The perpetrators apparently targeted some of the most valuable exhibits with precision: On the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, unknown persons broke into the Museum of East Asian Art in the Lindenthal district of Cologne and took nine porcelain vases, plates and pots with them. These included a pot with a red and gold dragon pattern and a Wucai wall vase from the Ming Dynasty, as well as vases and bowls from the Qing Dynasty. A security guard heard loud noises at the entrance to the museum. He reportedly saw two men fleeing, one of whom was carrying a gray cube-shaped backpack like those used by delivery services.
The market for such stolen goods is very small
The city of Cologne has now published photos of the stolen items. According to the museum, they are worth a total of around one million euros. According to Stefan Charles, head of the cultural department, the market for such stolen goods is very small: “There are only a limited number of people who are familiar with it,” says Charles. He therefore hopes to make them unsaleable by distributing the images of the stolen items particularly widely.
Shao-Lan Hertel, scientific director of the Museum of East Asian Art for just over two months, said she was “speechless and deeply horrified” by the break-in. The sinologist emphasized that the objects were “well documented and recognizable,” so she hoped “that they will one day appear and find their way back into our collection.”
According to Hertel, what hurts her more than the financial loss is that almost all of the stolen exhibits were part of the inventory that the founders, the married couple Adolf and Frieda Fischer, had acquired for the museum between 1906 and 1911. Another yellow bowl, also from the Ming Dynasty, was added to the collection in 2015 as a donation from the support group.