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Exhibition ushers in Year of France
By Jiang Zhuqing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-10-11 00:25

The China National Museum of Fine Arts greeted two special visitors Sunday, Chinese President Hu Jintao and his French counterpart Jacques Chirac, as a part of the kick-off celebration of the Year of France in China.

The exhibition was the beginning of a day of cultural celebrations that culminated with a grandiose concert at the front gate of the Forbidden City.

French electronic music artist Jean Michel Jarre plays in the Forbidden City in Beijing October 10, 2004. [Xinhua]

Despite their tight schedules, the two leaders spent about one hour admiring 51 French impressionist paintings on display in the museum.

Chirac, said he was very glad to visit China again and was deeply impressed by the warm welcome he received in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, on Friday during the first leg of his China tour, reported Xinhua.

The painting exhibition bears a symbolic meaning to the cultural development of two countries which highly value cultural diversity and pluralism in international politics, said Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing.

The Sino-French co-operation is moving from the political arena to the economy, trade and culture, Li said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao (L) takes a close look at an artistic work of French impressionist painters in Beijiing October 10, 2004 while French President Jacques Chirac looks on. This year has been marked as the "Year of France in China." [newsphoto]

"This is a fabulous show which represents a significant period of the colourful French culture," said French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres. "I hope lots of Chinese viewers will enjoy the paintings."

He said he believes that the Year of France in China could increase the mutual understanding of both countries and introduce to the Chinese the centuries-old and romantic French culture.

"The Sino-French relationship is in its best period," said Zhao Jinjun, the Chinese Ambassador to France. "It is really a pioneering work for the two countries to hold large-scale and high-quality culture activities."

Also yesterday, a French Culture Centre was unveiled in Beijing in a bid to provide Chinese with a panoramic view of the French culture, marking a new wave of Sino-French culture exchanges.

The centre, a key programme in the Year of France in China, was set up in line with an agreement signed by the Chinese and French governments in 2002, pledging to establish culture centers in both countries.

Bernadette Chirac, wife of French President Jacques Chirac, inaugurated the French Culture Centre by beating a gong, a traditional Chinese musical instrument.

"It is our wish to promote the cultural exchanges and open up new windows for mutual understanding," said Vice-Culture Minister Zhou Heping. "The opening of French Culture Centre signals the healthy development of Sino-French relations and the consolidation of bilateral co-operation."

Yesterday evening, French musician Jean Michel Jarre held a concert at the front gate of the Forbidden City.

Bathed in the shining laser light and surrounded by an electro-acoustic sound system, the Forbidden City turned into a symbol of the combination of West and East. It brought together tradition culture and modern art.

Wang Hui, spokesperson of the Beijing municipal government, said the performance by a famous Western artist at the Meridian Gate, or Wumen, a quintessential piece of classical Chinese architecture, is intended to bring together the ancient culture of China and the modern culture of France.

About 15,000 people attended the performance by Jarre, a few other French musicians and Chinese singer Chen Lin on the main stage at the Meridian Gate square.

Two additional giant screens at the downtown commercial hubs of Xidan and Wangfujin, carried images of Jarre performing on stage.

China Central Television and Channel 2 of France TV broadcast the show to 2,500 million people worldwide.

The Year of France in China will last until July, 2005. More than 200 activities, including music, dances, dramas, movies and arts, will be held to present the essence of French culture to the Chinese, officials said.

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