Three historic books featuring creations by famous contemporary artist Feng Zikai were recently stolen at a private museum in Huangpu District in Shanghai.
His family has thus far declined to call police, choosing to write a “spiritual note” asking the thief to return the books.
“We don’t want to call police but hope one day the stolen books will reappear in the museum after the thief reads the note. This is how Feng would have educated his students and what he would have wanted to see,” said Yang Chaoying, Feng’s granddaughter.
The books were part of Feng’s series “Protection for Living Beings,” which was published in the 1920s.
The series features six books long out of print and each one is valued at about 5,000 yuan (US$815). They contain poems and cartoons teaching people to love and protect all living things.
The books were stolen at Feng’s former residence, which was converted into a museum, on Shaanxi Road S. Feng died in 1975.
The books were exhibited in a locked and sealed glass case on the third floor of the historic villa.
The thief used a thin knife to cut the glue where the sides meet and stole the books, a museum employee surnamed Zhu told Shanghai Daily yesterday.
The glass case now contains the spiritual note, which quotes a short story written by Feng and how his teacher, Master Hong Yi, would handle a situation in which someone did something wrong.
“We believe most visitors come to the museum to appreciate his work and look for meaning in their lives,” Yang said. “We’d like to give the thief a chance for redemption.
“The books teach readers how to love, forgive and look for peace, so we use these ways to appeal to the thief,” Yang said.
The books are considered Feng’s masterwork as the devote Buddhist spent 10 years compiling each one as a gift to Master Hong Yi.
Zhu said other items have been stolen from the museum since it opened to the public for free in 2010.
A calligraphy work by Feng’s daughter, another book and several bookmarks had been stolen in the past few months, he said.
Zhu said the museum relies on a government subsidy and can not afford to hire enough employees to supervise visitors. There are usually only one or two employees on duty, and the second and third floors are usually left unsupervised.
The museum opens from 10am to 4:30pm every Wednesday through Sunday, excluding public holidays.