From Peking to Hankow: a Belgian adventure in China

From 7 May to 10 October 2021, a nice temporary exhibition is on display at Train World – Schaerbeek train station in Brussels

This exhibition unvelis the little-known yet amazing story of the construction of China’s longest railway line, from Peking (Beijing) to Hankow (today Wuhan), connecting the North to the South, by Belgians in the early 20th century.

For seven years, several thousands of people laboured on this huge undertaking. This exploit was achieved by engineers, technicians and workmen, and also Western and Chinese diplomats and financiers. A young Belgian engineer, Jean Jadot, then aged only 37, coordinated and implemented this massive project.

Besides this historic adventure, the exhibition will also showcase the impressive development of China’s present-day high-speed railways.

Original works relating to the construction of the Peking-Hankow line and created by artists Li Kunwu (China) and François Schuiten (Belgium) add a contemporary artistic touch to the exhibition. Other works by Li Kunwu that draw inspiration from the Chinese railways will also be on display.

During the visit, the main players in the saga, embodied by talking figures, will tell some fascinating tales to go back in time and relive this epic moment.

More info:

image sourced from Train World Facebook page.

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

pagode second general assembly

The second general assembly of PAGODE project is set on 22 June 2021 in an online meeting, to review the progress of the project and to plan the project’s activities in the final period: PAGODE is in facts going to end on 30 September 2021.

The uncertainities of the covid -19 evolution forced the project team to review the tasks originally foreseen for the project’s conclusion. Due to safety reasons, physical meetings are in facts not advisable and this caused the need to consider alternative ways of engaging audiences and of transferring knowledge to colleagues and pros.

PAGODE’s end will therefore be celebrated with

  • PAGODE Digital Festival, a series of short online seminars to discover beautiful collections of Chinese heritage, in the period May – September (go to programme)
  • Final Conference, an online event on 23-24 September 2021 (programme coming soon)
  • PAGODE book, an exclusive and high-profile publication, to tell the stories of the project and to share beautiful images of cultural heritage content

During the General Assembly, more details will be unveiled about these initiatives. Additionally the status of all the project’s activities will be reviewed, with a particular attention to the development of the upcoming Europeana China virtual exhibition. The meeting is open to partners and associate partners, with a special invitation also forwarded to the HaDEA agency of European Commission, for the possible participation of the PAGODE ‘s Project Officer..

General Assembly, tentative agenda

9,00 – 9,30          Online check-in

9,30 – 10,00       Reserved session: only for the beneficiaries

Activity 1 Project Management and finances (MISE & Promoter)

Morning session: 10,00 am – 12,00 pm CET

10,00 – 10,15     Welcome by the Coordinator and by the Project Officer

10,15 – 10,20     Approval of the agenda and introduction by the Technical Coordinator

10,20 – 11,00     The thematic space of Europeana China Feature Page (Photoconsortium and Europeana Foundation)

11,00 – 11,40     Activity 2 Annotation and ingestion to Europeana (Photoconsortium, Europeana Foundation, NTUA) with participation of all PAGODE content providers

                                The annotation pilot

                                Ingestion to Europeana

11,40 – 12,00     Q&A and wrap-up of the morning session

Afternoon session: 2,00 pm – 4,00 pm CET

14,00 – 14,15     Activity 3 Digitisation (KIK-IRPA & United Archives)

14,15 – 14,30     Activity 4 Enrichment (PostScriptum)

14,30 – 15,30     Activity 5 Communication, dissemination, user engagement and sustainability

                                Website, blog, Europeana China space on WITH (Promoter)

                                Liaison with China (PostScriptum)

                                PAGODE Digital Festival (Photoconsortium)

                                PAGODE Final Conference (KIK-IRPA & University of Ljubljana)

15,30 – 16,00     Discussion 16,00     Conclusions of the meeting

img. Promoter Digital Gallery CC-BY-SA. Part of the house of a wealthy family, signed by A. Bertrand. Engraving from the book “Viaggio in Cina” by J. Thompson and T. Choutzé, illustrated with 167 engravings. In the book the name is mispelled as Thompson, but the author is the Scottish photographer and traveller John Thomson (1837-1921), while T. Choutzé (朱茨) is the pseudonym of Gabriel Devéria (1844-1899), a French diplomat and interpreter who worked and travelled in China.

