Alberto Bonisoli, the minister of Italy's Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, examines the relics which set to return to China during the signing ceremony on Saturday in Rome, Italy. (Photo/Courtesy of Yao Dawei)
It seems that China and Italy, two countries with the largest number of world heritage sites, are constantly holding cultural exchange activities.
Witnessed by visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities of Italy and the Minister of Culture and Tourism of China signed an agreement on Saturday in Rome that will see 796 sets of lost Chinese cultural relics and artworks return to China.
The repatriation, which is the largest amount of cultural relics to be returned to China over the past two decades, shows the cultural communication, cooperation and mutually beneficial relationship between the two distant countries, according to China's National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA).
"Today is a grand festival, 796 sets of Chinese cultural relics will be returned to Chinese people," said Alberto Bonisoli, the minister of Italy's Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, reported the Xinhua News Agency.
After the announcement of the agreement with Italy hit Sina Weibo, it quickly became a hot topic of discussion, with more than 47,000 likes and 4,800 reposts.
"Thanks a lot! I'll eat pasta as much as I can," said netizen Komabeauty. "Italy will be my first destination when traveling abroad," said another.
"Welcome home! It is essential to have a strong nation to protect our cultural relics," commented netizen Point-point.
"It's really an emotional time, I think I am about to cry," posted netizen Kalliope.
Many of the relics found in Italy were originally unearthed from Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, North China's Shanxi Province, Central China's Henan Province and East China's Jiangsu Province and spans a period of time covering the Neolithic age through to the Republic of China (1912-49) period, said the NCHA.
These relics are of high historical, archaeological, cultural and aesthetical values.
Among the relics are a diverse range of Neolithic colored pottery, which can provide a direct window into the pottery making techniques in Northwest China thousands of years ago. Terracotta figures from the Han (206BC-AD220), Tang (618-907) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties are also valuable resources for researching people's material and spiritual lives in ancient China.
Outstanding relics include a stylish red clay pottery pot that dates back to the Neolithic Majiayao Culture, a sleek cocoon pot from the Han Dynasty; Tang Dynasty terracotta warriors, Song Dynasty black glazed porcelain and an elegant Qing Dynasty purple sand pot.
Road to home
The relics' journey home has not been easy.
According to the NCHA, the relics first came back to light in 2007, when Italian authorities seized a large number of Chinese cultural relics and artworks suspected of being illegally trafficked. Learning of the discovery, the NCHA immediately contacted its Italian counterpart to begin the work to bring the relics home.
After more than 10 years of endeavor, the Italian courts ruled that the relics should be returned to China.
Along with the announcement that the US would be returning 361 Chinese relics earlier this month and the return of a looted "Tiger Ying" bronze vessel in December 2018, China has made remarkable progress in bringing its lost cultural relics home.