A museum that contained scores of bogus exhibits, including a vase decorated with cartoon characters billed as a Qing dynasty artifact, has been shuttered by authorities.
The facility, built in northern Hebei province at a cost of 540 million yuan (HK$680 million), has "no qualification to be a museum as its collections are fake," a local official said.
"It has been closed while its founders have been placed under investigation" after local residents accused them of wasting money.
Pictures posted by the state-run China Radio International showed a vase decorated with bright green cartoon animals, including a creature resembling a laughing squid, which the museum displayed as a Qing dynasty relic.
Several items lining the museum's 12 exhibition halls were supposedly signed by the Yellow Emperor, the mythical ancestor of the Chinese nation who according to tradition reigned in the 27th century BC.
But the signatures used the simplified Chinese characters brought in by the Communist Party after it took over in 1949.
The museum's owner, top local Communist Party official Wang Zongquan, reportedly developed a reputation for agreeing to "buy everything brought to him."
Locals living near the museum in Erpu village said Wang bought more than 40,000 fake exhibits at prices ranging from 100 yuan to 2,000 yuan. They accused him of misusing village resources by funneling money from land sales into building the ill-fated museum, which took up a four-hectare site.
China's antiques market is said to be rife with fakes, and the country has come under fire from multinational companies for its freewheeling attitude to copyright enforcement.
"Similar fake museums are found in many places in China in search of monetary gain," an antiques expert said. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE