Decorative artifacts stolen from the Palace Museum (image via

Think Beijing’s historic Forbidden City is pretty well guarded? Well, you’d be right, the place is infested with security. Yet that didn’t stop a thief from grabbing $1.5 million worth of artifacts from the Palace Museum in the historic complex.

While it’s surprising that anyone even managed to steal from one of Beijing’s major museums, the details of the case are even stranger. Officials say that the stolen items didn’t even belong to the Palace Museum, reports Artinfo. They belonged to private collectors:

The stolen items are from the collection of Hong Kong collector Feng Yaohui, and were loaned by the private Liang Yi Museum to the Palace Museum for an exhibition highlighting early 20th century decorative arts, on view through June 27.

See the missing items above. The show will go on even without the stolen objects, but you never know how quickly Chinese police might catch the culprit. Though commentators are suggesting that the theft was an inside job, the last successful theft from the Palace Museum was in 1987, and that particular transgressor was quickly caught and sentenced to life in prison. Conspiracy or not, I wouldn’t give good odds for the thief’s escape.

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...