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Letter to the Drents Museum and the Buddha statue collector

( chinadaily.com.cn )

Updated: 2015-04-10

Yangchun Village, China, April 9, 2015

Dear Drents Museum & the Statue Collector,

We are the villagers of Yangchun Village, Datian County, Fujian Province, China. We are writing this letter with our best regards.

After the efforts that our private liaisons have spent in investigating the statue, collecting evidences and verifying Chinese historical documents and the historical materials of the Lin family, we are convinced that the statue owned by the Dutch collector and displayed at Drents museum is the mummified Buddha of Patriarch Zhanggong, which was stolen in 1995 from Puzhao Temple, Yangchun Village, Wushan Township, Datian County, Fujian Province, China. Today, after two decades of search, we finally found the whereabouts of the statue. We hereby make a solemn request that the collector to return the Buddha to Puzhao Temple.

After the statue was stolen, we've searched everywhere to look for the Buddha in vain. In 1997, we introduced a camphorwood-made Zushi statue and enshrined it in the temple as the embodiment of Patriarch Zhanggong. As a holy statue which has been worshiped by us for more than a thousand years, Patriarch Zhanggong carries the memories of generation after generation and our hopes and belief. For almost a thousand years, we would hold a three-day grand ceremony (usually in early December by solar calendar) between October 4 and 6 by the lunar calendar as our way to commemorate the Buddha's birth. Such a tradition has never discontinued. We still carry on the ceremony as ever even during the two decades of the absence of the Buddha.

Despite the change of dynasties and the war, catastrophe, turmoil and natural disasters all through history, the statue of Patriarch Zhanggong was always preciously enshrined and protected by the Lin family. We never expected that the Buddha would be stolen from Puzhao Temple in 1995.

We are grateful for the care and maintenance from the collector, as well as the Dutch and Hungarian museums. However, speaking in a legal, or logical or moral way, we have the right to retrieve the statue of Patriarch Zhanggong and place the Buddha back to the original and permanent home – Puzhao Temple, Yangchun Village. Moreover, the statue is a relic passed on from our ancestors. It would only be reasonable to let the Buddha return to where it belongs.

The statue of Patriarch Zhanggong has been an integral part of our lives for almost millennium. We believe that our statue should not be displayed in any museum, including Chinese ones.It absolutely makes no sense for a holy statue that was worshiped to be "traded into" a personal collection after a crime of theft. We look forward to the day, with all our hearts, when Patriarch Zhanggong could be enshrined again in Puzhao Temple so that we and our descendants could be respected and protected for the rest of our lives. To us, the Buddha is holy.

Although the Chinese government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Administration of Cultural Heritage and the police are all involved in this matter and seeking for the statue, we are more inclined to an agreement through private, friendly negotiation for the fastest return of Patriarch Zhanggong. This is the easiest and the best way, which we believe to be more conducive for us and the collector, and we are also open to a reasonable and constructive discussion with your museum and the collector on the return of the statue.

Our Buddhism belief and Patriarch (Zushi) culture have been well inherited and protected so far. Patriarch Zhanggong is the embodiment of the Buddha. His return directly reflects the tolerance and kindness valued by Buddhism, and it is exactly the value of universality in a civilized society. It is also a way to pay respects to history, belief, religion, civilization and human right, instead of allowing such rights to be deprived by others.

If we can reach a private agreement, the collector and representatives of the Dutch and Hungarian museums will be invited as the most distinguished guests to attend the ceremony which will be held to welcome Patriarch Zhanggong back. You'll be the friends and benefactors whom we will forever keep in our minds. What you've done will be recorded into our history.

Considering that we're unable to make direct contact with the collector, we would like to request the Drents Museum to act as the intermediary between us and the collector, and to arrange for a designated personnel to discuss with us about the return of the statue.

Your reply would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Villagers of Yangchun Village

Datian County, Fujian Province, China

(Current letter is translated into English and forwarded by Mr. Li Zhen in Budapest, Hungary, oversea private coordinator and liaison responsible for the retrieval of Patriarch Zhanggong Statue on behalf of Yangchun Village. Contact, Tel: +36 30 9216879, Email: lizhen.budapest@hotmail.com, or chinatimes@chinatimes.hu).

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