Tomb Robbing, Perilous but Alluring, Makes Comeback in China

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tags: China, Archeology, Tomb Robbing



BAOLING VILLAGE, China — One day last November, Yang Mingzhen received a tip: Construction workers digging on his family’s land had discovered an ancient tomb.

That night, Mr. Yang and his father and uncle sneaked down to the tomb, in a barren dirt field just outside the entrance of Baoling Village, on a dusty hilltop in Shaanxi Province.

Early the next morning, a worker found the bodies of Mr. Yang and the two other men….

Such are the extreme allures — and perils — of grave robbing, an ancient practice that has made a roaring comeback as the global demand for Chinese antiquities has surged. With prices for some Chinese antiquities reaching into the tens of millions of dollars, a flood of amateur and professional thieves looking to get rich quick has hit China’s countryside.

While accurate figures are difficult to come by, the looting has resulted in the permanent destruction of numerous Chinese cultural heritage sites. In 2016, China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage reported 103 tomb-raiding and cultural relic theft cases.

Experts believe many more cases have gone undetected. Between ancient and modern thieves, they say, up to eight out of every 10 tombs in China have been plundered.





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