Alice set for new Beijing adventure

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Museum marks centennial of novel's Chinese version as it delves into the world of Lewis Carroll's work.

In 1922, the first Chinese version of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was published. The critically acclaimed translation by Chinese-American linguist Zhao Yuanren enabled readers to embark upon the fantastical and bizarre journey undertaken by Alice down the rabbit hole in her garden.

And now, Alice and those strange characters she encountered on her adventures have come back to Beijing to celebrate the centennial of the novel's Chinese translation.

Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, an exhibition staged last year at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, explores the evolution of Carroll's fiction-and its sequence Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There-since it first rolled off the press more than 150 years ago, from manuscripts to a beloved piece of English children's literature and afterward, a global cultural phenomenon.

The exhibition reaches Beijing on the first stop of its world tour, bringing to the U2 by the UCCA museum some 300 objects broken into five sections to explore the origin and development of Alice's adventures, as well as the fanfare this literary icon has created in the different dimensions of pop culture.

Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser is "one of the most ambitious exhibitions ever staged by the V&A and the first to offer a virtual reality experience", said Tristram Hunt, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, in a video speech at the exhibition opening on Feb 27.

He says the exhibits span film, fine arts, performance, fashion, music and photography, and present the adaptations and reinventions of Alice's stories, and that the exhibition provides an immersive experience for both children and adults to enter "an enchanting and extraordinary world of wonderland".

The exhibition begins with an introduction of the social context that inspired the birth of Alice's stories. Drawing on his interests in mathematics, music and the social scene of the time, Carroll's work addresses cultural issues, social mentality and science in the 19th century, reflecting the dramatic changes of the industrial age.

Visitors will get to see photos of the real Alice-Alice Liddell, a daughter of Carroll's dean at Christ Church, Oxford University. She asked Carroll to write down a story he told, based on which he developed Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

The stories have been translated into more than 170 languages, and the birth of film added another dimension of appreciation, imagination and creativity to this intellectual property. The exhibition gathers cinematic renditions of Alice's adventures from different times, as early as a 10-minute silent movie produced in 1903, five years after Carroll's death.

The exhibition also celebrates the expansive inspiration of Alice, interpreted as a symbol of seeking change and expressing doubts, for those working in the different sections of art. Examples on show include a collection of surrealistic illustrations by Salvador Dali, and the works by Yayoi Kusama, who presents Alice as an icon of courage.

Hunt says that since their publication, Carroll's Alice stories, which are filled with wonderful characters, such as the March Hare, the Cheshire Cat and the Queen of Hearts, have never been out of print. "They have entertained generation after generation and provided an inexhaustible source of inspiration for some of the world's most creative minds."

He says the "openness, capacity for relentless interpretation and truly global appeal" of Carroll's work ceaselessly attracts people from around the world to "reshape a classic English fantasy".

The exhibition, which runs until June 11, is also the inaugural show of U2, located at Chaoyang Joy City mall, to target the capital's younger generations who view hanging out at art museums and sharing photos of art shows on social networks an integral part of their life.

Xu Ning, CEO of the U2, says the museum is committed to bridging art, people and urban communities and enriching city culture, through world-class shows like Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser.

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