Author: changabula

Is it Right to Steal Another Nation's Heritage? [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2007-2-28 10:58:27 |Display all floors
I think your analogy is a little flawed. Cultural relics are more than money; they are the embodiment of history, from which the entire world can learn new things. Let's say there is a great country with a long, long history and lots of items from that history which are of interest to the whole world. However, that country is prone to going through very destructive upheavals every few centuries, which results in a lot of items being destroyed. Historians of the world want to learn more, but are afraid the country will destroy the items in its next upheaval. A few of them steal a few items in order to preserve them. Sure enough, the country goes through a destructive phase again, and more items are destroyed, but the historians have a few they are able to look at, and knowledge of the world's history is better for it.

As for who gave whom entitlement to artifacts, no one did, but if the country of origin is more inclined to destroy them than care for them properly, why should they be entitled to them? I still think stealing is bad, but I tend to think on a more global scale--these things should be available to the world, not just to the country of origin (and what if the country of origin is disputed?), and especially not if that country is wont to smash them.

I support the idea of returning artifacts to the country of origin if the country is willing to care for them properly and share them with the world. Does that make sense?

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Post time 2007-2-28 11:37:33 |Display all floors
Originally posted by sockmonkey at 2007-2-28 10:58
I think your analogy is a little flawed. Cultural relics are more than money; they are the embodiment of history, from which the entire world can learn new things. Let's say there is a great countr ...


Your logic is totally flawed. Are western countries less prone to destroying historical artifacts? Below are some examples of such destruction by westerners.

The discovery of the New World by European explorers sparked a fierce competition among European nations to obtain territories abroad. Colonialism was fueled by the desire to fill national coffers, through trade, agriculture, or plunder. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, exaggerated rumors of indigenous wealth and stores of gold encouraged plunder of Indian villages. Almost immediately, the demand for exotic objects d'art from the Americas swelled, as wealthy aristocrats clamored for Incan jewelry and Mayan antiquities.

Even in times of warfare, such as the Napoleonic Wars and wars of colonial expansion, cultural resources were a prime consideration. Many western armies freely destroyed indigenous or ancient sites of cultural significance in the heat of battle—a practice that later devastated the many Medieval and Renaissance treasures in Europe itself during World War I.

Holocaust plunder, known as the Great Theft, was less extensively catalogued by German authorities. The plundered goods, formerly located in private collections, were not catalogued by museums. Thus, the total loss of priceless cultural resources during the Holocaust is immeasurable.

It emerged over the weekend that 170,000 ancient artifacts housed in the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad have been destroyed or taken by looters. The New York Times reports the destruction of the museum is likely to be reckoned as one of the greatest cultural disasters in recent Middle Eastern history.

The National Museum recorded a history of civilizations that began to flourish in the fertile plains of Mesopotamia more than 7,000 years ago.

Museum officials are outraged at US troops for failing to protect the museum. For weeks before the war, archaeologists and scholars from around the world had warned the Pentagon about postwar looting. They reminded the Pentagon that after the 1991 Gulf War, 9 of Iraq's 13 regional museums were plundered.

I still think stealing is bad, but I tend to think on a more global scale--these things should be available to the world, not just to the country of origin


Very well said, then perhaps your country's historical artifacts can be loaned to China's Imperial Museum for say 200 years.

[ Last edited by greatwall_sg at 2007-2-28 11:46 AM ]

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Post time 2007-2-28 11:45:03 |Display all floors
I'm not sure how your example makes my logic flawed. If a country (any country; doesn't matter where) destroys the artifacts of another country, well, there's not much that can be done about it, unfortunately. I was speaking of situations in which a country destroys its own artifacts. Invading countries don't usually care much about preserving the artifacts of the countries they are invading, but when not under direct attack, countries should keep their own artifacts safe. Some countries can't or don't; when that happens, stealing the artifacts to preserve them is an option.

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Post time 2007-2-28 11:52:07 |Display all floors
The question is then, whether the thief is more interested in preserving the items or making money from them?

I submit that the thieves steal only to sell the artifacts in question back to the owner, regardless of whether it will be destroyed.

I also submit that the thieves have no respect whatsoever to the artifacts that they have stolen, beside as a convenient tool to support their twisting of history.

BTW, thief is too mild a word. Robber would be more appropriate for the behavior of Alliance Army that invaded and pillaged the Summer Palace in Beijing.

I quite understand the "artifact fetish" that certain scholars seemed to harbor, but to achieve true wisdom, one must recognize the transient nature of physical artifacts and that the behaviors reflected by said piece of artifacts (the stealing of it, for one) are more telling.

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Post time 2007-2-28 12:07:12 |Display all floors
It's true; I like to imagine a more ideal world where people are interested in the artifact for history's sake and not for money. I think that while this is not and has not often been the case (in terms of motives for stealing), there are a few instances of it.

The university I attended has an archaeological/anthropological museum with an impressive selection. There are a couple items in the China section which are rumored to have been stolen; I'm not sure either way. One class I took had the opportunity to personally handle some items (legitimately bought, I'm fairly sure), and that was a major highlight--it's not every day you get to hold an ancient Chinese bronze piece, or a scroll, or something like that. While they are transient pieces, it would really be a shame to lose them.

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Post time 2007-2-28 12:27:19 |Display all floors
I was speaking of situations in which a country destroys its own artifacts.


You seemed to think that China now is still the China of the past. Sorry to disappoint you, China has progressed, it now cares very much about its treasures and wants them back.

Some countries can't or don't; when that happens, stealing the artifacts to preserve them is an option.


This I may agree and if the US ever goes into a civil war say between the Hispanics and the whites or such situations as when the US can't take care of her own treasures, then China can send in special agents and get those treasures out of the US and put them safely at the Beijing Imperial Museum.

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Post time 2007-2-28 12:27:51 |Display all floors
I understand the feeling. Sometime I looked at a piece of ancient work and I thought about the amount of work that went into it, the craftmen that spent their life creating this crystalization of wisdom. I have this protective uge towards these "artifacts"

Yet, the people who have created this artifact is gone. If we could recover certain techniques or historical wisdom from the artifacts (that can contribute to the current time), then it is of great use, otherwise, wouldn't the artifact just an ancient mockery of our alledgedly progression?

I loved the chinese culture not because it has 5000 years of history, but I find many useful philosophy that I apply to my day-to-day life. I have learned from our ancestors on how to treat a problem, how to relate to other people, how to generally make my life enjoyable, how to be honest and upright, and even learn the meaning of life.

Ain't these philosophies and values more important than the original bamboo scrolls that recorded the words? Ain't what I apply to my daily life more important than the supposedly original meaning of these words?

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