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Europe – Asia Center

Press release: “The Light of Civilization” – A Comprehensive Collection of Ancient Chinese Paintings showcased in Brussels

De Warande, Brussels – December 5, 2022

“The Light of Civilization”, an exhibition on China’s Song Dynasty paintings in Brussels, organized by Zhejiang Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism and Zhejiang University, and supported by Europe-Asia Centre, was officially inaugurated on 5th December 2022 in Brussels. In the majestic setting of Brussel’s prime venue De Warande, nearly 60 guests from the European political, business and art communities were taken on a cultural journey of the great Song Dynasties.

Inauguration was celebrated in attendance of H.E. Cao Zhongmin (Ambassador of People’s Republic of China to Belgium), H.E. Xiang Xiaowei and H.E. Xiong Wei (Minister Counsellors of the China Mission to the EU), Ambassador (ret.) Piet Steel (Chairman of the Europe -Asia Center), Honourable Dr. Andreas Schwab (Member of the European Parliament, CDU – EPP), Em. Prof. Dr. Luk Taerwe (Director of the East Asian Platform of Ghent University), Frank Schwalba-Hoth (former member of the European Parliament, Green party), Alexander De Beir (Chairman of Belgium HK Society), Guido Gerricauzen (Head of Outreach of the House of European History).

Opening ceremony was celebrated with opening notes by Mr Chen Guangsheng (Secretary of the Party Leadership Group, Zhejiang Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism), Ambassador Cao Zhongmin, Ambassador (ret.) Piet Steel, Dr. Andreas Schwab and Em. Prof. Dr. Luk Taerwe.

Audience at the opening ceremony at De Warande, Brussels.

More than Song 100 paintings on display, part of the comprehensive collection of the Ancient Chinese Paintings are presented in three sections: “A Glance at the People’s Daily Life in the Song Dynasty”, “Rhythm of Life in the Flowers and Birds”, “An Externalized Spiritual World in the Landscape Paintings”. Paintings over a reflection of the social and economic development of the Song Dynasty, the elevated status of the literati and the common artistic preferences of all social classes. From delicate technique features to demonstration of vivid details, paintings convey the artistic vision and elevated spiritual meaning.

Fascinating time-travel to the breathtaking Song Dynasty era almost a millennium in the past was most frequent impression of the exhibition guests.

Secretary of the Party Leadership Group from the Zhejiang Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism Mr Chen Guangsheng highlighted the significance of Song Dynasty for reaching the heights of elegance and prosperity. The Song paintings have become the common wealth of human civilization and as the tittle of exhibition indicates, “The Light of Civilization” – contributing to revival of history and developing a joint vision of harmonious future between Europe and China.

Chen Guangsheng, Secretary of the Party Leadership Group, Zhejiang Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism, in his online address to the audience.

In his opening remark, Ambassador Cao Zhongmin highlighted that this exhibition, with the power of technology, allows the audience to better understand the customs and the superb techniques of the artists of the Song Dynasty. A significant exchange providing an unique opportunity for strengthening of Sino-Belgian artistic exchanges and relations.

H.E. Cao Zhongmin, Chinese ambassador to Belgium

Ambassador (ret.) Piet Steel emphasized the significance of culture as an undisputed beacon of dialogue and hope for a better and a more harmonious future. Cultural exchanges with Asia, today more than ever, are necessary and paramount, in a context of a post pandemic world and a challenging international and economic environment. And it is the setting of over 100 paintings that are materialization of eternal beauty, where one can realize the tranquility and harmony of nature.

Ambassador (ret.) Piet Steel, Chairman of Europe-Asia Center

Dr. Andreas Schwab shared the importance of cultural heritage for any cultural context, demonstrating much more than a mere painting technique. Each of the Song paintings tells a story and reflects a greater philosophical vision of society. The inspiration the Renaissance art in Europe or great heritage of Song Dynasty has given to humanity is eternal and beyond context of culture. And it is cultural legacy that should be the source of continued strengthening of dialogue between civilizations of the West and East.

Dr. Andreas Schwab, member of the European Parliament (European People’s Party, German Christian Democratic Union Party – CDU).

The inauguration was furthermore celebrated with a cultural salon, where the famous European pianist Jean-Francois Maljean, a regular visitor to Zhejiang Province, inspired audience with his piano piece “The Inspiration of Zhejiang”. Prof. Dr. Christoph Anderl from Ghent University shared his expert insights on the culture and artistic achievements of the Song Dynasty. The period of the Song Dynasty was “a period of economic and cultural prosperity, which has been, through the invention of printing technology, expanding by its philosophical and religious thinking across the Central Asia and beyond.” Taking Ma Yuan’s painting ‘Walking on a Mountain Path in Spring’ and Fan Kuan’s ‘Travelers among Mountains and Streams’ as an example, he highlighted to the audience the great variation of perspectives each of the paintings presents.

Em. Prof. Dr. Luk Taerwe reflected on his encounters with rich history of Zhejiang’s history, from the Paleolithic Age and the primitive ‘Jiande people’, to the Wuyue culture and Jiangnan culture. Heritage that is a real testimony of Zhejiang being the birthplace of ancient Chinese civilization. Not to forget the numerous inventions, including the movable type printing and gunpowder, inventions that have been brought along the Silk Road thanks to the Song Dynasty.

The Song paintings present Zhejiang’s rich cultural diversity and the ultimate aesthetics of Chinese art. The complete collection is compiled and published by Zhejiang University and the Zhejiang Provincial Cultural Heritage Bureau. Collection presents a significant national cultural project, result of joint effort of 263 cultural institutions and museums in China and abroad. Partners succeed in collecting 12,405 pieces (sets) of Chinese paintings, covering most of the well-known masterpieces. The complexity and scale of project represents continuously serves as an example of international collaboration promoting civilizational dialogue and human creativity.

Photo credit: Europe – Asia Center, 2022

For press enquiries:

Matic Gajšek, Deputy director Europe – Asia Center


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