• 21 Feb 2018

On December 21st, 2017, the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia’s security cameras caught an unusual scene. Indeed, on the occasion of an “Ugly sweaters party” organized by the museum, a man took a selfie and stole the thumb of one of the terracotta soldiers lent by the Chinese Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center.

This picture represents the Chinese Emperor's terracotta army.

Terracotta army, China

The Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center role

The news of the theft had the effect of a bomb to the Shaanxi museum. In fact, the museum lent the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia 10 terracotta soldiers. However, the loan of such artistic and historic treasures to the main international museums is far from being new to the Chinese institution. Indeed, it has been decades since the Shaanxi museum has been supporting exhibitions promoting these treasures around the world. Nevertheless, it is the first time that the Chinese institution is confronted to such a case. Consequently, Chinese authorities called for a “severe punishment”.

A noxious incident

The Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center said it was a “noxious incident” in its recent declarations. Indeed, the case is embarrassing to the Philadelphian institution. Even though the incident was recorded on December 21st, 2017, the missing finger of the Emperor’s terracotta soldier was noticed on January 8th 2018 only. The FBI stepped in and quickly apprehended the suspect thanks to the security cameras. The one responsible is Michael Rohana, a Delaware State resident. He was keeping the valuable 2000 year-old finger in a desk drawer. The Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center told the Chinese media they had never experienced this kind of “noxious incident” before.

This picture by Beyond My Ken represents the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia.

Franklin Institute of Philadelphia © Beyond My Ken

A terracotta army

The statue that was vandalized will remain on show at the Philadelphian museum until March 4th, 2018. It is one of the 8000 other soldiers’ statues, horses and other figures discovered in the Xian, the tomb of the first Chinese Emperor Qin Shihuang. As a result, such a historic piece entitled the “Cavalryman” is worth 4,5 million dollars. Consequently the Shaanxi museum that landed the Artwork could change drastically his lending policy to different institutions, in the United States on one hand, and around the world on the other hand. In fact, the total reparation coast will be determining in the definition of the new policy.

This picture by Jesse represents the Shaanxi History Museum in Xi'an in China.

Shaanxi History Museum, Xi’an, China © Jesse


Read our article about photographer and Art-Trope Artist Roland Giuseppelli here.

Sources: The Art Newspaper and NBC News