Bidding for Pride

Bobby Yip / Reuters

Looted from Beijing's Summer Palace by marauding British and French troops in 1860, these bronze horse and boar heads, symbols of the Chinese zodiac, have been returned to China

Money can enable satisfying acts of revenge. The wronged board member returns to acquire and dismember the company; the lottery winner leaves scheming relatives out of a will. Or how about the once trampled nation that can now afford to buy back looted artifacts in a display of economic might as much as national pride?

For China's superrich, bidding successfully for objets d'art taken out of the country during the era of foreign subjugation, then bringing them home to the motherland, has become an important show of status. Like endowing a university or hospital,...

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