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French king's art heads to Beijing
(China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-03 07:08

The earliest Sino-French exchange took place in 1687 when a six-member delegation sent by French King Louis XIV visited Emperor Kangxi (1654-1722) of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) in old Beijing.

Last May, more than 350 Chinese cultural relics from the time of Emperor Kangxi amazed French viewers visiting Chateau de Versailles.

Now, an exhibition entitled "Louis XIV: the Sun King-Treasures from Chateau de Versailles" in turn enthralls Chinese visitors to the Wumen (Meridian Gate) Exhibition Hall of the Palace Museum in central Beijing.

Part of the "Year of France in China," the exhibition displays 100 cultural relics reflecting the golden period of France under the reign of Louis XIV.

Among the items, 84 are from France and 16 are from the Palace Museum, organizers say.

The exhibition is divided into four sections depicting the profile of the French king, his family and officials, his Chateau de Versailles, and the gifts from Louis XIV to Emperor Kangxi.

Exhibits include an undelivered letter from Louis XIV to Emperor Kangxi, scientific instruments, and a book on geometry translated from French into Manchurian by French diplomats and later used as a textbook for Emperor Kangxi who was keen on absorbing knowledge from the West, according to Hu Jianzhong from the Exhibition Affairs Department of the Palace Museum.

The exhibition also marks the reopening of Wumen Exhibition Hall which was redesigned and equipped with the most advanced technologies to help preserve the 600-year-old gate and bring out the best in the precious exhibits, said Lang Hongyang, chief designer of Wumen Exhibition Hall and a veteran architect with Beijing Tsinghua Architectural Design & Consultation Co Ltd.

Lang and her team were commissioned by the Palace Museum to begin preparing for the redesign as early as November 2000.

With a floor space of at least 650 square metres, the exhibition venue looks like a glass room within a wooden watchtower, and leaves visitors with a strong impression of the ancient architecture, from its wooden structure, exquisite decoration to its elaborate paintings.

At the same time it provides the best possible protection to both the exhibition hall and the exhibits, Lang said.

"The exhibition gives viewers a glimpse of the glory of one of the most remarkable monarchs in human history," said Hu Jianzhong.

Louis XIV ruled France for 72 years, through 54 of which he personally controlled the French Government. The 17th century is labelled the Age of Louis XIV because during his reign France stabilized and became one of the strongest powers in Europe.

During his sovereignty, France grew into a culture of which to boast a definite goal of the regent.

The nation changed dramatically from savage medieval ways to a more refined style of living, evident by his palace at Versailles.

In a mere 54 years, the king accomplished what French sovereigns for centuries had been attempting.

The Beijing exhibition of Louis XIV runs until July 31.

(China Daily 05/03/2005 page7)

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