BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities are gathering evidence that a statue that was displayed at a mummy exhibit in Hungary belongs to a village in southeastern China, ahead of possible diplomatic talks to retrieve the treasure, an official said Tuesday.
The investigation followed a weekend report by the official Xinhua News Agency that the mummy statue featured at the MummyWorld Exhibition in Budapest was stolen from Yangchun village in Fujian province in 1995.
Yu Shengfu, an official at a cultural heritage bureau in Fujian, said that the conclusion is preliminary and that Chinese authorities are gathering more proof, including photos, to show that the piece owned by a private Dutch collector belongs to the Chinese village.
The mummy-containing statue has been pulled from the exhibit, which runs through May 17 in Budapest.
The Hungarian Natural History Museum, the host of the exhibit, said the piece was removed and sent back to the Netherlands upon request of a lending partner but did not give further details.
The statue is believed to contain the mummified body of a Yangchun man who later became a well-respected Buddhist monk during China's Song Dynasty (960-1279), and the statue had been worshipped since then in the village temple, Xinhua said.
Yangchun villagers, who have kept the statue's hat and clothes since the 1995 theft, "burst into tears" and "lit fireworks" after seeing the statue on television earlier this month, Xinhua said.