Thursday, August 14, 2014

Honglujing Stele

A Chinese organisation has appealed to Japan's Emperor Akihito to return a 1,300 year-old stele taken from China over a century ago. The Honglujing Stele  dates to the period between the turn of the 7/8th centuries AD to the first third of the tenth century AD. It was taken from Lushun city (Liaoning province), some time between October 1906 and April 1908, after the Russo-Japanese War. The stone is  3 meters wide, 1.8 meters tall and two meters thick was the only stele dating to the Tang Dynasty (618-907) from Manchuria. Its historical importance derives from the inscription in Chinese characters it bears, recording that the first king of the northeast Asian Bohai (Balhai) kingdom was given his title by a Chinese emperor from the Tang Dynasty. The identification of the nature of this entity is disputed (considered Chinese, Korean, or independent, depending on the nationality of the researcher, while  Russian and Japanese scholars classify it as an independent  Mohe state). The stele is currently located in the Japanese Imperial Palace.

Old photo of Honglujing Stele (Asia One)

Old photo, Stele relocated?

Ink impression of inscription (composite image)
Liaoning (formerly: Fengtien) province is now in China (most recently since 1907) and the Chinese have been asking the Japanese to return the stele, together with other antiquities for some time. According to Einhorn:
Japanese troops went on a rampage in the mainland in the 50 years between China’s defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War and the end of the Second World War, with Japan stealing some 3.6 million relics.
The demand comes with relations between Beijing and Tokyo at their lowest point in years, with a territorial row over islands in the East China Sea rumbling against a backdrop of disputes over history.


'1,300-year-old stele eyed by Chinese, Japanese archaeologists' The Peoples Daily, 1 June 2006

Bruce Einhorn, 'China Presses for Japan's Return of Plundered Antiquities' Bloomburg Business August 12, 2014

AFP 'Chinese group appeals to Japan's emperor over artefact', Channel News Asia 12 Aug 2014 and Asia One  Aug 12th 2014.

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