The Silk Road, the Western section
The Begram Treasure discovered in Afghanistan furnishes the first tangible proof of an encounter between the civilisations of Rome, India and China.

The Silk Road, the Oriental section
The Chinese funeral statues depicting foreigners attest to their presence during the Chinese middle ages.

Nestorians texts and images of Buddhist pilgrims are reminders that religion was often the main vector of contact between the two cultures. Two astonishing Nestorian documents : a stele presenting a summary of the Nestorian creed and the oldest Christian manuscript on paper.

The Mongols and Islam

The Nestorian Christians were active from Beijing to Baghdad. One of them, Rabban Cauma, a Nestorian monk born in Beijing in 1225, travelled to Constantinople, Naples, Rome and Paris.

Islamic blue and white earthenware from Iznik bear witness to a Chinese influence.

Letters show the attempt to form alliances between the Khan Mongols and Philippe le Bel.

The Church and the King

In the 1600s Father Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit priest, astronomer and mathematician, opens a era of co-operation between the intellectuals of China and Europe.

During the middle of the XVII century Louis XIV sends Jesuits on mission to the emperor of China. They were painters, gardeners, designers of fountains and would help build the summer palace Yuanming yuan.

Things Chinese became fashionable and Louis XIV constructs the Trianon de Porcelaines, which was covered with earthenware tiles and imitated Chinese architecture.

Political exchange produces a vector for artistic exchange.


Artistic Exchanges : Engraving

The introduction of copper plate engraving to China would allow the documentation of Yuanming yuan, whose construction introduced such Western technology as clockworks and plumbing and whose garden became a haven for European flora.

Engravings were also responsible for transmitting images of Chinese flora back to Europe where they would later inspire artistic motifs.

Artistic Exchanges : Paintings

Milanese Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione and the French Jesuit Jean-Denis Attiret, painters to the court of China.

Artistic Exchanges : The Decorative Arts

The introduction of enamel painting on copper was an immediate success; later the Chinese applied this technique to porcelain.

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