Museum in China harbouring thousands of fake artefacts
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The 60 million yuan Jibaozhai Museum opened in China in 2010 in the midst of a culture boom that sees many new museums opening every year.
However, the ticket offices were shut this week amid claims that “many of the 40,000 exhibits were in fact knock-offs which had been bought for between 100 yuan and 2,000 yuan” (Tom Philips, The Telegraph). This has caused a media storm, with satirical comments and criticisms reaching the attention of journalists worldwide.
The allegations emerged earlier this month when Ma Boyong, a Chinese writer, visited the museum and posted a series of inexplicable discrepancies online. The BBC reports that “these included an item which was apparently inscribed with “Made by Huangdi,” the Yellow Emperor, who was a legendary sovereign in Chinese tradition. But the “signature” was written in simplified Chinese characters and dated to about the 27th Century BC, long before such characters were even created”.
Jonathon Jones (reporting for The Guardian) quotes Wei Yingjun, a consultant to the Jibaozhai Museum in Jizhou who is adamant that the situation is not that bad. Yingjun is said to be “quite positive that 80 or even more pieces out of tens of thousands in the museum are authentic”.
Museums in China have long played a key role in reinforcing social segmentation, influencing the economy, protecting cultural heritage and enhancing nationalism. In 1977, following Chairman Mao’s death, there were only around 300 museums. Now there are thousands, and so the fight to provide originals has ironically led to the creation of false artefacts.
Jones concludes: “Surely the demand for museums across China reflects a desire to reconnect with a great heritage. The museum of fakes may be an absurd side-effect. But the angry and precise criticism that exposed it is a triumph of citizenship.”
The museum has now closed its doors due to public outcry and the media attention.