Exclusive Chinese exhibition to be hosted by Canberra
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Exclusive Chinese exhibition to be hosted by Canberra

Canberra will play host to a major Chinese exhibition documenting nearly 300 years of Chinese life and culture, thanks to a partnership with China's largest library.

The National Library of Australia will exhibit Qing: Life in China, 1644 – 1911 next year in partnership with the National Library of China.

Five Hundred Arhats (detail), engraved 1757. This long scroll is a rubbing of images depicting Buddhist figures originally carved on Longevity Hill, Beijing.

Five Hundred Arhats (detail), engraved 1757. This long scroll is a rubbing of images depicting Buddhist figures originally carved on Longevity Hill, Beijing.

Chinese opera, art, calligraphy, religion, astronomy, government, Anglo-Chinese relations, travel and popular fiction will feature among the exhibition's historical artifacts.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced the partnership on Monday from Beijing and said the one-off exhibition would run in the first half of 2016 and be exclusive to the nation's capital.

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Chief Minister Andrew Barr meeting  National Library of China director Han Yongjin.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr meeting National Library of China director Han Yongjin.

"The exhibition takes pieces from the fifth-largest library collection in the world, including architectural drawings produced for the Imperial Court for iconic locations such as the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace; ancient manuscripts; and rare books and illustrated maps, most of which will be new to Australian audiences," Mr Barr said.

"The exhibition's value to Canberra's broader tourism industry will also no doubt be immense, as a catalyst to attract interstate and international visitors, making a significant contribution to the ACT economy.

"[It] will play an important role in expanding Canberra's cultural ties with China, and specifically with Beijing, which has been Canberra's sister city for 15 years."

The exhibition follows partnerships between the ACT government and the National Library of Australia that brought the Mapping our World and Handwritten exhibitions to Canberra.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr and National Library of Australia director-general Anne-Marie Schwirtlich with one of the works.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr and National Library of Australia director-general Anne-Marie Schwirtlich with one of the works.

"Fifty per cent of visitors to each of these exhibitions were from interstate, and from a combined ACT government investment of $400,000 towards these blockbuster exhibitions, they contributed $38.1 million in economic return to the territory," Mr Barr said.

National Library director-general Anne-Marie Schwirtlich joined Mr Barr in Beijing on Monday to finalise discussions about the upcoming exhibition.

She said it was the first time the National Library had collaborated with the National Library of China on such a large-scale exhibition.

"The exhibition provides an insight into the diversity of life in China during the last imperial dynasty," she said.

"From the Dowager Empress to the humble market seller, the exhibition examines nearly 300 year of Chinese life, culture and tradition, creating a way for all Australians to better understand this extraordinary culture.

"More significantly, visitors will experience China as it entered the modern age, with all the diversity of lived experience and cultural attainment brought vividly to life."

Emma Kelly is Canberra Times reporter.

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