Europalia and the splendors of China

The 22nd edition of the two yearly artistic and cultural festival was kicked off on 8 October. China is the host country and the events and exhibitions will be on until 14 February, Chinese New Year. The impressive programme comprises 450 events, 50 of which are expositions. The festival is a collaboration between 19 cities and Chinese provinces and more than 200 partners in Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping was present for the opening ceremony and concert, accompanied by the Belgian Royal Family.

Founded in 1969, Europalia is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The festival, which takes place every two years, focuses on a different country every time.

This year Europalia, known as one of the major cultural festivals of Europe, is hosting a special edition and it is the largest cultural festival in Europe.

During the next four months Europalia will try to make the People's Republic of China more accessible to a western audience. Europalia does this with masterpieces and artefacts from 5000 years of Chinese history and culture, but also through contemporary Chinese art and architecture.

The festival organisers expect more than a million visitors to the events organised in 75 Belgian cities and municipalities, and in cities of 4 other European countries. The foreign cities participating in Europalia China are Paris, Lille, and Robaix (France); Munich and Cologne (Germany); The Hague, Amsterdam and Utrecht (Netherlands) and Luxembourg city.

Europalia China is organised around 4 main themes

The exhibitions, concerts, operas, marionette theatre, displays of Kung Fu and acrobatics, literary events, and tea ceremonies are divided into four themes.

'Eternal China' This exhibition presents masterpieces and artefacts from 5000 years of Chinese history, going through the different dynasties, emperors and mandarins; the tradition of tea ritual, opera and traditional music ensembles.

Under this theme the major exhibition is Son of Heaven. This exhibition, which opened the Europalia China festival, is dedicated to the Chinese emperors from the Neolithic Age (3500 BC) to the second Qing dynasty (1644-1812) and the all important role of ritual through the ages. Son of Heaven opened at the Brussels Centre for Fine Arts on October 10.

Dozens of objects on exhibition can be seen for the first time outside of China and some objects from the Forbidden City are on display for the very first time ever.

'Contemporary China' The focal point of this section is a daring group exhibition, The State of Things: Brussels/Beijing, at the Centre for Fine Arts with works by fifty Belgian and Chinese artists. The works were selected by two internationally renowned artists, Luc Tuymans (Belgian) and Ai Weiwei (Chinese).

In The State of Things Luc Tuymans and Ai Weiwei take stock of the state of economics and play in the world of contemporary art in China and Belgium. The exhibition offers a subjective diagnosis by two artists who are themselves involved in the art market and the international art scene.

The confrontation between their two individual outlooks gives interesting food for thought. The exhibition opens to the public on Friday, October 16.

'Colourful China' This exhibition focuses on the secular traditions and art of the different regions of China. In the key exhibition under this theme, Orchid Pavilion, the art of Writing in China, the focus is the history of an ancient Chinese art: calligraphy. It retraces not only the origins of Chinese writing and calligraphy, but it also dwells on an important historical event, the calligraphy of the Orchid Pavilion (353 AD). This exhibition opened on October 15

Chinese New Year; Chinese puppet theatre; customs and traditions in La Louvière; masks in Binche; fabrics and jewelry of the Miao in Liège; an exhibition on traditional music instruments in Brussels; and one on playing cards in Turnhout: are some of the other events under this theme taking place throughout the duration of the festival.

China and the rest of the World Europalia does not want to only highlight the historical links between China and the rest of the world, but also aims to stimulate new artistic collaborations.

The central exposition here is The Silk Road in the Royal Museum for Art and History. It takes the visitor on a breathtaking journey through the little known regions between Xi’an and the Tianshan mountains.  The Silk Road exhibition opens on October 22.

Even before this festival, Belgium and China had already found each other through partnerships and collaborations. Antwerp and Shanghai, Brussels and Beijing, Bree and Yangzhou, the province of Eastern Flanders and the province of Hebei, the Province of Namur and the province of Jiangsu, the province of Liège and the province of Fujian,… are only but a few examples.

These special relationships will of course be highlighted during the festival.

Tea House and internet

The Dynasty building in the Mont des Arts, open to the public exceptionally on the occasion of Europalia China, has been converted into a tea house. Tea tasting sessions, concerts, performances, film screenings, arts and crafts and calligraphy workshops are just a few examples of the extensive programme organise in the Tea House.

It will also host the Europalia China information point, where it will be possible to discover the festival programme, buy exhibition catalogues or gifts. General information on China is also available. For more information on Europalia China and the programme visit the Europalia website here. Information is available in English, French and Dutch.