Does China’s Planned Demolition at Xingjiao Bring Coin Repatriation Into Question?

Posted on May 9, 2013


Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 4.50.04 PMPeter Tompa weighs in on the slated destruction of ancient Chinese buildings on his Cultural Property Observer. He points out that China was also involved in the foiled demolition of Mes Aynak in Afrghanistan — a 1.5 square mile Buddhist city which was almost bulldozed in favor of a copper mine. Now, China is going to destroy “most” of the buildings at the 1,300 year old Xingjiao Temple. The government explains the destruction is being performed in order to assist in its application for UNESCO World Heritage status.

Yes, you read that right. No understandable explanation has yet been given, merely that, “many buildings must be pulled down for the success of the application [for several sites in Shaanxi province along the Silk Road]” (quoting an authority who preferred not to be named in the article).

In any event, Attorney and notorious advocate for coin collectors Peter Tompa has asked the question, “Should the US State Department authorize repatriation of every last unprovenanced Chinese coin when China cares so little for major religious sites?”

It’s a good question, loaded with moral inquiry. Is the source of the perceived obligation to return unprovenanced coins the appreciation of those objects by the home country? If the home country were going to simply melt down the coins to make something else, would advocates of repatriation still so advocate? We would be interested to hear the thoughts of those who support the repatriation of all unprovenanced antiquities (or coins, if they are to be distinguished).