Chinese expert says returned sarira pagoda was stolen by foreign invaders

Xinhua, Jan 17, 2008

Xi'an, China -- The Buddhist treasure "Five-layer Sarira Pagoda", which was returned to the Chinese mainland after it was discovered in Hong Kong, was stolen from Beijing in 1900 by foreign invaders, an archaeologist recently said.

"The sarira pagoda was originally placed in Beijing, where the Eight-Power Allied Forces robbed and delivered it to Hong Kong," said Jin Weinuo, a senior archaeologist and professor of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts.

He referred to the army formed by Britain, the United States, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Italy and Austria, which occupied and played havoc with Beijing a century ago.

"They bombarded the Lingguang Temple, where the pagoda was placed, just to get the precious article," Jin said.

The rare five-layer pagoda belonged to Wang Chongren, an overseas Chinese, who bought it in Hong Kong last year and donated it to the mainland.

Experts said the well-preserved relic, dating back approximately 1,000 years, was one of the most significant discoveries since the finger bone of Buddha Sakyamuni was found.

The two-meter-high pagoda consists of five layers made of stone, iron, copper, silver and gold. It was used for storing sarira, the sacred crystal beam-like relics believed to be found in the cremation of a Buddha.