Archaeological authorities in northern Shanxi Province announced on Saturday that they have retrieved a millennium-old stone carving stolen from China's oldest existing Taoist temple.
An official from the Shanxi Provincial Administration of Cultural Heritage said the stone tablet was seized after police nabbed four suspects in December and would be returned to the 1,170-year-old Guangrenwang Temple in the Longquan Village of Ruicheng County.
The temple was built in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) for farmers to prey for rain from dragons, long worshipped as water gods in China. It is also the oldest surviving edifice for such religious practices.
The stone carried "Records of Longquan" documenting the construction of Guangrenwang Temple and other water conservancy projects, as well as local rain-preying rituals, during the time the temple was built.
The temple, however, is in a poor state of maintenance, and the stone carving was stolen in 2012, said Feng Yunlong, head of the cultural relic administration trusted with the temple's protection.
Feng said funds have been secured for revamp work to begin at the site this year.