A museum in China has a problem. It seems to have a few fakes in its vast collection. Well, as many as 40,000. Everything it owns may be nothing more than a mass of crude forgeries.
Wei Yingjun, a consultant to the Jibaozhai Museum in Jizhou, about 150 miles south of Beijing, insists the situation is not that bad. He is "quite positive" that 80 or even more pieces out of tens of thousands in the museum are authentic.
In spite of this sterling defence, regional authorities in Hebei province have closed the museum amid a national scandal driven by some very free speech on China's internet. One online satirist suggested it should reopen as a museum of fakes – "If you can't be the best, why not be the worst?"
Maybe that's a good idea. All museums have a couple of fakes in their collections. Sometimes they own up to them, sometimes they put any dubious artefacts in a dark storeroom – and sometimes they don't know. But a collection that its accusers claim is entirely inauthentic is in its way a masterpiece of museology.
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