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LONDON — The British police are seeking clues to a burglary at a museum in Bath, in southwest England, this week in which four masked thieves made off with precious artifacts including a jade figure of a monkey holding a peach from the Yuan or early Ming dynasty.

The Avon and Somerset Police said witnesses reported seeing the thieves breaking a first-floor window about 1:20 a.m. on Tuesday at the Museum of East Asian Art, which bills itself as the only museum in the United Kingdom “solely dedicated to the arts and cultures of East and South East Asia.”

The burglars then smashed display cabinets and removed numerous items, according to a police statement. Among the items stolen in addition to the jade monkey:

• A carving of jade mandarin ducks with lotus flowers.

• An inlaid wooden box.

• A soapstone figure of the Han dynasty scholar Dongfang Shuo.

• A set of 14 gold belt plaques.

• A Jizhou stoneware vase.

The police have not put a price on the haul, saying that the items vary in monetary value but that their “cultural significance is priceless.”

A carving of jade mandarin ducks with lotus flowers was among the items stolen. Credit Museum of East Asian Art

The police said the thieves fled in a dark sport utility vehicle. Officers have seized a white Ford van that was stolen and left at the scene. The police have appealed to the public for information to solve the crime, and are scouring CCTV footage for clues.


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Detective Sgt. Matthew Reed said in a statement, “Due to the items stolen and the speed of the burglary, we suspect this to be a targeted attack with the artifacts possibly stolen to order.”

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