Taiwan, China museums hail first joint exhibition

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The Independent Online
(AFP) -

Taiwan and China Tuesday hailed the first joint exhibition by their two leading museums in six decades as another sign of the rapidly improving ties between the former arch foes.

"This exhibition is a landmark indicator of the exchanges launched by the two museums more than half a year ago," Zheng Xinmiao, the head of the Palace Museum in Beijing's Forbidden City, told reporters here.

Zheng spoke ahead of the opening of "Harmony and Integrity: Yongzheng Emperor and his Times," which features 246 artefacts from the mid-18th century, including 37 from the Beijing museum and two from a Shanghai museum.

The exhibition "marks the beginning of further cooperation. It is worthy of attention and continued support of our compatriots on the two sides of the (Taiwan) strait," Zheng said.

However, neither Zheng nor his Taiwanese counterpart, Chou Kung-shin of Taipei's National Palace Museum, were able to say whether Taipei would return the favour and lend items to the Beijing museum.

"It's not convenient to say at this point," Zheng said.

Chou has previously made it clear that her museum is unlikely to lend its treasures to Beijing in the absence of an agreement ensuring that they will not be retained by mainland China.

The National Palace Museum in Taipei boasts more than 655,000 artefacts spanning 7,000 years from the Neolithic period to the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911.

They were removed from the Beijing museum in the 1930s to prevent them falling into the hands of invading Japanese troops and were taken to Taiwan by the Nationalists as they fled communist forces on the mainland.

Beijing considers itself the sole ruler of all China, including Taiwan, since the island and the mainland split in 1949 at the end of the civil war. It also regards itself as the guardian of Chinese cultural heritage.

Observers say the Yongzheng exhibition is a sign of the improvement in ties between Taipei and Beijing after Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang came to power in Taiwan last year.