By Wei Na
Rare items were stolen Sunday during a temporary exhibition held in the Forbidden City, shutting down the Zhai Gong (Palace of Abstinence) exhibition hall for the police investigation, Chang Lingxing, a public relations employee of the Palace Museum, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Beijing police received a report Monday that handicrafts from a private Hong Kong museum had gone missing. Evidence was being gathered on Tuesday evening, Chang said.
The exhibition of a mixed selection of rare curios was co-organized by the Palace Museum and the Liangyicang private museum in Hong Kong, which is owned by a Hong Kong collector named Feng Yaohui, Chang said.
The missing items are from the early 20th century and include objects like jewelry boxes, according to a press release issued by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau.
Bureau publicity official Zi Xiangdong told the Global Times that he could not discuss the case further on Tuesday.
According to a China News Service report on April 26, the exhibition of 111 Western-style makeup boxes, jewelry boxes and wallets, among others, was to be displayed in Chengsudian – the Hall of Sincere Solemnity – in the back of Zhai Gong.
The exhibition was scheduled to run from April 29 to June 27.
The Liangyicang private museum could not be reached on Tuesday for comment.
Web users expressed shock that someone could steal exhibits from the heavily guarded imperial palace.
“I’ve heard there are many surveillance cameras, security guards and police dogs guarding the Forbidden City. Does that mean the thief could be one of its employees?” Cen Xueyun, a verified microblogger, wrote on her sina.com microblog on Tuesday.
At least 1,600 anti-theft alarms, 3,700 smoke detectors and 3,700 cameras that monitor the Forbidden City after it closes to the public at 5 pm, Legal Mirror reported on May 1.
Police records show that the last attempted burglary at the Forbidden City was in 1987, according to a 2010 report from cpd.com.cn, a website administrated by the Ministry of Public Security.
The prospective thief, Xiang Dexiang, stole nothing but was still sentenced to life imprisonment, said the report.
Four other cases prior to the 1987 theft occurred between then and 1949, when the police began keeping records, according to the report. All took place at the Forbidden City’s standing exhibition hall in Zhenbaoguan, the Hall of Jewelry.