whole picture. Though actually maybe not, having a simplistic black/white world view might be more fun!

    There are plenty of Chinese with private art collections around the world, and who knows how they got it? That probably doesn’t make you mad though because they have ‘Chinese blood’, right?

    Anyways, I do think it would be good for those statues be brought back to Beijing and there are a lot of good arguments for doing so but the real story is the knee-jerk, childish, angry, nationalistic backlash these statue heads have causes.

  30. I really don’t understand one thing here: Physical property is being compared to intellectual property.

    By consuming or possessing physical property another party is directly prevented from consuming/possessing it themselves.

    By copying intellectual property another party is not prevented from consuming/possessing it.

    This is an important distinction. Having a DVD player stolen deprives me of a DVD player – this is theft, making a movie and having someone copy it does not necessarily deprive me of a sale (and ignores social benefits of ‘free’), I therefore have a conceptually difficult understanding of it as ‘theft’ (sadly the MPAA/RIAA astroturf this distinction far too much).

    Is it OK to copy intellectual property? There is a wealth of literature on this which has reached one inconclusive answer: it is unclear.

    Without recognising this distinction, both arguments seem somewhat flawed.

  31. @From Toronto: “legalization of selling looted animal heads”, please look at my ealier post about “trophy art” in Russia. Why China has to be treated special when the Holocaust victims cannot claim their possesions “liberated” by the Red Army and hold in warehouses around Moscow? How about something more recent? Posessions & arts __________ (‘looted’ or ‘nationalized’, fill in the blank) world-wide by many governments/militias/etc.? Solve the problems of the last century, then move on to something that happened in 1860… Long way to go, not in our lifetimes, I’m afraid.

    Move on, forget the heads, they are not worth it. There are better problems to be solved.

  32. @JXie “The war indemnities toward the latter days got especially large. In the case of the Boxer Rebellion and the first Sino-Japanese War, both were worth some 10 times of Qing’s total annual taxation. The Qing Court didn’t produce the money — the average Chinese families did.”

    The first Sino-Japanese war and the Boxer Rebellion where insignificant in the grand scheme of things. You are just more sensitive to atrocities if they are committed by foreigns instead of your own.

    In my opinion, the events that most ruined China and most effected the lives of Chinese in the last 200 years;

    Taiping War (20-30 million dead, largest war ever besides WW1&WW2)
    Japanese Occupation/War (20-25 million dead)
    Chinese Civil War (5 million dead)
    Early years of the CCP ( a lot*)

    These are the big events that had real effects on the lives of the majority of Chinese people. Burning of the summer palace, the opium wars, the boxer rebellion ect., are all flashy and very popular, but completely incomparable in scale to the Taiping war, which no one in the world gives a damn about. Seriously, is there anything in the whole of China even dedicated to that war, besides a tiny museum in Nanjing? No one cares that it was as bad if not worst than the Japanese invasion… I am upset that 3rd bloodiest war in history being wiped away from history while something as meaningless as the burning of the summer palace is still making headlines!

    Anyway, I know the feeling of victimization deeply ingrained into the Chinese self-identity consistently focuses on the atrocities committed by foreigners while ignoring those committed by Chinese. Bringing up the summer palace instantly triggers a connection to everything bad that has ever happened to China so that’s why you get this kind of deep reaction from people.

  33. Ryan 2, you are right the Taipin War is right up there in terms of damage. But you aren’t hearing me even in the portion you quoted me, it’s never about the burning, the killing, or the perceived loss of face, which btw I don’t give a fuck that many years later. It’s the literal loss of money, and a gigantic shit load of it (need to speak this with a megaphone to you). The draining wasn’t limited to the Qing Court’s fiscal balance, which was so bad that it had to start amortizing everything including mining rights to foreigners to pay off the war debts; more importantly it put a huge burden on average Chinese families with much heavier taxation in decades.

    Look, at a personal level discussing what might’ve been for an event 150 years ago is nuts. But if anybody I blame, is the Qing Court in the 1840s. It should have never given in to the British invaders. It could’ve lost the battles like Romans facing Hannibal, but if it had dug in and even moved the capital if needed, the British invasion would surely have been defeated. But had the history happened in a different way, my grand parents or my parents wouldn’t have met so what’s the point?

  34. @ JXie

    True that! Definitively agree with you.

    I just really wanted to make that point that the wars I mentioned, especially the Taiping, had a bigger affect on ordinary people’s lives than some of the economic plundering by imperialists. I’m just tired of hearing non-stop about the summer palace and so little about the Taiping war which was going on at the same time.

    I really like your part about your grand parents not meeting. Our history is the only one available to us!

