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On 15 July 2021, in commemoration of the seventieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Pakistan, the Palace Museum and the Department of Archaeology and Museums in the National Heritage and Culture Division of Pakistan jointly held the “China-Pakistan Forum on Cultural Exchange and Heritage Conservation” with ten invited Chinese and Pakistani experts presenting on cultural heritage topics. Due to the epidemic, the forum was held online. The opening ceremony was hosted by Zhao Guoying, deputy-director of the Palace Museum. Lou Wei, managing deputy-director of the Palace Museum, and Dr. Tahir Saeed, deputy-director of the Department of Archaeology and Museums in the National Heritage and Culture Division of Pakistan, both spoke during the ceremony.
The Palace Museum’s Managing Deputy-Director Lou Wei and Deputy-Director Zhao Guoying Attending the Online Forum
Managing Deputy-Director Lou Wei noted in his speech how Pakistan is an old friend of the Chinese people and that this year, the seventieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, has extraordinary commemorative significance. For the anniversary, the Palace Museum and the Department of Archaeology and Museums in the National Heritage and Culture Division of Pakistan had originally planned a cooperative exhibition of Gandharan sculpture in the Forbidden City, but the plan has been postponed due to the epidemic. Consequently, the two parties organized this online forum as an alternative celebration of the anniversary.
Deputy-Director Dr. Tahir Saeed of the Department of Archaeology and Museums in the National Heritage and Culture Division of Pakistan spoke on how both Pakistan and China have magnificent ancient cultures and abundant cultural heritage. The two countries have maintained close cultural exchange since ancient times by which mutual appreciation has led to shared development. This forum, he noted, is an iteration of that exchange. He thanked the Palace Museum and the Embassies of both countries for their preparatory efforts for the forum and wished success to the forum attendees.
The Pakistani scholars in attendance included Prof. Muhammad Ashraf Khan, former director of the Taxila Institute of Asian Civilizations at Quaid-i-Azam University; Dr. Tahir Saeed, deputy-director of the Department of Archaeology and Museums in the National Heritage and Culture Division of Pakistan; Dr. Mahmood-ul-Hasan, assistant-director; Mr. Arshadullah, assistant director; and Mr. Muhammad Azeem, archaeology and cultural heritage researcher.
The Chinese scholars present at the forum included Prof. Li Xiguang of the Tsinghua University Pakistan Culture and Communication Center; Prof. Li Chongfeng of the Peking University School of Archaeology and Museology; Wang Guangyao, research fellow at the Palace Museum; Luo Wenhua, research fellow at the Palace Museum Research Institute for Tibetan Buddhist Heritage; and Lei Yong, research fellow at the Palace Museum Cultural Heritage Conservation Center.
During the day-long forum, the Pakistani scholars discussed Taxila, one of the centers of Buddhism in the ancient world, from multiple perspectives, including the past and current state of Taxila, analysis of Mathura red sandstone Buddhist images from the monastery at Badalpur, and new archaeological finds from Taxila. The presentations also involved topics such as Gandharan art and China and the conservation of the sixteenth century Rawat Fort near Rawalpindi. The Chinese scholars spoke on the ancient history of transportation between China and Pakistan, scientific analysis of murals at Gandharan monasteries and murals in Ngari in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, archaeology in the western Indian Ocean, and analysis of Swat sculptures in the Palace Museum collection. The scholars spoke from macroscopic and microscopic perspectives in presenting research and discussion on the history of exchange between Chinese, Pakistani, and adjacent cultures.
After the event, Deputy-Director Zhao Guoying summarized the content and closed the forum by thanking the attendees and stating the parties’ anticipation for future cooperation.
The event established a platform for academic exchange between Chinese and Pakistani scholars and laid a solid foundation for accomplishing the postponed Gandharan art exhibition and future cooperative efforts between the two countries in the field of cultural heritage.
Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Kang Xiaolu