The Palace Museum, located inside the world-famous Forbidden City encountered a shocking theft on May 8, 2011. 7 pieces of art from Hong Kong Liang Yi Collection were stolen, most of these pieces are Western-style make-up cases encrusted with jewels and valued at tens of millions yuan.
The theft shocked the whole nation since the Palace Museum is under such strict surveillance. The museum held press conference and offered apology. Feng Nai’en, Spokesman and Curatorial Assistant with the Palace Museum said at a news conference that "the Palace Museum bears an unshirkable responsibility for this regretful incident." At the same time, he admitted that security facilities in the Palace Museum might have some problems.
Some of the stolen art pieces
On 11th May, 58 hours after the theft, Beijing police announced, the National Palace Museum theft suspect Shi Baikui was arrested at Fengtai Internet Café. Part of the 7 stolen art pieces was recovered.
Suspect Shi Baikui was arrested 58 hours after the theft.
On May 13, the National Palace Museum presented a thank-you banner to the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau for their swift action to solve the case. However, in the banner, one word was misused in the banner and caused even more controversy than the theft itself. In the banner, the character should have been “捍” (to defend) was written as “撼 (to shake)” The two characters have the same pronunciation but rather different meaning.
The whole sentence written on the banner, “撼祖国强盛”, originally intended to mean to defend the country’s prosperity. However, the misused character “撼” leads to completely different meaning: to shake the country’s prosperity. A netizen later posted the mistake on the Internet and triggered a wide discussion. Many said, first the theft and now the mistake on the banner, they find it “hard to understand” as Palace Museum is such an important cultural institution yet makes such a laughable mistake. Many expressed their disappointment to the National Palace Museum.
When first questioned about the mistake, spokesman of the Palace Museum defended the mistake and insisted the two characters, “撼” and “捍” (to defend) are interchangeable and the character “撼” is even more appropriate. However, expert on the Chinese language said the two words have totally different meaning and substitute one with another is a mistake for sure.
Later a statement was published in the National Palace Museum’s microblog, admitting their mistake, explaining the mistake happened because “everything was done in a hurry”, ”the museum’s security department was responsible for the making of the banner, they made it without properly checking”.
After the theft and now the mistake on the banner, the public is quite disappointed by this national cultural institution and the reputation of the Palace Museum is greatly damaged.