A huge U.S. market for Chinese antiquities

Shandong Provincial Museum
Less than an hour after it was excavated in Donghaiyu, Shandong, China, a dealer offered to purchase a black polished earthenware pottery cup, 4600-4500 BC. The ethical owner refused.

At Christie’s and Sotheby’s “Asia Week”, sales reached nearly $30 million, with Chinese art accounting for a little more than half of the total. More merchandise valued in the tens of millions of dollars was on offer uptown at the International Asian Art Fair and at galleries around town, where some of the field’s most prominent specialists mount exhibits. (“Chinese Art Leads Buoyant Sales at Lexington Avenue” by Laura Beach)

The security chief at a museum in Chengde, China was accused in June of stealing 158 artifacts in 12 years. One, the “Buddha of Infinite Life, fetched $295,000 at an auction. (“Stealing Beauty”, June 30, 2003/ Vol. 161 No. 25, Time Asia magazine)

“Bronze Spirit Tree” sold for $2.5 million at the International Asian Art Fair in New York (“Gansu Getaway” by Lawrence R. Sullivan, Volume 51 Number 5, September/October 1998, Archaeology)

Like an unstoppable tide, China is looming ever larger on the art scene. (“Waves of Chinese Masterpieces Storm Market” By Souren Melikian, International Herald Tribune)

“…Neolithic and early Bronze Age items are especially being targeted by looters and dealers.…Eggshell cups and jades from Shandong… can be sold for as much as $10,000 a piece.”

From Dr. Anne P. Underhill's statement presented at the State Department hearing, February 17, 2005