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China closes museum with ‘fake’ exhibits

This carved jade bowl from the Qing Dynasty (c18th century) is not among the items on display at Wang Zongquan’s museum in the village of Erpu.

BEIJING: Chinese authorities have closed a museum that featured scores of fake exhibits, state-run media reported Tuesday, including a vase decorated with cartoon characters billed as a Qing dynasty artefact. The facility, built in northern China’s Hebei province at a cost of 540 million yuan ($88 million), has “no qualification to be a museum as its collections are fake,” a local official told the Global Times newspaper.

It had been closed, the paper said, while its founders have been placed “under investigation” after local residents accused them of wasting money.

Pictures posted by the state-run China Radio International showed a vase decorated with bright green cartoon animals, including a creature resembling a laughing squid, which the museum displayed as a Qing dynasty relic.

Several items lining the museum’s 12 exhibition halls were supposedly signed by the Yellow Emperor, who according to tradition reigned in the 27th-century B.C., the Shanghai Daily reported. The signatures used the simplified Chinese characters brought in by the Communist Party after it took over in 1949, it pointed out.

The Global Times quoted a resident as saying the owner, top local Communist official Wang Zongquan, developed a reputation for agreeing to “buy everything brought to him.”

Locals living near the museum in Erpu village told the Beijing News that Wang bought more than 40,000 fake exhibits at prices ranging from 100 to 2,000 yuan.

They accused him of misusing village resources by funneling money from land sales into building the ill-fated museum, which took up a four-hectare site.

China’s antiques market is said to be rife with fakes, and the country has come under fire from multinational companies for its freewheeling attitude to copyright enforcement.

“Similar fake museums are found in many places in China in search of monetary gain,” CRI quoted antiques expert Ma Weidu as saying.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 17, 2013, on page 16.

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