Today Song Xinchao (State Administration of Cultural Heritage Deputy Director) and Duan Yong (Museums and Social Heritage Secretary) met with the French PPR Group Chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault. Mr. Pino representing the Pinault family said that the two bronze sculptures (rat head and rabbit head) which are the part of the Yuanmingyuan relics will be donated to the Chinese government. The Chinese side spoke positively of the move, and considered this as complied with the principles and spirit of the International Convention on protection of cultural heritage. This move showed hospitality to the Chinese people, and set a good example for the future return of more heritages loss oversea.
Yuanmingyuan 12 animal statues, are also known as Yuanmingyuan 12 Zodiac bronze animal heads, the Yuanmingyuan 12 Zodiac bronze sculptures, were originally part of water clock fountain outside the Haiyantang, Yuan Ming Yuan (Summer Palace). The 12 Yuanmingyuan Zodiac bronze animal heads were among the treasures looted during the destruction of the Old Summer Palace by British and French expeditionary forces in 1860 during the Second Opium War.
In October 2008, Christies announced the auction of the rat and rabbit sculptures that were part of Yves Saint Laurent’s collection. The auction was not successful by a Chinese man who bided for the 2 sculptures and refused to pay as an act of protest.