President gets view of China's history

Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife Mary being given a tour of the National Museum of China yesterday.
Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife Mary being given a tour of the National Museum of China yesterday.LIANHE ZAOBAO PHOTO

First full day of state visit to China taken up with matters cultural, historical

History and cultural exchanges took centrestage on the first full day of President Tony Tan Keng Yam's state visit to China, with interactions past and present highlighting 25 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Dr Tan and his wife Mary yesterday presented the Chinese with a gift from home - 300 books on Singapore for the National Library of China - as part of an SG50 initiative by the National Library Board. The programme aims to give 10,000 books on Singapore to 40 libraries around the world.

National Library of China president Han Yongjing thanked the couple as they handed him a selection of the books, which included Fifty On 50, a collection of Singapore poetry in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil.

Later in the day, during an 80-minute tour of the National Museum of China, a smiling Dr Tan stopped at one of the exhibits - a large crystal bowl with floral patterns. It was a gift from former Singapore President Wee Kim Wee to his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin, he noted the label saying.

The exchanges over the years underscore the relationship that has blossomed between both countries, even though Singapore was the last Asean nation to establish diplomatic ties with China in 1990.

China's ties with other countries are also showcased at the museum.

Dr Tan also stopped to look at black-and-white pictures of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong with world leaders, including then US president Richard Nixon, who worked towards formalising ties between their two countries.

The pictures are part of the museum's permanent exhibition - The Road to Rejuvenation - a sweeping narrative of modern Chinese history. President Xi Jinping had first discussed his "China Dream" vision of a great, resurgent Chinese nation in 2012 after viewing the exhibition.

Dr Tan will meet Mr Xi and other top Chinese leaders later during his visit. They are expected to review bilateral ties and discuss regional developments, including Sino-Asean and Sino-US ties.

During Dr Tan's tour of the National Library, he viewed ancient calligraphy, scripture and printing, including a handwritten record of Singapore by a Chinese scholar dating back to 1887.

He tried his hand at the art of Chinese woodblock printing by brushing red paint against a large block and pressing it on paper.

"These paintings signify good fortune, so I wished him well and hope it brings him luck," said artist Zhang Yunxiang, 48, who helped Dr Tan with the process.

Mr Zhang is from Weifang in eastern Shandong province, which is known for its woodblock paintings.

Today, Dr Tan will visit Tianjin - 40 minutes away from the capital by high-speed rail - where he will receive an honorary doctorate from Nankai University. He will also meet Tianjin's acting party secretary Huang Xingguo and visit the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2015, with the headline 'President gets view of China's history'. Print Edition | Subscribe