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For pedestrians passing by the China National Museum in Beijing on Tuesday morning, the landmark structure already sitting to the east of Tian'anmen Square for 46 years was a place of attraction.

To curator Pan Zhenzhou who witnessed a visit by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, the museum re-emerged as a lively sign of escalating cultural collaboration between China and Germany.

It was at the Chancellor's request that the brief visit about 20 minutes long was arranged, Pan said. Next September, a massive makeover will be started to facelift the structure built in 1958 and double its size to 150,000 square meters.

What makes it so appealing to Schroeder is that the renovation plan was masterminded by German architect Von Gerkan and his pals with the China Architecture Designing Institute and beat all other 10 capable contestants from across the world.

Von Gerkan said that their design was inspired by the German Parliamentary Building in Berlin, which smartly combined its old structure with new buildings during a renewal after the World War II.

Given the prominent location of this museum and its glorious history as a major landmark structure to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the People's Republic of China, much attention has been given from both central government to average Chinese to its possible facelift.

As Gerkan saluted to Chinese who built the complex model within six days, Schroeder expressed his admiration, too.

Besides that, he added in another excitement by reminding guests that the Historical Museum in Berlin was designed by architect Pei Leoh Ming, an American Chinese who made his name by applying Chinese elements to modern architecture.

Since China and German established their diplomatic relations in 1972, a growing trade exchange has been dominating its bilateral ties. Their steady cultural exchange, in contrast, is always overshadowed.

Up to now, German has become China's largest European trade partner for 30 straight years and transferred China the most technology from European continent, statistics from China's Ministry of Commerce shows.

With China's improving economy, more and more nations have realized the importance of enhancing bilateral cultural exchange with China in raising their products' odds of access to average Chinese.

Months before Schroeder's visit, a variety of cultural and art programs have been run across China with many celebrities such as pianist Daniel Romulo involved. Chinese folk artists were also invited by the China-German Friendly Exchange Association to attend a Chinese art festival in Berlin.

To support German art presence in China, Schroeder rushed to the east suburbs of Beijing to open an art exhibition at 22:00 and looked at the work of German artists including Andreas Anzeneder, Frederick Foert, A. R. Penck, Christine Webber and others.

Given both Germany and China possess a history unique to itself, the two countries' enhanced cultural exchange will not only broaden their people's horizons but also lay a good foundation for sustained future development, professor Gerkan noted.

For curator Pan who already moved on to arrange for a new exhibition in the main hall where renovation model sat Monday night, a glorious future must begin with the present.

(Xinhua News Agency December 8, 2004)

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