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February 28, 2012

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Pair arrested in theft of Qing Dynasty bridge

PART of a Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) stone bridge in suburban Shanghai was stolen overnight and sold to a garden company in a neighboring province for 30,000 yuan (US$4,761), officials with the Shanghai Cultural Relics Management Commission said yesterday.

Police arrested the duo who allegedly stole the bridge last November and recovered the dismantled parts, said Xie Chuquan, an official with the commission in Nanqiao Town in Fengxian District. But it will be expensive for the city to repair the bridge.

The Fengle Bridge was a 17-meter-long beam bridge more than 100 years old.

The city listed it as a protected cultural relic in 2008.

The 16 granite boards on the deck were missing one morning in November and only four piers were left, Xie said.

A suspect surnamed Hong from Anhui Province counterfeited a letter from the local cultural relics-protection authority to sell part of the bridge for 30,000 yuan to the other suspect, surnamed Wang and also from Anhui, in September, an official with the town government alleged yesterday.

Wang dismantled the bridge at night and sold it to a garden company in Suzhou in neighboring Jiangsu Province.

"Most villagers living nearby had noticed the bridge had been gone two months earlier and called the police," Xie said.

A witness provided the car plate number of the truck used to transport the bridge, and police used it to track and catch the suspects late last year.

It will cost about 800,000 yuan to repair the ancient bridge to its original look, said Li Kongsan, an official with the commission.

Garden firms like to use them

Shanghai has more than 100 ancient bridges, mostly in suburban areas. Dozens are listed as protected cultural relics, but many others are in poor condition, Li said.

In Nanqiao Town, which has more than 20 ancient bridges, some people have been found buying the old bridges, especially those that are unprotected, and selling them to garden companies in Jiangsu and Zhejiang, which like to use them in their newly built gardens, Xie said.

"The selling price will normally be ten times the buying price," he added.

An online business store called Qijinzhai yesterday said it was buying old bridges around the city. The store owner said staffers would negotiate the prices with those who can sell the bridges and send trucks to pick up the bridges.


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