The seven marble columns looted from the Imperial Yuanmingyuan Garden, or the Old Summer Palace, about 150 years ago were on exhibit at the Kode Art Museum of Bergen, Norway. The museum will return the columns to China in September. (Photo:China Daily)
Seven marble plinths from Beijing's Old Summer Palace will return home from a museum in this Norwegian city this autumn, according to a recently reached tripartite agreement.
In a joint interview with Xinhua on Thursday, both the incumbent director of the Kode museum, Karin Hindsbo, and her predecessor, Erlend Hoyersten, confirmed that the museum has reached an agreement with Peking University and Beijing Zhongkun Investment Group on the matter.
Efforts are under way to make sure that the seven marble plinths, decorated with delicate flower carvings, will arrive in September as scheduled at Peking University, where they will be put on display, said Hindsbo.
The home-coming comes one and a half centuries after the Old Summer Palace, known as Yuanmingyuan in China, was looted and ruined by invading English and French forces.
But the arrangement will not in anyway affect the current status of ownership held by the Kode museum, said Hoyersten, who negotiated the agreement last year with Peking University and Zhongkun Chairman Huang Nubo, a Peking University alumnus.
However, the plinths will remain in China permanently after they come back, added Hoyersten.
The Kode museum has a collection of some 4,000 Chinese artifacts, including 21 plinths from the Old Summer Palace. Out of the whole collection, 2,500 were donated by Johan W. Norman Munthe, a Norwegian who went to China around the 1900s and since then lived there for several decades.
Under the agreement, signed in Bergen on Dec. 12, 2013, Peking University and the Kode museum will cooperate in research on the Chinese artifacts collected by the museum.
Huang will provide financial support for the cooperation project, which both the Kode museum and Peking University deem as a unique and new mode of cultural cooperation.
In addition, Huang has pledged to donate 10 million Norwegian kroner (about 1.6 million U.S. dollars) for the restoration of the China Exhibits Hall in the museum and the upgrading of its security system.
"Mr. Huang has been so generous to support this collaboration and make it all come through," said Hoyersten.
Hindsbo said that this academic project can help promote the research on the museum's collection of Chinese artifacts to a new level.
"One of our ambitions is to be leading on Chinese art in Europe," said the new director of the Kode museum.