Thieves make off with a £2million Chinese takeaway from Durham University

2 million artefacts chinese durham university oriental museum police investigation qing robbery

On Thursday evening, two Chinese artifacts valued at £2 million were stolen from Durham University’s Oriental Museum.

The two items, a large jade bowl and a porcelain sculpture, have been credited as “highly significant” examples of Qing Dynasty art. Fears abound that the valuable items have already been shipped out of the country for auction to wealthy Chinese collectors.

The Durham Police reacted to the robbery by arresting two men and one woman in the West Midlands on Saturday but they have yet to recover any items and Chief Inspector Traci McNally conceded there was still work to be done. “We are still trying to locate several outstanding suspects in relation to this investigation”, she commented.

Museum curator Dr Craig Barclay described himself as “seriously upset to have fallen victim to such a serious crime”.

The first of the stolen items was a green jade bowl dating from 1769 with a Chinese poem inscribed inside. The second is a Dehua porcelain sculpture measuring 30 cm in height and width that depicted seven fairies in a boat.

They were both owned by British collector Sir Charles Hardinge and were described by Dr Barclay as “fine examples of artifacts from the Qing Dynasty”.

Police were alerted at 10.40pm on Thursday by an alarm from the Elvet Hill museum and discovered that entry had been forced into the ground-floor Malcolm Macdonald Gallery and the items removed from their display cases.

The University has previously been the target of thieves when, back in 1998, a collection of Shakespeare’s plays worth £1.5 million was stolen from Palace Green library.

The item was returned in 2010 following the conviction of Raymond Scott, who claimed to have found it in Cuba when he went to the Shakespeare library in Washington DC to have the work valued.

Durham University’s Oriental Museum will be closed indefinitely but Dr Barclay reassured prospective visitors that it will reopen “as soon as possible”.