Feature: Chinese colored glaze products gain popularity in France

(Xinhua) 16:25, December 06, 2023

PARIS/TAIYUAN, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- In Houetteville Castle in Normandy, France, colored glaze products from China have been on display for more than half a month, and many French people have come here to see these exquisite artworks from the East.

From Nov. 2 to 5, Shanxi Zhangbi Ancient Fortress was invited to participate in the Salon International du Patrimoine Culturel (SIPC) held at the Louvre Museum in Paris. In just a few days, this ancient fortress with a history of more than 1,600 years has attracted thousands of French people, and its colored glaze products have become popular at the expo.

"To let more people know about these exquisite artworks, I gave advice to Lu Yang, the head of Zhangbi Ancient Fortress scenic spot, to display these artworks at our castle in Normandy after the expo, and then tour Europe," said Nathalie Geslin-Yu, president of Club Des Chatelains Chinois de France (Chinese French-chateaux owners club), a French castle organization. "The brilliant colors and oriental shapes of the products are what attract people. I bought a collection myself."

The colored glaze artworks are handmade and include ceramics, architecture, and sculpture. Colored glaze was widely used to decorate palaces, temples, and pagodas in ancient China because of its color and variable shape.

"The artwork has elegant lines and gorgeous color, which is of great appreciation and collection value," said Bai Huaibin, an expert in traditional colored glaze production who participated in the expo.

Lu said the most popular exhibit at the expo is an imitation of Xie Zhi, a one-horned mythical creature reputed to be able to distinguish between good and evil. This doe-eyed creature has been popular in China for years before it made its appearance in France.

"Xie Zhi was often placed on the roofs in ancient times and is a symbol of bravery and justice. Now they often appear at the gates of courts and procuratorates," said Lu, who mentioned that Xie Zhi resembles the unicorn in Western culture, a creature that symbolizes purity and is believed to suppress anything morally degraded.

In Jiexiu City, north China's Shanxi Province, where Zhangbi Ancient Fortress is located, there are many colored glaze products with hundreds of years of history, among which the components on the top of Kong Wang Hall in the fortress are particularly exquisite.

Rebuilt in 1631, the roof of the hall is decorated with yellow, green, and blue glaze components, with different shapes such as dragons and phoenixes, peonies, and warriors. In addition, the two peacock blue tablets located under the eaves of Kong Wang Hall are the only Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) colored glaze tablets found in China at present.

The reason why these products were well-preserved in the fortress is closely related to its military purpose. Lu said that Zhangbi Ancient Fortress in ancient times was located in the border zone of the northern nomads and the central plains. To resist foreign enemies, the ancients built a military and civilian castle with tall walls and underground tunnels, which could be used in wartime to ready troops and store grain during peace times.

Gong Hua, secretary-general of the World Castle Association, said that when it comes to castles or fortresses, many would think of Europe, but China actually also has many castles, especially in Shanxi Province, and the numerous castles in the Fenhe River and Qinhe River basin are comparable to the world-famous French Loire Valley castle group.

"This exhibition gives the European public access to Chinese castles for the first time through videos and cultural and creative artworks. The original introduction video, without any explanation, attracted many visitors to watch it from beginning to end. Many people have expressed interest in going to China to see more castles," Gong said.

Lu said that during the expo, French castle owners, European cultural heritage industry associations, companies, and castle lovers had extensive exchanges with him on the protection of historical buildings, cultural tourism industry development, and other topics.

"France has many cultural protection and development enterprises... I hope we can continue to expand cooperation areas in the future," said Lu.

"Castles are an important part of the world cultural heritage and a common topic between Chinese and foreign cultures," said Gong, adding that they will take the opportunity of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and France and the Year of Culture and Tourism between China and France next year to promote cultural connectivity between the two countries through cultural exchanges and cooperation.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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