Chinanews, Beijing, Dec. 24 – In recent years, Chinese customs offices have tracked down a number of antiques smuggling cases. The cases show that antique smuggling has displayed some new trends these days – while most antiques were taken abroad intermittently by individual smugglers, today many of these treasures are smuggled out in large numbers; the composition of antiques smugglers has become more complicated; and the antiques taken out of China are mostly sold in South Korea, Japan, the United States and Britain. 

Several days ago, Ningbo Customs Office seized some 20 antiques hidden among a batch of wooden furniture that was about to be exported to the United States. These antiques were made at the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and the beginning of the Republic of China (1912-1949) period, and came under the category of the items banned from being taken abroad. Ningbo Customs has uncovered a total of eight antique smuggling cases since the beginning of this year, with 272 antiques having been confiscated. 

Previously, officers at Tianjin Customs Office also uncovered two smuggling cases in which the antiques were mixed with some other goods that were about to be taken abroad, with 39 antiques made in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties found. In one case, officers found 19 antiques that were prohibited from export from among some porcelain works that were about to be exported to South Korea. In another case, police detected 20 Ming-Dynasty antiques that were mixed with several batches of luggage which a Spanish tourist declared to be taken out of China. 

In Shanghai, since 2004, local customs have cracked 12 fossil fuel smuggling cases, with 193 fossil fuels ferreted out. Of these, 18 are rated as second-class fossil fuels. 

While China further opens to the outside world, smugglers from around the world eye at the lucrative Chinese antique market. A general manager at a furniture making company in Zhejiang once told this reporter secretly that smugglers could make high profits by selling domestic antiques abroad. 

“In China, one can buy a stick of ancient furniture at the cost of 10,000 yuan. However, when this furniture is taken abroad, its selling price can be as high as 10,000 US dollars, ” he said. 

At present, smugglers obtain illegal antiques from mainly three sources: the antiques are either excavated by grave robbers, or bought from antique markets, or they are sold to smugglers at the auction fair. Of these three sources, grave robbing and underground antique market are the two main channels for smugglers to obtain antiques.