Yes sirree Bob, step right up, don’t be shy, who wouldn’t want a priceless artifact that if you were caught with it in China it would be 20 years of hard labor for you? And with the vast majority of Chinese unable to speak English (99% apparently), most of them would also be completely unable to read and navigate Ebay’s website, and there would be little bidding competition from actual Chinese themselves. Most Chinese shop on taobao.com instead of Ebay, which only listed 10 Hongshan artifacts for sale on 2/5/2016 vs. 5,459 on Ebay at the same time. Sadly while Chinese were busy getting their shop on buying mass produced plastic crap or just a bunch more clothes and wigs, much of their cultural heritage was being sold without question nor provenance for a fraction of their real value.
The goods now being sold en masse on Ebay includes things that Chinese communists have been stealing for years from people’s personal possessions, their homes, graves, and perhaps museums as well and state-sponsored archaeological digs. It also may include things that may have been legitimately confiscated from thieves, but to be sold without saying where they were obtained and how is just wrong still. Communists catch a thief trying to sell a jade pig for 100,000 so they turn around and sell it for $200? How is this justice? What did we learn?
This is a highly unusual piece of jade- what is called a cong- showing considerable overlap of cultures and influence (Hongshan & Lianzhu & ?) with a very, very early form of writing that may be equal in age to the fabled “oracle bones“.
This bug-eyed man is from the Sanxingdui Culture from at least 2,000 BC, once again featuring some of the earliest writing in China. It is just one of many of these very similar types of heads for sale on Ebay alone currently, and may have represented the specific individuals who were deceased, and been placed in their grave to accompany them.
What appears as a whitish “salt” on the surface is a sign of great age and occurs on specific types of rock and jade worse than others, and cannot always be trusted to tell the age of an object for this reason, and it can be faked using acid as well. I’m not saying everything being sold is real, but I’m not saying it is all fake either- which is how a lot of this is gotten away with, people just assume it is fake, especially at the prices they are selling it at.
Why sell your country so short?
One is the history and politics of China to begin with. Most of the people who owned expensive jade or were buried with a lot of it were seen as spoiled aristocrats who felt they were above common people and were documented to often be ruthless and cruel- overindulgent while their workers starved or were completely enslaved, so there is little compassion for them as their things as they are sold for cash.
One is that the Chinese may feel like they already know everything there is to know and worth knowing about Chinese history and would like to get rid of the evidence before other scientists get to look at everything. It is also a really good way to write your own history, and with the provenance that the Ebay seller’s have, it would be really tough to publish much credible scientific work from these countless artifacts, no matter how important.
One is because perhaps you have friends and family, business associates in other countries and you would like for them to be able to purchase anything they might want from Chinese antiques and prehistory at a steeply discounted rate without taxes, tariffs or anyone even raising an eyebrow. It certainly would keep someone happy and in resale business wherever they might be located- particularly other Chinese who are the biggest consumers of Chinese antiques.
Nooo…. Really? Really.
And then there is the other kind of looting also going on.
Personal effects taken from the prisoners at Auschwitz before they were taken to the gas chamber. These belongings were found after liberation, in warehouses at the camp.—US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Philip Vock
Looting the assets of its victims was commonly done by the Nazis to fund WWII, and China has certainly done no less to its countless victims whom it has drug off to concentration camps called Laogai– forced labor- prisons.
This is a map of where the forced labor prisons are located throughout China:
People are commonly arrested and hauled off without trial to this day, meanwhile it is suspected that this is where the vast quantity of used items currently being sold as “new without tags” on Ebay is sourced from. It is also thought that many of the used items that need cleaning, restringing or to be refurbished in some manner are done by Laogai prisoners- therefore it is possible to keep the overhead costs impossibly low and the prices to consumers- by stealing and slave labor. This is how it is possible to sell necklaces of lapis lazuli with individually knotted beads and a center pendant for only $6.50, meanwhile someone else was paying the real costs.
The sad part is that a lot of people probably think to themselves they are doing some poor Chinese small business a favor by purchasing this type of illegitimately gained goods from them, meanwhile many of these sellers have multiple shops and are perhaps richer than the average American, or they could just be an underpaid and overworked peon of the communist party who would be far better off getting a legitimate job and who sees only a very small fraction of what is being made. It doesn’t just go to Mom and Pop. The world doesn’t work that way anymore, and certainly not on this grand of a larceny.