  35. There’s a much more simple way of putting this: ‘Tornto’ is talking bollocks, and using an argument which NO-ONE in any position of power takes seriously. Much more often you will hear the argument that piracy is actually the creation of westerners, or that the DVD pirates are actually foreigners, or that piracy takes place everywhere. Believe me, I have been to conferences on IP enforcement and heard all of them.

  36. Nice post Ryan. Always enjoy your writings. This post (and the comments) is even more intellectually stimulating than previous ones. Let me give my take on this. The main basis of your rationale is it was the Manchu’s stuff anyway and since Manchu and Chinese are different groups, why complain? From what I understand when the looting occured, the British and French forces at the time did plunder a lot of stuff. And certainly this include antiques and relics way before the Qing Dynasty, which was robbed by the Manchus (outside colonizers) from the Chinese.

    Well if this logic behind this assumption holds true, let me make an analogy. You’ve been living in the house for 50 years (1000 B.C. to 1614 A.D.), then on the 51st year a gang (the Manchus) broke into your house and took your wive(s), children, and belongings. After 5 years (1614 A.D. to 1912 A.D.) of struggling and fighting you prevailed (the Manchus was overthrown by the Chinese nationalists). But you now discover that your wives, children and stuff that the robbers took from you was taken by another mob (British and French)! More so, they are even pimping your wives and belongings to the highest bidders! Now this certainly hurts. Personally, if something like this happened to me, I have the right and reason to rant or be angry.

    So come on, cut the Chinese some slack.

  37. Profile photo of

    @Joe: It’s a valid argument, but only if the brass heads hadn’t been constructed for the Qing/Manchu Qianlong emperor, which they were.

  38. @ryan, Yeah agreed. But I don’t think the Chinese are angry just because of this two stupid brass knuckleheads. Its the humiliation. These two statutes are just a manifestation of that.

    Well but when you fought hard and prevailed and got back into your house, you would want to keep the Manchus’ belongings to yourself don’t you? Imagine those hot Manchu wives that you were about to set your hands on… I will be fuming to discover that my enemy’s treasure are all taken by another mob along with mine. In this case my enemy’s enemy is not my friend.

  39. “From Toronto” – Fenqing in a wolf’s clothing. Ignoring them is better than responding directly to them. Anyone with actual life experience and a brain could read their posts and see the faults in their logic. The relative few who cannot/couldn’t, well, do they matter? Rebel the ming & restore the qing! Ethnicity in China is only relevant when people run out of actual, substantial facts to back up their arguments. Point out that the “Chinese” killed more of their own during the cultural revolution than the Japanese did during World War II (racistly labeled “The Chinese War Against Japanese aggression,” in the PRC, because, “the Philippinos, Islanders, Burmese, Thais, etc. don’t count. They’re waiguoren!!!!” in some very mentally disturbed, uneducated, racist, xenophobic, primitive fenqing eyes), and all of the sudden that collectivist argument becomes a moot point.

    Bizarre.

    Ignore the Fenqing, Ryan. By the way, Kyle Davis beat you to the punch with this post, on his China blof:

    http://www.kyle.cn/2009/02/talk-about-some-twisted-propaganda.html

  40. When I was 6, my sister punched me in the face and knocked a tooth out of my mouth. When I went to school the next day, I told everyone I had a bicycle accident because I was too ashamed/humiliated to admit my little, 3 year old sister had done this.

    Now that I’m 31, I don’t feel any humiliation at all in the fact that this happened. After all, it was 25 years ago, there’s nothing I can do about it now. In fact, by knocking out that baby tooth, she actually helped me out because I had an adult tooth that came up in that same, toothless spot, about 6 months later.

    In comparison, when the French and British kicked the shite out of the Manchu lead armies in 1860, they weakened an already weak army who was too scattered from fighting the Taiping, among several other internal conflicts, and strengthened the Qing government’s enemies who eventually ousted Emperor Piyu and took control.

    From most of what I’ve read, the Qing government was most hated because of their inability to deal with the colonial powers (France, England, Russia, Japan, whoever else you want to lump in here). Had colonialism never been a problem, the Qing would have been much stronger, and though they most likely would have eventually collapsed anyway, it may have taken many more years to happen.

    Anyway, my thoughts are, yes something was stolen/looted from within the borders of what is now modern day China, that’s what happens in the aftermath of any conflict. However, if the events that led up to the looting of the Summer Palace had never occured, then modern China could have been a much different place to day.

  41. I can’t believe this thread has turned into a discussion of the looting when the original point was surely that there is no connection between DVD piracy and the Yuanmingyuan, and that anyone who argues that there is, or that one excuses the other, is BRAIN DEAD.

