The Allied Forces of the Eight Powers moved on Beijing in 1900 to defend against the Boxer Rebellion. The embassies were under siege as was much of Beijing. After the troops rescued the embassies, they occupied Beijing for a short time. During this time the French and German forces looted the observatory and sent the instruments home. The French returned the equatorial armilla, the ecliptic arimilla, the azimuth theodolite, the quadrant and the abridged armilla two years later, in 1902. It took longer to convince the Germans to return the instruments sent to Berlin. In 1921 the German government returned the Ming armillary sphere, the Qing armillary sphere, the Qing celestial globe, an armilla and the sextant as part of the Versailles Peace Treaty following World War I.

Many of the instruments took another trip as the Japanese forces moved toward Beijing in 1931. Some of the instruments were shipped to Nanjing for safe-keeping at the Purple Mountain Observatory and Nanjing Museum. Many of them remain there to this day and replicas were made for display at the Beijing Observatory. It is not easy to get a museum director to give up an acquisition.
Last update: September 2007
© Marilyn Shea, 2007