Workers began removing a set of 12 heads representing the animals of the Chinese zodiac, at the National Palace Museum Southern Branch, this morning, November 14.
The figureheads were a gift from entertainer Jackie Chan, and are replicas of a set of figureheads looted by French and British forces from the Chinese imperial Old Summer Palace in 1860.
But many in Taiwan, including members of government, consider the gift to be a form of Trojan Horse. NPM authorities first announced the sculptures would be removed back in September, due to the political controversy over Chinese attempts at “cultural unification.”
Lin Zhengyi, the president of the National Palace Museum said the decision was made after consulting with experts from various fields, including arts, collection, literature and history, as well as local residents.
Curators said the figures had little artistic value as they were merely copies and not original artworks.
Jackie Chan is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. The Hong Kong based actor-director donated another copy of the figures to the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore.
In 2012, Chan released the film Chinese Zodiac, which one writer described as “an ode to reclaiming national heritage through martial arts,” and features Chan as a treasure hunter on a quest to reclaim the original zodiac sculptures stolen by the Europeans during the Second Opium War in 1860. Liz Flora wrote on Jing Daily that “the Chinese government has worked hard to promote the sentiment that the heads are national treasures that do not rightfully belong outside the country, and Chan’s film emphatically supports this narrative.”
A 33 year-old man, and a 20 year-old woman were charged earlier this year after painting one of the figures red, and painting Chinese that translates to “Cultural United Front” on the base of the figure.