Historical treasures returned to China

Dept of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications

The Albanese Labor Government has today returned three objects of cultural significance to the Chinese Government in a special ceremony at the Chinese Embassy in Canberra.

The objects were identified at the border by Australian Border Force and referred to the Office of the Arts for investigation under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986. They include:

Hyphalosaurus fossil: this extinct long-necked reptile species, first discovered in 1999, lived in the Jehol Biota ecosystem of northeastern China between 133 to 120 million years ago, and is only found in this region.

Tang Dynasty horse and rider figurine: this small polychrome sculpture depicts a rider playing a wind instrument on horseback. These figures were placed in tombs during the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 CE) to ensure a safe journey to the afterlife.

Tang Dynasty figure of Avalokitesvara: this gilt bronze figurine depicts the Buddhist deity Avalokitesvara who embodies virtue and compassion. This small piece was likely an altar piece figure that holds significant cultural and historical interest.

Minister for the Arts, Tony Burke, said the return of items of cultural significance is important Government work.

“Today we’ve witnessed how two nations can work effectively together to return cultural property to its rightful home,” Minister Burke said.

“The Government takes this very seriously. Whether it’s items of cultural significance Australia holds or items overseas that belong to us – they should be returned.”

The Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act regulates the export of Australia’s significant cultural heritage objects, as well as providing for the return of foreign cultural property which has been illegally exported from other countries and imported into Australia.

Images of the items can be viewed at this link.

/Public Release. View in full here.