China outraged over Terracota warrior thumb theft

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Beijing, Feb 19 (IANS) Chinese authorities have demanded “severe punishment” for a man who allegedly stole the thumb of a terracotta warrior statue on display in the US, state media reported on Monday.

The 2,000-year-old statue, worth $4.5 million, is one of 10 on loan to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, reports the BBC.

Last week, Michael Rohana, 24, was charged with theft and concealment of a major artwork, and later released on bail.

According to court documents, Rohana, 24, was attending an Ugly Sweater Party at the Franklin Institute on December 21, 2017, when he made his way into the Terracotta Warriors exhibit, which was then closed.

He used a mobile phone as a flashlight and took a selfie with one of the warriors.

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Rohana then put his hand on the left hand of the statue and appeared to break something off from it. He pocketed the item and left, the documents said.

Museum staff noticed the missing thumb on January 8and the FBI later traced it to Rohana. He later admitted that he had kept the thumb in a desk drawer.

On Monday, the director of the Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Centre, the government-run organisation which loaned the statues out, “strongly condemned” the Franklin Institute for being “careless” with the statues, CCTV reported.

“We ask that the US severely punish the perpetrator. We have lodged a serious protest with them,” said Wu Haiyun.

Wu said the centre would be sending two experts to the US to assess the damage and repair the statue with the recovered thumb. There would be a claim for compensation, he added.

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The 10 statues currently on display at the Franklin Institute are part of an army of 8,000 life-size clay warriors which make up the Terracotta Army, the BBC reported.

The statues were built by the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang, who died in 210 BC, who believed they would protect him in the afterlife.

They were discovered in Xi’an province in 1974 by a group of Chinese farmers.

–IANS

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