China has finally got back hundreds of years old sarcophagus, a funeral container for a corpse most commonly carved or cut from stone, which was smuggled to US four years ago.

The return of a smuggled Tang Dynasty (AD 618—907) sarcophagus from the US to China may serve as a good example for international collaboration to curb the rampant pillaging and smuggling of ancient treasures, researchers here said.

“It is a rare cultural relic with high scientific, historical and artistic value,” Friday’s China Daily quoted Liu Daiyun, director of the research department of the Shaanxi provincial archaeological research institute, as saying.

The 27—tonne stone coffin of Tang empress Wu Huifei (699—737) arrived at the Shaanxi History Museum yesterday four years after it was smuggled out of the country.

It features flowers and maiden figures in relief.

Robbers stole it from Wu’s tomb in the southern suburbs of Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi Province, in 2006.

Xi’an police found out about the sarcophagus, a funeral container for a corpse most commonly carved or cut from stone in February 2006 during an investigation over a tomb robbery.

They seized a computer containing a number of its pictures in a suspect’s house and local archaeologists soon identified the relic’s origin.

Sold to businessman in U.S. for USD 1 million

After two years of investigations, police discovered the sarcophagus had been smuggled out of China and sold to a businessman in the United States for USD 1 million, police sources said.

“We contacted the businessman through mediators and told him that we had to get the relic back. If necessary, we would seek help from Interpol,” said Han Yulin, head officer of the heritage investigation team of Xi’an’s public security bureau, the Xinhua news agency reported.

“After three rounds of negotiations, he agreed to return the relic to China unconditionally.”

The sarcophagus, a funeral container for a corpse most commonly carved or cut from stone was shipped back from Virginia March 16 and arrived in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, on April 17.

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