Three significant objects belonging to the cultural heritage of China have been returned to their Government in a special handover ceremony at the Embassy in Canberra.
The three imported objects were identified by the Australian Border Force and referred to the Office for the Arts for investigation under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986. This provides for the return of foreign cultural property which has been illegally exported from other countries and imported into Australia.
The objects include:
Hyphalosaurus fossil: this extinct long-necked reptile species, first discovered in 1999, lived in the Jehol Biota ecosystem of north eastern China between 133 to 120 million years ago, and is only found in this region.
Tang Dynasty horse and rider figurine: this small polychrome sculpture depicts a rider playing a wind instrument on horseback. These figures were placed in tombs during the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 CE) to ensure a safe journey to the afterlife.
Tang Dynasty figure of Avalokitesvara: this gilt bronze figurine depicts the Buddhist deity Avalokitesvara who embodies virtue and compassion. This small piece was likely an altar piece figure that holds significant cultural and historical interest.
The handover demonstrates Australia's continued commitment to preventing and intervening in the illicit trafficking of cultural property.
The Australian and Chinese Governments are both signatories to the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting the illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property 1970, which provides for international cooperation.