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The life of Sissi

By Wang Kaihao | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-10 08:03

The life of Sissi

The show Sissi and Hungary reveals the life of the legendary queen in the 19th century. The relics on display also show the connection between China and Hungary in olden times. [Photo by Jiang Dong/China Daily]

An exhibition about the Austro-Hungarian queen is touring China. Wang Kaihao reports. 

Many Chinese who grew up in the 1970s and '80s are familiar with the name Sissi.

That was how Queen Elisabeth (1837-98), a dual monarch of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was commonly known, even among her subjects.

The first film of a trilogy about the queen that was made in Austria, starring Romy Schneider, was shown in China in 1988, when Western films were still rare in Chinese cinemas.

Sissi's real life is now being presented through an exhibition in Beijing, with nearly 150 cultural relics related to her or Hungary loaned from the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest.

The exhibition, Sissi and Hungary: The Magnificent Life of Hungarian Aristocracy in the 17th to 19th Centuries, will run through Jan 3 at the Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City.

"Her beauty, her romantic spirit and her tales are known to all," says Shan Jixiang, director of the Palace Museum.

"She sympathized with Hungary and was welcomed and loved by people there."

Sissi played a pivotal role in calming tensions between Hungarians and the ruling Habsburg family since she took the throne in the 1860s, he says.

"Queen Elisabeth is still a popular star in Hungary," says Benedek Vagra, director general of the Hungarian National Museum.

"Due to shared emotions in both countries (Hungary and China), she is a good example to give a brief introduction of Hungarian history to Chinese visitors."

Sissi had a difficult relationship with her mother-in-law, Emperor Franz Joseph I's mother. And she was emotionally detached from royal life at the Habsburg court. So, she spent much of her time living in Budapest and traveled all over Hungary. The queen also gave birth to her last child in Budapest.

"Actually, her real life and marriage were more difficult than what was depicted in the films," Vagra says.

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