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November 6, 2009

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Emperor's seal sold at auction

AN auction of Chinese relics by Sotheby's of London triggered outrage among Chinese Internet users as an imperial seal belonging to Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) fetched 3.56 million pounds (US$5.91 million).

The jade seal was sold along with 152 other Chinese relics, while 109 lots were passed in, a Sotheby's representative told China National Radio yesterday.

The seal was made for the emperor's 80th birthday. He ruled from 1736 to 1796.

Many of China's looted relics have been sold recently. Sotheby's Hong Kong sold another Qianlong seal for HK$63.38 million (US$8.18 million) last month, prompting Internet users to urge the government to recover relics.

But antiques experts said their passion could help drive up the prices of Chinese relics, making it harder for China to buy them back.

Jin Yunchang, a professor with the National Palace Museum, said Chinese relics being sold were not necessarily looted as palace attendants in the late Qing Dynasty often stole items for sale.

A survey conducted by UNESCO showed that there are more than 1.67 million relics in 200 museums around the world. And it's estimated there are 10 times more in private collections.


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