031.11 American Museum of Natural History (4th Asiatic)/91

Memorandum by the Minister in China (Johnson) of a Conversation With the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs (C. T. Wang)10

Subject: Legislation Concerning Archeological and Paleontological Finds.

During the course of a luncheon at the home of Vice Admiral Chen, I told Dr. Wang that I was very much interested in the question of prospective legislation which I understood was before the Legislative Yuan relative to exploration in China conducted by scientific organizations. I stated that both I and Dr. Osborn11 had had long conversations with the Chinese Minister in Washington on this subject and that Mr. Stimson, Secretary of State, was also very much interested, that Mr. C. C. Wu had given me to understand that the Chinese Government was investigating the whole question of such legislation through its diplomatic missions abroad for the purpose of determining international practice in such matters, and had stated that he was confident that, in enacting such legislation, the Chinese Government would be certain to adopt the practice most generally followed and would differentiate between archeological and paleontological finds.

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I said that scientific bodies in the United States and other parts of the world were extremely interested in Central Asia as the possible home of pre-historic and early historic man, and that China possesses the key to this and is, therefore, in a position of great responsibility to the world of science.

Dr. Wang stated that they realized this and the question was, whether an ancient object discovered within Chinese territory was the property of China or was the property of the finder. I said this was the question which had to be decided, that it was our theory and, I believe, the general practice, that a differentiation was made between archeological remains which were essentially a part of the national history of the people and paleontological finds which were essentially the property of the human race, and that following this theory, we were inclined to believe that the finder who raised the funds and had the enterprise to make the discovery could take and keep for personal study the find, being, of course, under obligation to make the results of his study available to mankind in general, that it was on the basis of this theory that Dr. Osborn and the Museum of Natural History desired to add to their collections the originals of any finds they might make.

Dr. Wang stated that during the visit he recently made to Peiping he had discussed this whole matter at a meeting of the Committee and had discovered to his great sorrow that there had been a difference of viewpoint on this subject between the Committee and Dr. Roy Chapman Andrews, the head of the Expedition sent out by the Museum of Natural History. He said at one time Dr. Andrews had been willing to sign a statement wherein he would agree to leave all original specimens in China and carry away only duplicates. I interrupted at this point to say it was my understanding that the Museum of Natural History took just the other view, namely that being the sponsors and financers of the expedition, they had a natural claim to the originals of all new material found, that they were willing to make casts of all new material and leave such casts as well as duplicates in China.

Dr. Wang stated that his understanding was quite different on this point, that this, of course, the Cultural Society in Peiping could not agree to.

I told Dr. Wang at this point I thought if this was the case we ought to tell Dr. Osborn so in order that we might settle this question and not keep them waiting any longer in Peiping. He then said he was not certain of this matter and would like to have an opportunity of investigating before making any positive statement.

  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Minister in China in his despatch No. 97, March 20, 1930; received April 23.
  2. President Henry Fairfield Osborn of the American Museum of Natural History, New York.