China to lend Taiwan historic artefacts: Museum director

TAIPEI (AFP) - China has agreed to lend art exhibits for a major joint exhibition in Taipei, the head of Taiwan's top museum said on Sunday, as the two former rivals push ahead with detente.

Ms Feng Ming-chu, director of Taipei's National Palace Museum, will fly to Beijing on Monday, the first such trip since 2009 when the chiefs of the museum and of Beijing's Palace Museum made landmark exchange visits.

Ms Feng will meet her Chinese counterpart Shan Jixiang to discuss the loan of more than 30 artifacts from the museum, also known as the Forbidden City, for the exhibition in Taipei in October.

"The Palace Museum in Beijing has agreed to our proposal for loaning artifacts," she told AFP.

The exhibition, which will also include some items from the Taipei museum, features the artistic tastes of Qianlong (1735-1796), an emperor in China's last dynasty Qing.

"Hopefully the cooperation between the two museums will be further enhanced through the visit, following the 2009 ice-breaking exchange of visits by the curators of the two sides," Ms Feng said.

The 2009 visits resulted in the loan of 37 works from the Chinese museum to the Taiwanese museum later that year.

It was the first joint exhibition by the two museums, highlighting warming relations between China and Taiwan which have been ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.

But the Taipei museum still has no plans to lend its artifacts which were originally shipped from China, fearing they would not be returned, Feng said.

The Taipei museum boasts more than 655,000 Chinese artifacts spanning 7,000 years from the prehistoric Neolithic period to the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1911.

They were removed from the Beijing museum in the 1930s by China's Nationalist government to prevent them falling into the hands of invading Japanese troops.

The collection was transported to Taiwan by the Nationalists more than 60 years ago after they were defeated by Chinese communist forces and fled the mainland.

Ties have improved markedly since 2008 when Mr Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party came to power on a platform of strengthening trade and tourism links.

He was re-elected last year for a second and last four-year term.

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