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Prized mushroom collection returns to China

A Chinese scholar persecuted during the Cultural Revolution for smuggling a rare collection of mushrooms out of China before World War II was honored Saturday when the collection was returned more than 70 years later.

At a ceremony at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Cornell University President David Skorton handed over the collection that had been meticulously gathered by scholar Shu Chun Teng.

Teng studied mycology at Cornell University in the 1920s, then spent the next decade traveling on horseback gathering molds, lichens, yeasts, rusts and morels in the forests, fields and marshes of his homeland.

"I think the most important part about what we're doing here today is really returning a hand to the Chinese people that was outstretched three quarters of a century ago," Skorton said.

During the Japanese invasion in 1937, Teng arranged for his best specimens to be removed from a national botany institute he directed to save them from destruction. During World War II, they were smuggled by ox cart to Indochina and then by sea to the United States, and 2,278 of the specimen packets ended up at Teng's alma mater.
 
 

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