Authorities in Sichuan Province finally caught up with a gang of temple raiders that were severing the heads of stone Buddha statues and selling them online, police said.
The group had raked in 100,000 yuan (,115) for stealing more than a dozen Buddha heads and other statues, some dating back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
Police in Suining said they tracked down the suspects after they robbed the Stone Buddha temple in Moxi county in July.
Zhou Yao, an officer with the Anju subbranch heading the case, said the group used social media to seek out buyers before making a move.
"They sought out prospective buyers in WeChat groups," said Zhou, "they posted pictures of the relics, and if someone expressed any intent to buy, they would go and steal them."
One of the suspects, surnamed Deng, told the paper they had similarly cased the Stone Buddha temple.
After finding it was unguarded, they returned the next day and removed the heads from seven of its Buddha statues, one of them weighing more than one ton.
The group then connected with a buyer in the provincial capital of Chengdu and dumped them for around 30,000 yuan (,533), Deng told the paper.
Police said the group was found with chemicals and chisels used to remove the heads.
"They would inject chemicals in cracks that would expand and force the heads to come off," Zhou explained.
The group is being held on multiple charges of stealing nationally-protected relics.