Italy Returns Artifacts To China In Goodwill Gesture As Xi Jinping Meets Giuseppe Conte

President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte
(Photo: REUTERS/Yara Nardi)

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte met the past weekend for bilateral talks and as the leaders want to build up and make their nations' relations stronger, Italy agreed to hand over more than 700 cultural relics that have been smuggled out of China over the years. The goodwill gesture comes after become the very first Western European country to join China's belt and road initiative.

According to South China Morning Post, the agreement to return 796 Chinese artifacts that had been "illegally exported" to Italy from China also include Song dynasty porcelain pieces and a Majiayao red clay pot from the Neolithic period and dating around 3300 to 2050 B.C. The Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities Alberto Bonisoli and his Chinese counterpart, Luo Shugang signed the agreement for the return of cultural treasures. 

"We are proud to be able to return these pieces to our friends, as they are representative of the heritage and identity of the Chinese people," Bonisoli said in a statement.

At any rate, the return of the pieces to China has been ordered by a Milan court in November 2018.  The ministry stated that the decision was made after a complicated legal case over the ownership of the relics.

As per Xinhua via CGTN, some of the pieces to be returned also include the purple sand pots from the Qing Dynasty, black glazed ancient pottery, warrior statues and more items that were estimated to be 5,000 years old which means that the relics were from the Neolithic age (10,000 B.C.) to Qing Dynasty (1636-1912). It was added that Jinping and Conte personally witnessed the signing and exchange of certificates for the repatriation of the cultural artworks and artifacts in Rome.

Director of the Social Heritage Department of the Museum Department of the State Administration of Cultural Relics Wu Min said that the pieces were well-preserved and have great value.

"They are the physical witnesses of the production and living scenes, and the development of civilization in various periods of Chinese history," he said. Wu added that they will work with the Italian military police for the safe return of the national relics to its home country.

It was said that in the past 20 years, this is the biggest cultural return to happen so far. The gesture is a new milestone in the China-Italy cultural heritage cooperation and it was praised for being an example for international cooperation in recovering lost national artifacts that have great significance to every nation.

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