The month-long Egyptian treasures exhibition just concluded n Beijing drew record crowds as Chinese people showed fascination with a culture as ancient and rich as their own.
As many as 3,500 people flocked to the exhibitions on weekdays, and three times that number on weekends, said officials of China's National Museum, which hosted the exhibition.
"National Treasures of Ancient Egypt," consisting of 143 cultural relics, came to Beijing Dec. 5, following its success in Shanghai.
Museum staff said that Beijing residents showed unprecedented enthusiasm for this cultural event. Some booked tickets by phone ahead of the opening, and the number of visitors never fell.
Ji Hua, a student at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology, said she had been looking forward to the exhibition as early as its debut in Shanghai.
"I am a big Egypt fan. I was lucky to see their national treasures without going abroad," she said.
"I learned that Egypt has become a major tourist destination for Chinese people. I hope to visit it one day."
Students from Beijing-based universities participated in the exhibition as interpreters.
Scholars of Egyptian studies from Germany and China were invited to give lectures in the exhibition hall of the National Museum.
"Chinese people's interest in ancient cultures has been increasing, especially the ancient cultures of Egypt and the Maya of Central America." said Yan Haiying, a professor at the History Department of Beijing University.
The viewers spent an average of two hours at the exhibition. Some spent as much as five hours there, and they have very good questions for the exhibition officials, she said.
Books on ancient civilizations are selling briskly in Chinese bookstores, and related documentaries are frequently shown on TV, said Yan.
Mohamed Khalil Ghali, Egypt's deputy minister of culture, hailed the exhibition: "I was very glad to see this event held in the hub of Chinese politics and culture," he said. "It showed the deep friendship between China and Egypt, who have both exerted great influences on civilization."
Ghali said that he believed that the exhibition would lead to more cultural exchanges between the two countries.
China and Egypt held over ten official and unofficial exchanges of visits in 2002. The volume of mutual imports and exports was 600 million US dollars-worth in 1998, while it rose to 950 million dollars-worth in 2002.
(Xinhua News Agency January 6, 2004)