Page last updated at 13:54 GMT, Wednesday, 23 September 2009 14:54 UK

China lends rare art to Taiwan

Undated photo of Taiwan's National Palace Museum
The joint exhibition will be held at Taipei's National Palace Museum

China says it is going to lend some of its rare cultural artefacts to Taiwan for the first time since the civil war.

It will send about 40 pieces to Taipei's main museum for a joint exhibition on a Qing dynasty emperor, according to the Beijing News.

The whereabouts of China's artefacts have long been a contentious issue.

When the defeated Nationalists retreated to Taiwan at the end the civil war, they took many treasures with them, and Beijing wants them back.

Analysts say the Chinese offer is a sign of warming ties between China and Taiwan.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou is much closer to China than his predecessor Chen Shui-bian, and since he came to power in 2008 relations between the two neighbours have improved.

The exhibition - which will focus on artefacts from the time of Yong Zheng, who ruled China for 13 years until 1735 - will open at Taipei's National Palace Museum in October.

History of art

China's ancient treasures are coveted items, but many of the most spectacular collections are in Taipei rather than Beijing.

One of the items on display at Taipei's Palace Museum ( image courtesy of the National Palace Museum, Taipei)
Taipei's museum holds many ancient Chinese treasures (Image: National Palace Museum)

About 650,000 paintings, bronzes, porcelain and jade from Beijing's imperial collection were packed into crates to escape the Japanese army in the 1930s.

When the Communists under Mao Zedong won the Chinese civil war, Mao's defeated rival Chiang Kai-shek left for Taiwan and took the artefacts with him.

Decades later, the loss of these artefacts still riles the Beijing government.

China recently criticised the Taipei museum for telling a distorted historical story with some of the objects, and Taiwan is very careful when lending the artefacts abroad for fear of Chinese attempts to seize or claim them.

But now, according to the BBC's arts correspondent Laurence Pollard, the Chinese appear to be dealing with the museum in a normal, scholarly way, helping mount a joint exhibition.

This exhibition illustrates the importance culture can have in diplomatic exchanges, our correspondent says.

Nevertheless, the Taiwanese say there will not be any loans going in the opposite direction until an agreement is reached about Beijing's claims on treasures still in Taipei.

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