    As for the rest, I have only ever heard it called ‘the anti-Japanese war’, and the Chinese are not wrong to focus on their role in it, but perhaps should rethink some of the talk of having won it ‘almost single-handedly’ when the actual surrender followed 1) the Russian invasion and 2) the dropping of the atomic bombs. The Yuanmingyuan artefacts were looted, and China should certainly think about buying them back, but there was nothing wrong in their being auctioned.

    All these ridiculous arguments that start “Imagine if someone broke into . . . ” are sheer hot air. The real example should be “imagine if your grandfather’s grandfather had some articles stolen from his overlord which were then auctioned 150 years later”. Let alone the fact that the entire nation of China seems to have forgotten that there are still plenty of people alive today who had every single item of property confiscated and redistributed following 1949. Somehow the argument “imagine if the party which currently ruled over you was brought to power in a wave of bloodshed in which your father/grandfather was executed as a landlord and all of the family land and property was confiscated . . .” never seems to occur to any of the posters, even though it would in many cases be 100% correct.

    Take the example of a good friend of mine whose father had been a compradore in Shanghai before 1949 and who was executed by the communist army following their capture of the city, and who afterwards had all their property confiscated. Only now have they managed to rebuild their family’s wealth – from scratch. Why do you never see the argument made along these lines – “imagine your father was declared an enemy of state and summarily executed by a communist army, all your property was seized, and forty years later they still refused to return what was taken – but instead tried to complain about something which happened 150 years ago whilst forcing the entire population to celebrate the victory which led to your father’s death as a ‘liberation'”.

  42. Putting this another way, in Yangzhou there is a famous museum called the ‘He Yuan’ because it was once the property of the He family, but which was confiscated after 1949 along with much of its contents. When I visit this museum, does the money from my ticket go to whatever remains of the He family? Why not?

    Another example – every time I go to Shanghai I like to stay in the Astor House Hotel (浦江饭店). When I stay there, does the money I give them go to the pre-1949 owners or to the current ones?

    What about the rest of the Bund?

    What about the buildings in the former international zone in Nanjing – all of them seized from their former owners after 1949?

    If you can accommodate yourself to a government seizing the property of its citizens without compensation, often accompanied by the execution of the former ‘landlord’ owners, how many more moral compromises will you make?

  43. @Joe Thong – Why? Period.

    The CCP seized the property of millions, without compensation, and often executed the former owners. This is not ‘CCP v. KMT’, the CCP took the property of people of all political denominations.

    Shouldn’t the CCP return what was taken? Or at least compensate the former owners?

    So, imagine if your friend had his father murdered by political extremists who then seized all of your friend’s property without compensation or apology, and then let it out to others in return for money . . . .

  44. @foarp, well to see the difference. Pls go to your good friend who lost his father when the communists executed him, ask him what he thinks of this stupid looted treasure issue. Ask him if he thinks that they should go to the British/French or the Chinese ppl. I don’t think he would say the British/French in good conscience. I think if you take this issue even to the people in Taiwan or HK, they wouldn’t side with the British/French. That is why you can see ppl like Jackie Chan joining in the “fight” to the amusement of the foreigners.

  45. @Joe Thong – My friend thinks that the whole thing is stupid, or at least did last time I asked him – he is of the opinion that things like this are done to take people’s minds off domestic problems. He is a very worldly man who went overseas to study in the early eighties, and who has worked in the UK and the US. Likewise, most of the people I know on Taiwan don’t think this issue is important – they don’t hold strong opinions on it – but then most of my friends in Taiwan don’t think much of the 426’s anyway.

    So which is more important, two statues which were looted more than 150 years ago, or billions of dollars worth in property confiscated from people who are still alive?

  46. French lawmakers reject online downloading bill that would have cut off access
    Article Comments (20) SCOTT SAYARE

    Associated Press

    April 9, 2009 at 9:28 AM EDT

    PARIS — French lawmakers unexpectedly rejected a bill today that would have cut off the Internet connections of people who repeatedly download music or films illegally.

    The bill would have also created the world’s first government agency to track and punish those who steal music and film on the Internet. The music and film industry had supported the bill, aimed at boosting revenue for their struggling sector and cracking down on illegal downloading. Critics said it would be too tough to apply and encroach on freedoms.

    The country’s Senate had approved an earlier version of the bill. New measures were added in the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, which passed it last week after a month of contentious debate.

    Today, lawmakers from both houses met to approve the final wording. The bill had widely been expected to pass, and few people showed up to take part in the vote, apparently assuming it was a foregone conclusion.

