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On 22 June, the Palace Museum held a memorial in honor of He Gang at the Studio of Esteemed Excellence (Jingsheng zhai). Throughout his life, Mr. He made significant contributions to the preservation of China’s culture and the development of museums. The memorial was attended by Xie Chensheng and Gu Yucai of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH); Chen Ailan and other officials from Henan Province; Li Benlei of the Publicity Department; He Gang's son He Junqing; Liu Hongen, the secretary of He Gang's hometown; and Director Shan Jixiang and other directors and researchers of the Palace Museum.
The Memorial Ceremony
In 1985, Mr. He found a quantity of silver objects while digging a foundation in his hometown of Shangshui County, Henan Province. In November of that year, he was accompanied by Liu Hongen and donated the artifacts to the Palace Museum. In February of the following year, he also donated the vat (gang) that originally contained the silver artifacts.
Artifacts Donated by He Gang
The donated artifacts date to the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) and include twelve second-grade artifacts, five third-grade artifacts, and two regular artifacts. This donation is especially significant given that the Museum's collection contained scarce Yuan dynasty silver artifacts; the acquisitions were subsequently displayed frequently in various exhibitions. In honor of his contributions, the Palace Museum included Mr. He’s name among other recognized donors on the Wall of Great Benevolence (Jingren bang).
Silver Boat, Yuan dynasty (1272-1368)
During the memorial ceremony, Liu Hongen recalled the story of Mr. He’s donation and praised his determination in the face of hardship. His son He Junqing said his most prized treasure was never any of the artifacts but his father’s decision to donate them. The family, though not possessing material wealth, never regretted the donation.
Gu Yucai, deputy-director of the SACH, praised He Gang’s awareness of cultural preservation and encouraged more people to learn from his example to promote the preservation and donation of cultural relics. The SACH strives to establish and improve relevant regulations to foster an environment conducive to donation, he added. He hopes that an increasing number of cultural treasures can be sent to museums where they can be properly preserved and made available to the public.
After receiving the news of Mr. He’s passing, the Palace Museum immediately published a memorial and contacted the government of Shangshui County for details. Director Shan Jixiang expressed his appreciation for the donation and said the deed demonstrates the active participation of rural citizens in the preservation of cultural artifacts—an act that should be respected and emulated by people in all sectors of society.
Given that Mr. He’s family has faced many hardships and suffered several misfortunes, the Museum previously offered financial aid to the family on two occasions. Once again, the Museum will grant assistance—this time in the sum of 100,000 yuan to help the family overcome various difficulties.
Some have argued that according to the law Mr. He’s action should be considered "submitting artifacts to the authorities" rather than a donation. On this issue, the Museum's position is that the current criteria for submission fails to specify the rewards, financial or otherwise, that former holders should receive; this lack of specification does little to provide positive incentives to the public. Moreover, it is not uncommon for those who accidentally unearth artifacts or professional artifact-hunters to sell the artifacts, which is another obstacle in the protection of cultural heritage. Thus, the Museum named Mr. He as a donor in order to encourage and recognize this kind of law-abiding behavior as a model to others. The Museum hopes that more people can participate in the protection of artifacts, support the development of China’s museums, and work along with local governments and SACH to share the responsibility to protect cultural heritage.
Translated by Wang Mengxi and Adam J. Ensign
Edited by Zhuang Ying