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Building legacies

An exhibition shows how architect Tong Jun's journeys of discovery constructed new links between East and West, Lin Qi reports.

By Lin Qi | China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-11 07:51
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Renowned architect Tong Jun's works, on exhibition, include A Night View of Bridge of Sighs, Venice. [Photo provided to China Daily]

An exhibition shows how architect Tong Jun's journeys of discovery constructed new links between East and West, Lin Qi reports.

If Tong Jun were alive today, he'd celebrate the reopening of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, anticipated to be completed this December, with particular gusto.

The roughly 850-year-old landmark that was engulfed in flames five years ago was a favorite of the late architect and scholar. While traveling in France, he wrote about his love for this Gothic building in a diary entry dated May 23, 1930: "Notre-Dame is the most interesting. Its interior has an extraordinarily mystical atmosphere, which is accentuated by those beautiful stained-glass windows, making one feel his heart tremble. It's the best experience I've ever had."

He hailed the marvel again in another diary entry three days later, after visiting Chartres Cathedral, which he believed didn't have the same mystique.

"Everyone likes Chartres, but I prefer Notre-Dame," Tong wrote.

Tong is recognized as one of 20th-century China's "four great architects", alongside Yang Tingbao, Liang Sicheng and Liu Dunzhen. All four were trained both in China and abroad, and blended Western and Chinese practices and philosophies.

Tong's diaries bear witness to his extensive travels through a dozen countries in Europe from May to August 1930, during which he visited and sketched famed buildings.

A selection of the drawings, watercolors, diaries and photos recording that journey are on show at A Leisurely Stroll From the East to the World, an exhibition at the Art Museum of Beijing Fine Art Academy that runs through to Feb 26.

The works were shown several times last year to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Tong's passing, including at Southeast University in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, where he taught for years, and in Shanghai, where many of his designs were built.

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