Emperor’s relative wants looted treasures returned


Guangzhou Daily
February 23, 2009

The Paris auction of two bronze pieces looted from the Old Summer Palace first made headlines last October. In the story’s latest development, Beijing-based lawyer Liu Yang has filed a lawsuit against the auction in France. As part of his high-profile legal campaign, Liu put up a blog in the name of an organization called “lawyers seeking to recover lost national treasures.”

The litigation has brought another man into the media spotlight. According to today’s Guangzhou Daily, Liu has named a man called Aisin Gioro Zhoudi as a claimant in the lawsuit. The surname Aisin Gioro is quite well-known in China as the clan name of the Qing royal family and Zhoudi claims that he is a distant cousin of Aisin Gioro Puyi, the last Qing emperor.

In a sidebar photo on the front page, Zhoudi, dressed up in a Qing-style gown, looks like a man who has just walked out of a historical drama. Zhoudi admitted that he was invited by lawyer Liu Yang to fill the role of plaintiff but denied that he had any personal interest in lawsuit. According to him, if recovered, the auctioned items will belong to China, not to himself or the Aisin Gioro family.

Zhoudi reportedly adopted a traditional style of dress in 2002 as a gesture toward his endangered Manchu heritage. On a Manchu culture Internet forum, comments are mostly supportive of Zhoudi’s lifestyle choice, although one commenter voices his suspicions that he might be trying to use it as a way to promote his fortune-telling business.

Aisin Gioro Zhoudi has popped up in the media from time to time ever since; Danwei took a look at him back in 2005.

China’s newspapers, including the China Daily, have cheered the discovery of “a legitimate plaintiff,” yet it remains unclear if the French court will rule that the emperor’s cousin has the right to lay claim on the royal family’s looted property.

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