    Instead, when the near-empty National Assembly held a vote, the bill was rejected by a vote of 21-15. Most of those voting were opposition Socialists, who had opposed the measure from the outset.

    “It’s an immense joy,” said Socialist legislator Patrick Bloche.

    The government was not giving up, however, and planned to resubmit the measure to both houses of parliament after legislators return from their Easter break on April 27, said Roger Karoutchi, the junior minister in charge of the government’s relations with the parliament.

    Under the legislation, users would receive e-mail warnings for their first two identified offences, a certified letter for the next, and would have their Web connection cut for any subsequent illegal downloads. “It’s absolutely innovative,” said Professor Pierre-Yves Gautier, an Internet law expert at the University Pantheon-Assas in Paris.

    Music labels, film distributors and artists — who have seen CD and DVD sales in France plummet 60 per cent in the past six years — hailed the bill as a decisive step toward eliminating online piracy and an example to other governments.

    But some French activists and legislators say the law would represent a Big Brother intrusion on civil liberties. Other opponents note that users downloading from public Wi-Fi hotspots or using masked IP addresses might be impossible to trace.

    They say the law also misses the point, by targeting traditional downloads at a time when online streaming is taking off, for example.

    “It will, in any case, be completely impossible to apply,” said Jeremie Zimmerman, co-ordinator of the Quadrature du Net, a Paris-based Internet activist group that opposes the bill. “It is a bad response to a false problem.”

    French Culture Minister Christine Albanel has said the law “doesn’t aim to completely eradicate” illegal downloads, but rather to “contribute to a raising of consciousness” among offenders.

    “There needs to be an experiment,” said Mr. Gautier, the Internet law expert, noting plummeting entertainment industry profits. “Frankly, it’s worth it.”

  47. From Toronto: What was that article supposed to show? First you are bashing the French for allowing 2 bronze statues to be sold in public auction, now your praising them for not introducing legislation to stop intellectual property piracy?

    Make up your mind, man.

  48. Putting this another way, in Yangzhou there is a famous museum called the ‘He Yuan’ because it was once the property of the He family, but which was confiscated after 1949 along with much of its contents. When I visit this museum, does the money from my ticket go to whatever remains of the He family? Why not?

    Another example – every time I go to Shanghai I like to stay in the Astor House Hotel (浦江饭店). When I stay there, does the money I give them go to the pre-1949 owners or to the current ones?

    What about the rest of the Bund?

    What about the buildings in the former international zone in Nanjing – all of them seized from their former owners after 1949?

    If you can accommodate yourself to a government seizing the property of its citizens without compensation, often accompanied by the execution of the former ‘landlord’ owners, how many more moral compromises will you make?
    Because the Hes and their ilk were parasite filth whose palatial residence represented the accumulated theft of generations given the gloss of legality by the rotten polity of which they were no doubt a local mainstay. Let’s not even discuss the imperialist scum of pre-1949 Shanghai.
    Property is, famously, theft. If you can accommodate yourself to a class stealing from its fellow citizens to live in luxury while those around them starve, then piss and moan after the inevitable correction comes, how many more moral compromises will you make?

  49. @Hong Wei Bing – Thank you for the communist diatribe – and I do believe that that is game, set, and match. If the statues did not belong to the Qing royal family, then they could not be stolen. If the statues were not in government possession pre-1949, then in what way did they become property of the PRC government? By what right could the government of the PRC claim them now?

    “Property is, famously, theft. If you can accommodate yourself to a class stealing from its fellow citizens to live in luxury while those around them starve, then piss and moan after the inevitable correction comes, how many more moral compromises will you make?

    Since it is, in large part, the policy of the current PRC government to allow exactly this, under cover of a ‘market socialism’ which is nothing of the kind, when are you predicting that the ‘inevitable correction’ will take place?

  50. Personally, I don’t give a monkey’s about those baubles; I was prompted to comment by frankly your fatuous defence of robbery on supposed moral grounds. Perhaps your capitalist education has stunted your basic humanity.
    Since it is, in large part, the policy of the current PRC government to allow exactly this, under cover of a ‘market socialism’ which is nothing of the kind, when are you predicting that the ‘inevitable correction’ will take place?
    Not for some time, I fear – the fake communists have succeeded in creating a reasonably robust corporatist state and if their welfare reforms such as the new health plan work at all, one with a sufficient veneer of social progress to mask the true agenda. Coupled with the enormous difficulties of civil society organising effectively under the well-honed control apparatus, a general collapse is more likely than a correction in the near term. But it’s a long game, and as we all know, the choice between communism or barbarism will eventually have to be made.

