Bonhams' looted Chinese antiques pulled from UK auction

Bonhams has issued an apology to China after two jade antiques were pulled from its planned auction in London on November 8.

Imperial Jade Pendant Summer Palace
The items were described as being "retrieved" from the Summer Palace

The owner of the items decided to withdraw the pendant and hanging vase to "avoid any possible offence". The items' appearance at the auction had ignited a backlash from Tan Ping, an official at the State Administration of Cultural Heritage in China.

Ping had previously been quoted in state media as saying: "Cultural relics should be returned to their country of origin. We'll keep a close eye on the matter."

The items were both taken from Beijing's Old Summer Palace in 1860, after British and French soldiers looted it at the end of the second opium war. Captain George Forbes-Robertson, a British officer, took the treasures as gifts for his family in Scotland.

The jade pendant was expected to realise £60,000-100,000 ($96,000-159,000), while the vase was valued at £40,000-60,000 ($64,000-96,000).

Antiques from the Old Summer Palace have already come under fire following a 2009 auction at Christie's, which saw two 18th century fountainheads receive false bids of $36m from a Chinese collector, who did so on "moral and patriotic grounds."

The invasion of Beijing is a source of national humiliation and the auction of any items is widely scorned in China.

The issue highlights the importance of ensuring impeccable provenance when purchasing any collectible. Paul Fraser Collectibles specialises in sourcing only the finest items, each of which is hand selected by our expert team. See our online store.

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