Author Topic: CHINA  (Read 3627 times)

PRITAM DASS SHARMA

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Re: CHINA
« Reply #20 on: February 03, 2015, 01:49:26 PM »



There is a deep, unhealed historical wound in the UK's relations with China - a wound that most British people know nothing about, but which causes China great pain. It stems from the destruction in 1860 of the country's most beautiful palace.

It's been described as China's ground zero - a place that tells a story of cultural destruction that everyone in China knows about, but hardly anyone outside.

The palace's fate is bitterly resented in Chinese minds and constantly resurfaces in Chinese popular films, angry social media debates, and furious rows about international art sales.

And it has left a controversial legacy in British art collections - royal, military, private - full of looted objects.

By coincidence, one of the story's central characters is Lord Elgin - son of the man who removed the so-called "Elgin marbles" from Greece.

But there's a twist - a hidden side to this story - which I've been exploring as it involved my ancestor, Thomas Bowlby, one of the first British foreign correspondents.

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Here is what Civilisation has done to Barbarity”

Victor Hugo
His torture and death at Chinese hands - and the revenge taken by Britain, destroying the old Summer Palace in Beijing in 1860 - was a moment, says one scholar, that "changed world history".

These days the site is just ruins - piles of scorched masonry, lakes with overgrown plants, lawns with a few stones scattered where many buildings once stood. The site swarms with Chinese visitors, taken there as part of a government-sponsored "patriotic education" programme.

As everyone in China is taught, it was once the most beautiful collection of architecture and art in the country. Its Chinese name was Yuanmingyuan - Garden of Perfect Brightness - where Chinese emperors had built a huge complex of palaces and other fine buildings, and filled them with cultural treasures.

A new digital reconstruction by a team at Tsinghua University gives a vivid idea of what this extraordinary place looked like when, 155 years ago, a joint British-French army approached Beijing.

PRITAM DASS SHARMA

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Re: CHINA
« Reply #21 on: February 03, 2015, 01:50:00 PM »


The army was sent towards the end of the Opium Wars to force Chinese imperial rulers to open up their country further to Western trade and influence. In command on the British side was the 8th Earl of Elgin, from one of the most famous families in British imperial history.

With him was Thomas William Bowlby of The Times. Elgin described Bowlby as "remarkably agreeable" and saw him as good for his image back in Britain, "the means of diffusing sound information on many points". The two men bonded on their journey towards China as cultural tourists, visiting the pyramids in Egypt.

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Find out more

Listen to Chris Bowlby's Radio 3 documentary, Palace of Shame, on the BBC iPlayer

The programme will also be aired on the BBC World Service from 15 February

Once they had arrived in China Bowlby wrote in his newspaper reports and private diary of his admiration for aspects of Chinese life - its fine buildings and "admirably cultivated gardens".

But cultural admiration was mixed with the harsh reality of a brutal war. He also reported a very one-sided military campaign as the Anglo-French force relentlessly approached Beijing. The British army's new Armstrong gun, he noted, inflicted "perfectly awful wounds" on the Chinese. "It smashes whatever it comes in contact with."

Because of this military power, Bowlby was confident that imperial China's rulers - "effete and faithless Mandarins", he called them - would "soon be suing for mercy". Eager to witness the war's end, he set off with a delegation of British and French officials - as well as escorting Indian army troops - to negotiate what they assumed would be the Chinese surrender.

It was to prove a fatal miscalculation.

Meanwhile, French troops reached Beijing and the Summer Palace, where they began helping themselves to porcelain, silks and ancient books - or simply destroying what they found.

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Re: CHINA
« Reply #22 on: February 03, 2015, 01:50:23 PM »



British troops joined in when they arrived shortly afterwards. "Officers and men seemed to have been seized with temporary insanity," said one witness. "In body and soul they were absorbed in one pursuit which was plunder, plunder." When Lord Elgin arrived, he initially recorded his horror in his diary. "War is a hateful business. The more one sees of it, the more one detests it."

But loot was an established part of army pay, and Elgin helped organise an auction of the many thousands of works of art and other objects that had been taken. The army tradition was to share out the spoils, with officers and other ranks taking their cut, and some of the cash used to compensate the families of dead or wounded soldiers.

Thomas Bowlby
Thomas Bowlby's mangled body was returned in a coffin
That might have been the end of the pillaging and destruction. But then news emerged that the delegation that had gone to negotiate Chinese surrender had been taken prisoner. Some members, including the journalist Bowlby, were tortured and murdered.

"For three days the men were tied up, and for three days their bandages were soaked with water so that they would become tighter and tighter," says historian Vera Schwarcz. "Every time they begged for water their mouths would be filled with dirt." Eventually several prisoners died, their corpses hardly recognisable.

In response, Lord Elgin ordered the British troops to burn down the entire Summer Palace complex.

The destruction, he wrote later, was intended "to mark, by a solemn act of retribution, the horror and indignation... with which we were inspired by the perpetration of a great crime".

He was worried about his reputation back in Britain, too. "What would the Times (newspaper) say of me," he reportedly told a French commander, "if I did not avenge its correspondent?"

Burning all the magnificent buildings took several days.

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Re: CHINA
« Reply #23 on: February 03, 2015, 01:51:17 PM »
The real Chinese loot investigators appear no less determined, even if they don't resort to violence.

"We're making a plan to start a series of actions to recover these antiques and get them back to China," says Niu Xianfeng, general director of the National Treasures Fund, affiliated to the Chinese Ministry of Culture.

"China will never give up the right to bring these looted or stolen treasures back."

Liu Yang, a researcher who has spent 15 years tracking down the artworks, says "British museums never reply" when he writes to ask what they have. But he has collected hundreds of images of looted items on his computer.

He even has pictures of a Pekinese dog, taken by a British soldier from Yuanmingyuan, and given to Queen Victoria. It was the first of its breed to come to Britain - and was named "Looty".

A portrait of Looty is still in the Royal art collection, though later newspaper reports said the dog was ostracised by other royal dogs because of its "Oriental habits and appearance", and had to be moved from Buckingham Palace to Sandringham.



Baljit NABHA

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Re: CHINA
« Reply #24 on: February 03, 2015, 01:54:07 PM »

PRITAM DASS SHARMA

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Re: CHINA
« Reply #25 on: February 22, 2015, 10:15:17 PM »


What happens when you set off thousands of fire crackers at the same time? This happens... Full video

Raman

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Re: CHINA
« Reply #26 on: April 10, 2015, 12:37:42 PM »
« Last Edit: April 10, 2015, 03:52:30 PM by <--Jack--> »

Raman

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Re: CHINA
« Reply #27 on: April 10, 2015, 12:38:06 PM »

Raman

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Re: CHINA
« Reply #28 on: April 10, 2015, 12:38:20 PM »

Raman

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Re: CHINA
« Reply #29 on: April 10, 2015, 12:38:36 PM »

 

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