Ancient Roman exhibition in Beijing – a dialogue between civilizations

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Rome was not built in a day.

For those in Beijing who have a keen interest in the ancient Roman history, they now can catch a glimpse of how Rome was built by visiting the National Museum of China.

"Tota Italia: Origins of a Nation," an exhibition hosted by the museum till Oct. 9, presents 503 pieces of precious antiques from fourth century B.C. to first century A.D. from 26 museums across Italy.

As the flagship project of the China-Italy Year of Culture and Tourism, the exhibition aims at showing the historical process of the Italian peninsula's political and cultural unification as well as its cultural plurality.

Stephane Verger, co-curator of the exhibition from Italy, told Xinhua that the exhibition "reflects Italy on a historical level."

Verger, also the director of the National Roman Museum, said "communication between civilizations is absolutely essential, it has always been there, and that is what the exhibition is about."

It is a good thing to "show how the creation of Italy dates back to antiquity" to the Chinese public during the China-Italy Year of Culture and Tourism, he added.

In the first week following the exhibition's opening, 20,000 visitors stepped into the museum to take a look at the antiques that hardly can be seen outside Italy. So far, it has attracted more than 100,000 visitors.

Many of the antiques have never been exhibited outside the European country before, and some masterpieces even never left their museums.

For example, the "Altar dedicated to Mars, Venus and Silvanus" from the National Roman Museum has made its overseas debut this time. The alter depicts the Roman mythology of a she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, who later founded the city of Rome.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the antiques were transferred by plane to the Chinese museum without being accompanied by Italian staff. Before the trip, the two sides have fully coordinated on the details of transportation. The following process of unpacking and exhibition arrangement was also under supervision by the Italian side through video conferencing.

It is on the basis of the trust built up in the long-term cooperation between the two sides that this exhibition can be conducted through this new model, said Pan Qing, co-curator of the exhibition from China.

Pan said through cultural exchanges, people in different regions have been able to explore commonalities of different civilizations, and at the same time perceive the uniqueness of each civilization from a new perspective.

It is not the first time for China and Italy to carry out such cultural exchanges. In recent years, China and Italy have been conducting extensive exchanges and cooperation in the field of culture. The National Museum of China alone has held seven exhibitions in cooperation with Italian cultural institutions.

"The future dialogue and exchanges between Chinese and foreign civilizations will be more exciting," Pan said.

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