Iranian and Chinese flags in front of Beijing’s Palace Museum (file photo)

Beijing Displays Rare Iranian Artefacts In Cultural Diplomacy Initiative

Sunday, 03/31/2024

Beijing's Palace Museum is showcasing a display of rare Iranian artefacts as part of a new cultural diplomacy initiative spearheaded by the Chinese president.

The exhibition, also housing rare Saudi pieces, is housed within the historic Meridian Gate, the primary entrance to the centuries-old Beijing palace, and emblematic of China's Global Civilisation Initiative (GCI).

The GCI was introduced last March with the goal of “[injecting] strong impetus into advancing humanity’s modernization process and building a community with a shared future for mankind”.

The showcased relics, ranging from Al-Ula's sandstone altars to intricately crafted Persian ceramics adorned with Quranic motifs, showcase the historical interplay between Islam and ancient China along the Silk Road. Many of the artefacts have remained unseen due to stringent sanctions imposed by Washington on both nations.

The display is also a nod to the thaw in relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, culminating in a historic peace accord brokered by parties including China in March 2023.

In 2016, Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic relations with Iran in the aftermath of the storming of its embassy in Tehran. The incident occurred amidst a disagreement over Riyadh's execution of a Shiite Muslim cleric. Tensions escalated with subsequent conflicts, marked by missile and drone assaults on Saudi oil facilities and tankers in the Persian Gulf, carried out by Iran's Houthi militia.

William Figueroa, an assistant professor of history and international relations at the University of Groningen, said the exhibition serves to boost China’s “modern ties” with the Middle East, particularly Iran, and bears “tremendous educational value”.

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