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Experiencing China and Discovering a Whole New World

2024-02-28 11:39:00 Source:China Today Author:ANTOINETTE CARUANA
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Former CEO of Heritage Malta recalls her first visit to China, which soon ushered in an array of cultural heritage conservation cooperation projects and exhibitions in the two countries.


Terracotta Warriors from Xi’an on exhibit at the National Museum of Archaeology, Valletta, capital of Malta.

A wise and much respected professional congratulated me on my appointment as CEO of Heritage Malta in 2003. With her message of congratulations came also the passionate recommendation to visit China and to discover first-hand what China has to offer, possibly bringing some of that to the people and visitors of the Maltese Islands. That message stuck with me. Heritage Malta is the Maltese national agency for museums, conservation practice, and cultural heritage. Created by the Cultural Heritage Act, enacted in 2002, the National Agency replaced the former Museums Department.

Through early collaboration between Heritage Malta and the China Cultural Centre in Malta (CCC), which was set up in 2003, more or less the same time as Heritage Malta, as well as the vision and commitment of both organizations, it was indeed possible to deepen cultural exchange and mutual understanding between the two countries, as well as to facilitate professional relationships. With the great support from the CCC, it was made possible for the Chairman of Heritage Malta, Dr. Mario Tabone, and I to visit China in December 2005. During that visit, on behalf of Heritage Malta, we signed an agreement with the China National Institute of Cultural Property to pave the way for exchanges in the spheres of science and culture between the two countries. Within the agenda of this agreement, a number of cultural heritage conservation research projects were anticipated including joint research projects, training of personnel, and sharing of reference material and data.

During the same visit to China, the preliminary agreements to host an exhibition on the Terracotta Warriors from Xi’an in 2007, at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta, were also concluded. Plans had also been made at this stage to host an exhibition of photographs and models relating to city fortifications of Malta at the Chinese province of Shaanxi, as well as collaboration with the CCC on an exhibition about characters in Peking Opera at the Centre. The setting up of these joint exhibitions stemmed from the belief of both organizations that such exhibitions contributed towards the promotion of the culture and history of the two countries, and supported greater understanding of the great history and culture of the respective countries and their people.

Characters from Peking Opera on display at the National Museum of Archaeology, Valletta, capital of Malta.

The exhibition “Silent Warriors – The Chinese Terracotta Warriors” was in fact held between March 1 and July 31, 2007, organized by Heritage Malta and the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau, in collaboration with the Malta Ministry of Tourism and Culture, the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Malta, and the CCC. This exhibition consisted of 81 original artefacts, including 10 terracotta soldiers, two horses and a number of bronze and pottery cooking utensils, personal ornaments, weapons, coins, terracotta animals, and other artefacts which had been excavated over the previous 30 years. The exhibition, which earlier on had been accompanied by public lectures, offered a unique opportunity for the people of Malta and visitors to the Maltese Islands to admire these magnificent archaeological gems. In fact, over 60,000 visitors viewed the exhibition.

On a personal level, my visit to China, the numerous meetings held with distinguished officials, the unforgettable experience of visits to very beautiful and intriguing places and sites, all enabled me to discover a whole new world and to deepen my appreciation, as well as to enhance my desire to continue to broaden my knowledge of the significant history of China and its people. This same experience has been the subject of numerous conversations with colleagues, friends and family over the past 17 years and it will continue to hold a special place in my memories forever.

I augur the CCC further success in the ongoing realization of its vision and thank all the professional colleagues with whom I had collaborated in the past. I also wish that those who are now continuing this mission and developing it further, all the very best in their endeavors to deepen cultural exchange and mutual understanding between the people of China and Malta. May the bonds of friendship and understanding continue to be nurtured and may these legacies be passed on to future generations.  

(Selected from the book China in Maltese Eyes, which was jointly sponsored by Heritage Malta and the China Cultural Center in Malta.)


ANTOINETTE CARUANA is former CEO of Heritage Malta.

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