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Museum unveils exhibit on Kangxi and Louis XIV

Museum unveils exhibit on Kangxi and Louis XIV

When a powerful emperor in the East and an influential king in the West reigned over their respective countries 300 years ago, one of the developments was a lasting change in the culture and aesthetics of China and France, two of the greatest empires in the world at the time, according to an exhibition that opened Monday at Taiwan’s National Palace Museum (NPM).
In one of the museum’s largest exhibitions in recent years, a 300-year-old old undelivered letter is among the artifacts from 13 French museums and the NPM’s own collection, on display under the theme “Emperor Kangxi and the Sun King Louis XIV: Sino-Franco Encounters in Art and Culture.”
The exhibits on loan are from France’s Louvre Museum, Guimet Museum, and Palace of Versailles, as well as from three Chinese museums and one private collector in Hong Kong.
The exhibition, held in celebration of the Republic of China’s centennial, features artifacts from China and France during the 17th and 18th century. At that time the far ends of the Eurasian landmass were controlled by Kangxi, the fourth emperor of the Manchu-ruled Qing dynasty, and Louis XIV, the absolute ruler of France until the French Revolution.
“The exhibition allows visitors to see how two rulers and five missionaries influenced a generation of people,” said Chou Kung-shin, director of the museum in suburban Taipei, at a promotional press conference Sunday.
Although the two leaders never met face to face, the exhibition shows that they not only knew about each other, but probably wanted to learn more.
One of the exhibits is a copy of a letter Louis XIV wrote to Kangxi, informing the Chinese emperor of plans to send six more French Jesuits to China to help with its science and astronomy studies.
The letter, sent in 1688, was supposed to make its way by land to China, but was blocked by Peter the Great when it reached Russia, Chi Jo-hsin, chief curator of the museum’s Department of Registration and Conservation, said on a guided media tour. The original letter is now preserved in the French Foreign Affairs Archives.
Also on display are the telescope, angle square, astrolabe, abacus and Chinese math textbook used by Kangxi to study math, science and astronomy.
The exhibition includes porcelain and glass dishes, bowls, enamel coated vases and other artifacts that show how Sino-Franco encounters transformed the aesthetics on both sides.
For example, the Chinese adopted the French glass making techniques, while French craftsmen borrowed the Chinese blue and white porcelain art to to arrive at their own distinctive and innovative styles.
Visitors to the exhibition will see Chinese craftsmen’s attempts to depict European families on Chinese blue and white porcelain dishes, probably drawing inspiration from French woodblock prints, and the French’s efforts to portray Chinese men and woman on soft-paste porcelain.

Although they ruled over two vastly different cultures, Kangxi and Louis XIV had much in common. Louis XIV’s 72-year reign in France was one of the longest by a monarch in Europe, while Kangxi’s 62-year rule of China made him one of the longest reigning emperors in Chinese history.

Both rulers were gifted in languages and both took the reins of power at an early age---Louis XIV at the age of six and Kangxi at eight. They never met in person but they learned at lot about each other through the French Jesuits who traveled between the two empires.

Some of the books and manuscripts written by the Jesuits are on display at the exhibition.

The aim of the exhibition is to help visitors better understand how the two monarchs came to learn about each other, how Sino-Franco encounters in arts and culture were facilitated by the French Jesuits who were sent to China during the reign of Emperor Kangxi, and the artistic and cultural splendor that resulted from the encounters, according to the museums’ website.

The exhibition consists of four sections that feature the two rulers and their families, the French Jesuits who served as a bridge between the two cultures, the artifacts from the two empires, and the innovations that resulted from the encounters.

The exhibition will run until Jan. 3 and will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Updated : 2021-10-27 01:01 GMT+08:00