Celebrating 20 years of diplomatic relations, France and China have kicked off a year dedicated to cultural and tourism exchanges. Announced in 2019 by Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Xi Jinping, the initiative aims to strengthen cultural ties between the two countries and promote them as tourist destinations to each other.
The aim is to “strengthen the attractiveness of France and promote the destination to the Chinese through our know-how, our culture and our heritage”, Olivia Grégoire, Minister Delegate for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, Trade, Small-Scale Industry and Tourism said at the opening ceremony in China.
According to the French Ministry of Culture, besides re-attracting Chinese tourists to the country after the Covid slump, the initiative also looks into promoting tourism beyond Paris and highlight French tangible and intangible cultural heritage, the vitality of its artistic scene, its cultural and creative industries, its language and its lifestyle.
1. Opening ceremonies
The year kicked off on 5 January, at the Ice and Snow Festival, in Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang, China’s northernmost province. Symbolically, two illuminated ice sculptures stood side by side, one representing Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral and the other Beijing’s Temple of Heaven, both UNESCO World Heritage sites.
On 31 January, another opening ceremony will be held in France, at the Palace of Versailles, with a large concert of the Traditional National Orchestra of China and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera of the Palace of Versailles.
2. Year-long “program of excellence”
Throughout the year, events will be held in both countries. The French Ministry of Culture promises a “program of excellence (…) to introduce audiences to the French arts, whether classic or contemporary, in fields ranging from music to arts and crafts, filmmaking and literature.”
2.1. Romeo and Juliet opera
On 25 January at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing.
Charles Gounod’s opera Romeo and Juliet will be performed in Beijing with a French and Chinese distribution, marking the first event of the celebratory year. It will be led by the great Chinese conductor and pianist Xu Zhong and feature French singers Thomas Bettinger (tenor), Nicolas Testé (baritone-bass) and Alexandre Duhamel (baritone).
2.2. Exhibition “Napoleon’s lost Palaces”
From 29 March to 20 June at the “Meet you” museum in Beijing and from 5 July to 7 October at the “Meet you” museum in Shanghai.
Presented and designed by Mobilier National, a national agency administering, preserving and restoring state furniture, the exhibition focuses on the Palaces of Tuileries, Saint-Cloud and Meudon (all three destroyed today) and their furnishings in the time of Napoleon Bonaparte. The objects on display will be ceremonial furniture, art objects and decorative elements of 18th and 19th centuries.
2.3. Exhibition “Palace of Versailles and the Forbidden City, exchanges between France and China in the 18th century”
From 1 April to 30 June at the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City, Beijing.
Organised by the Palace of Versailles and the Museum of the Imperial Palace at the Forbidden City, the exhibition is devoted to exchanges between the French and Chinese courts during the second half of the 17th century and the 18th century, especially in the fields of science, technology and art.
In the same period, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera of Versailles will tour several cities in China.
From 15 April to 20 May in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing and from October in France.
The Opéra National de Bordeaux and the company Wu Promotion will organise a major tour in China of the Bordeaux National Opera ballet in four Chinese cities to present “La Sylphide”, a romantic ballet spectacle created at the Paris Opera in 1832, and the third act of Don Quixote, a ballet inspired by Cervantes’ novel.
In October, the Jiangsu Traditional Performing Arts Group will perform in Paris, at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, then at the Opéra de Bordeaux, presenting the famous Chinese Kunqu opera “Le Pavillon aux pivoines” created in 1598 by Ming Dinasty playwright Tang Xianzu.
2.5. “Les Fourberies de Scapin”
From September to October in cities across China.
State theatre company Comédie-Française will be touring Beijing and other cities in China with “Les Fourberies de Scapin”, by Molière, in the production of Denis Podalydès.
2.6. Exhibition “Le Chic! French decorative arts and furniture”
On 11 November at Bund 33 in Shanghai.
Mobilier National and Chinese media group Hantang Culture will present the exhibition “Le Chic! Arts décoratifs et mobiliers français” (The Chic! French decorative arts and furniture). The exhibition will items from Mobilier National’s collection that belong to the 19th century Art Deco movement and represent the “French chic”.