  51. I suppose I should also add, that I was educated in a school run by a council dominated by the Trotskyite ‘Militant Tendency’, where the teachers went on strike in sympathy with the miners. Such was their insistence on ideological purity (or, perhaps, cronyism) that they chose a former inmate of a lunatic asylum to run our school based on her beliefs. My grandfather was a member of the communist party, and did not hesitate to talk (at great length) about his opinions. Such was my ‘capitalist education’.

  52. @FOARP:

    So you don’t see the connection in the article, Re: IP?

    I expected those China bashers would jump on it to rant on the abuse of Copyrights.

  53. From Toronto, you need to realize that the majority of people posting here are not China bashers. They are people from all over the world who love and defend China under most circumstances. I know for a fact, a lot of us on this board spend many hours defending China when people make uneducated or misinformed comments.

    Unfortunately, as you are aware living in Toronto, a lot of Canadians don’t know the real China. This is probably true in other countries as well. It’s normal for us to discuss things with an open mind. Keep in mind that nobody is bashing China right now, they’re bashing the comment you wrote comparing artifacts to DVDs. Historical artifacts are much more precious than any DVD. You made a weak argument and you insist on going on with it, so in turn you meet opposition, which is normal.

    That being said, i think that it’s completely OK for Chinese officials to turn a blind eye to DVD pirating, as the majority of 老百姓 can’t afford to pay 25$ for a DVD, let alone send their children to Toronto. Either Hollywood needs to offer DVDs in China at a heavily discounted price, or wait until the average citizen can afford to buy them.

  54. @ Zhou

    A lot of Chinese are just too damn sensitive about their country. This applies to Americans as well. Sometimes feel like I can’t bring up anything with either one of them without being labeled “anti-American” or “anti-Chinese” or whatever else…

    About the DVDs

    Problem with piracy in China is that it holds back local Chinese development of all types of content, so in the long run its probably in their own best interest to clamp down on piracy. As for hollywood, video games makers, other software companies ect, they may profit from having IP laws enforced but in the long run they will face competition from Chinese companies that could etch away their global influence. Korea and Taiwan followed the same development pattern. They used to rip off everything, got richer, clamped down on IP, and now produce their own stuff.

    I personally enjoy the cheap DVD’s and software here, so I hope they don’t start clamping down anytime soon. Fuck paying for music, movies, and games right?!

  55. The Chinese should fight for the looted treasures because they were their properties (has nothing to do with what government, what ethnicity), the same rights the Jews have fighting for their lifelong savings, properties etc looted by the Nazis, Russia etc, the same saturation where Napoleon (France) had to return the looted artworks after his failed conquest in Europe.

    I am not advocating for DVD privacy in China, but if you have bought bootleg DVD copies in china in the past, then I don’t think you have a say in this on either a legal or moral ground.

  56. Hilarious!!!, Indeed.

    Victor Hugo described in his “Expédition de Chine” “‘Two robbers breaking into a museum, devastating, looting and burning, leaving laughing hand-in-hand with their bags full of treasures; one of the robbers is called France and the other Britain.” In his letter Hugo hoped that one day France would feel guilty and return what it had plundered from China.

    The fact is these two robbers did not feel guilty and always accuse Chinese for not forgiving them.

    Please don’t make noise, right now China’s first priority is to feed hundreds of millions who are struggling for the next meal, of course you can express whatever you want, but please don’t distract China’s effeort to feed the poor.

  57. This argument is most similar to what African Americans have been saying for many things. That they need reparations and to become first class citizens because their ancestors were enslaved for nearly 4 centuries. Being Chinese, I don’t actually care about them, and when I first heard of their arguments, I thought it was ridiculous because 90% of all Americans in prison are African Americans so why sympathy for them?

    However when I learned of the Boxer Rebellion, I felt a strong sense of sadness and helplessness and honestly hoped for China to win something back, anything back. It is as though your father had passed to you heirlooms, and Eight people beat you up, stole it and sold it someone. China cannot do anything really to get those treasures back, so perhaps the only way is to slowly pick at situations that involve those treasures. And it is not just a few heads that were stolen. The Forbidden City had priceless vases, furs, jewelry, porcelain, silks that were ancient china treasures that were stolen, not just heads made for the Qing Dynasty.

    What my point is, is that you cannot truly know the pain that one can feel for something unless you’re a part of it, which is why I can’t feel what African Americans feel about slavery. The only thing that makes me glad is that China is becoming more powerful and countries know this, and America is in serious debt to China.

  58. Pingback: Blog Post: ‘Sack this!’ | The Haiyantang Zodiac Heads

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