BEIJING, Nov. 13 (Xinhua) — A bronze horse head will be returned to the Old Summer Palace, or “Yuanmingyuan” in Chinese, according to China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA) Wednesday.
It is the first repatriated animal head that will be housed at its original location, the Old Summer Palace.
Twelve animal head sculptures once formed a zodiac water clock in Beijing’s Yuanmingyuan, built by Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795). The originals were looted from the royal garden by Anglo-French allied forces during the Second Opium War in 1860.
The horse head, designed by Italian artist Giuseppe Castiglione and crafted by royal craftsmen, is an artistic blend of East and West.
Macao billionaire Stanley Ho bought the bronze horse head in 2007 at auction and publicly displayed it in Hong Kong and Macao for many years. Ho decided to donate it to the NCHA and return it to its original palace home this month.
Through the efforts of Chinese government authorities and social forces, seven of the 12 lost sculptures have been brought back home by different means, while five remain missing.
The horse head sculpture will also join the ongoing exhibition at the national museum which runs through late November, along with the six other retrieved animal heads and returned relics.