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An “artifact” at the museum that looks, admittedly, quite fake. (via Weibo by way of National Post)

A museum in China has been forced to shut its doors — not because of a lack of visitors or funding, but because word got out that the vast majority of its 40,000-piece collection is fake. Woops.

The Jibaozhai Museum, located in Erpu village, Jizhou, was founded in 2007 and opened in 2010 at a cost of 540 million yuan ($88 million). But on a visit, Chinese writer Ma Boyong noticed a series of discrepancies. An article in the Daily Telegraph reports:

Among the most striking errors were artefacts engraved with writing purportedly showing that they dated back more than 4,000 years to the times of China’s Yellow Emperor. However, according to a report in the Shanghai Daily, the writing appeared in simplified Chinese characters that only came into widespread use in the 20th century.

The collection also contained a “Tang Dynasty” five-colour porcelain vase despite the fact that this technique was invented hundreds of years later, during the Ming Dynasty.

Ma blogged about his finds, setting off a scandal that’s led to the museum’s closure; the Jizhou civil affairs bureau has also revoked the institution’s license and placed its managers under investigation.

More fake-looking objects (via whatsontianjin.com)

But it turns out everyone in town’s been wary of the museum from the beginning: the Global Times reports that every one of the village’s 1,500 residents signed a petition protesting its construction, and they say they’ve long suspected Wang Zongquan — who conveniently doubles as the village’s Party chief and the curator of the museum — of buying fake artifacts, misappropriating museum funds, and laundering money.

For their part, museum personnel have attempted to minimize the accusations and damage in a series of hilarious statements. Chief consultant Wei Yingjun said he was “quite positive” that at least 80 of the 40,000 objects in the collection were real, adding that all pieces of “dubious” origin had been “marked very clearly.” (Whew!) He also “promised to sue Mr. Ma, the whistleblowing writer, for blackening the museum’s name,” the Telegraph says.

Wang himself had the best take on it, telling the paper that “even the gods cannot tell whether the exhibits are fake or not.” Except, you know, maybe archeologists can.

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...

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