Chinese TikTok Series Brings Attention to Calls for Return of British Museum Artefacts

A short-video series on the Chinese version of TikTok, Douyin, has gone viral and sparked widespread calls for the British Museum to return Chinese artefacts. The series, titled “Escape from the British Museum,” tells the story of a jade teapot that comes alive and seeks to return to China. This video, created by two Chinese social media influencers, has gained immense popularity, with over 270 million views on Douyin and the creators acquiring more than five million followers within one week. The success of the series can be attributed to its relatable message of “homecoming” and the growing nationalist sentiment in China.

The British Museum has been facing increasing pressure following the revelation that 2,000 treasures were reported as “missing, stolen, or damaged” last month. This scandal has not only fueled demands from China but also from other countries like Sudan, Nigeria, and Greece, all of whom have called for the return of stolen artefacts. The Global Times, a nationalist newspaper in China, issued an editorial requesting the British Museum to return its entire Chinese collection.

Cultural heritage and ownership have become sensitive topics for the Chinese public in recent years. President Xi Jinping’s push for a strong Chinese identity and rising tensions with the West have further fueled nationalist sentiment. This has led to controversies like Dior being accused of “culturally appropriating” Chinese designs and Chinese influencers suggesting that the treasures in the British Museum must be “homesick.” The success of the viral video series reflects the public’s desire for the return of Chinese cultural relics.

The British Museum has long argued that it is the best custodian of such treasures and that returning them would risk their preservation. However, critics argue that the recent thefts have undermined this claim. Other countries, including Egypt and Greece, have also demanded the return of stolen artefacts like the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon sculptures, respectively.

The release of the “Escape from the British Museum” series has intensified the scrutiny on the museum and its handling of cultural relics. It remains to be seen how the British Museum will respond to the growing demands for the return of these artefacts and whether it will face any legal consequences. As tensions surrounding cultural heritage continue to rise, it is crucial for museums and governments to engage in constructive dialogue and find mutually beneficial solutions. The future of cultural heritage preservation depends on respectful collaboration and the recognition of historical injustices.