A huge round bronze "ding", or three-legged bowl, dating back to more than 3,000 years, has returned to China after being lost overseas for about 60 years.
The vessel, with the inscription "Zilong", is the largest of its kind from the Shang Dynasty (1600-1100 BC) ever discovered.
"This is no doubt one of the most important bronze vessels of the Shang Dynasty. It's a classical work representing the bronze-making technology of ancient China," renowned historian Li Xueqin said on Friday.
Experts believe the 1.03-meter-tall vessel is on a par with the famous square-shaped "Simuwu" ding, the largest ancient bronze vessel found in China.
The ding was a kind of cooking vessel with two loop handles and three (sometimes four) legs. Bronze dings were common during the Shang and Western Zhou (1,100-771 BC) dynasties and were still used in the Qin (221-206 BC) and Han (206 BC-AD 220) dynasties, symbolizing the power and prosperity of a state or a country.
Li said the Zilong ding was unearthed early in the 20th Century, but experts are uncertain as to the exact location of the discovery.
It is believed the vessel was unearthed in Huixian County in central China's Henan Province in the 1920s and then lost to Japan in the 1940s.
The Zilong ding made its reappeared in June 2004 at an exhibition of a private Japanese collection in Osaka. It was sold to a Hong Kong collector in the second half of 2005.
After long negotiations between cultural relics departments on the mainland and its owner in Hong Kong, the ding was returned to the mainland in April.
However, China's cultural relics department declined to give more details of the process of its recovery.
The vessel is on public display in an exhibition at the National Museum.