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Top 25 of 2013: Rescue mission

December 16, 2013
Buddha statue

Buddha statue

As 2013 draws to a close, NIU Today offers a look back at 25 of the top stories from the year.

No. 15

More than 2,000 temples and shrines dot the landscape of Bagan, the ancient royal capital of Myanmar. It was here in 1988, amid the country’s political unrest, that a nearly 1,000-year-old statue of a rare standing Buddha went missing, snatched from a remote temple cave.

So begins the saga of its return, a story that spans nearly a quarter century.

The priceless sculpture would travel from Myanmar (also known as Burma) to Bangkok, then to San Francisco, New York and DeKalb. It would be saved from the auction block, draw the involvement of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and become the subject of a precedent-setting lawsuit.

And thanks to some super sleuthing by a now retired Northern Illinois University professor, the legal expertise of an NIU alumnus and the persistence of a current NIU professor, the stolen statue finally made its way home.