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

Restoring The Ming Imperial edict at Leiden asian library

This blog is a reposting from Leiden Asian Library Facebook page, for dissemination purposes. Post by Mauk Evertse, BA Chinese studies. Photos by Karin Scheper and Sjoukje Telleman.

Have you ever wondered what it is like to restore a 500-year old scroll? Then keep reading! In this post I hope to give insight into the process of the conservation of the Leiden University Library’s most recent acquisition for the Chinese special collections: The Ming Imperial edict.

When the edict arrived it was in a fragile condition. The edges were severely damaged with a few tears on the top and bottom, and from the top of the scroll some fabric was missing. The nature of the damage could indicate that the rolled up scroll could have been pressed flat due to its rigid supporting core being lost, which would have caused these vertical cracks [Photo 1, 2].

the Ming Imperial edict restoration (1)
The Ming Imperial edict restoration (2)

The previous owner Robert van Gulik’s youngest son, T. van Gulik, has told me that his father stored his scrolls in drawers and occasionally rolled them out to study them. When the scroll arrived it was being kept in a tubular container, but for conservation purposes the diameter of this container would be too small. It would cause tension on the original material. A further concern was that we want both sides of the scroll to be accessible for future research. How can the damage be fixed?

To answer that questions we need to weigh in all the factors. The edict is supposed to be rolled up; do we want to keep that aspect intact? What do we lose if we don’t? What do we gain if we do? Because of the nature of the edict’s damage the material needs to be supported to halt further deterioration. Due to the fact that the edict has valuable content on the front and the backside the conservator decided to use ‘tule’. Tule is a see-through silk mesh that allows viewers to see the original item and gives them the ability to roll up the scroll [Photo 3, 4].

The Ming Imperial edict restoration (3)
The Ming Imperial edict restoration (4)

Another option would have been to adhere a thin supportive layer to the backside of the scroll but this would impact the visual access. The most suitable method for storing items after conservation would be to keep them flat.

If some parts of the objects have been lost, they are gone: It is not necessary to ‘fill in’ what is missing, that is for other researchers to decide. The key question for us was: what kind of expertise was most needed to work on such an old and delicate piece of textile? Although the edict contains text, it is not a regular document or manuscript. Because the writing substrate is a fabric, a textile conservator was consulted for the edict’s conservation. Sjoukje Telleman, a young professional, advised us and treated the edict.

I imagined it would be vital to understand the Chinese language to be able to conserve this edict. But when I discussed this with the experts we stumbled upon a common misconception of the conservator’s profession, namely that conservators try to restore an item to its original state. I learned that the conservator’s job is much more to preserve the item rather than to repair it: maintaining its current state, safeguarding traces of historic use, and stopping it from deteriorating further [Photo 5]. This will help ensure that the objects can survive the test of time!

The Ming Imperial edict restoration (5)

This certainly clears up my misunderstanding of what it means to be a conservator. I learned that the conservator’s job involves a lot of decision making, expertise, skills, organization and consultation. It’s also good to understand that there’s also a key difference between the conservation of research collections and museum collections: research collections have a much stronger focus on the physical accessibility of the originals.

I hope that this rapport has given some insight into the conservator’s profession! I, for one, learned that my initial question was wrong. It shouldn’t have been: how can it be fixed? But rather: how can it be conserved!

Post by Mauk Evertse, BA Chinese studies. Photos by Karin Scheper and Sjoukje Telleman.

images from Asian Library Facebook post.

Leiden University Libraries is associate partner in the PAGODE – Europeana China project.

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

Missionary Activities and East-Asian Collections

online symposium 20-21 May 2021

An online symposium, inspired by a rare museum object, a late 19th century missionary scroll from the Regional Museum of Celje, Slovenia. The scroll, which has been kept in storage since its confiscation from an unknown owner in 1940s is now finally restored, digitalized, and further developed into an online presentation. It will be physically put on display in the museum for the first time this May 2021 along with other Asian objects from the same collection.

As a scholarly part of this exhibition, an online symposium will take place on May 20th and 21st. The symposium will be divided into three subtopics:
– Catholic missions in East Asia and related collecting practices
– Jesuits in Shanghai, Xujiahui and Tushanwan
– Missionary collections in Slovenia and the 1945 confiscation

Programme and registration coming soon

Organized by
Science and Research Centre Koper
Department of Asian Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana
Regional Museum of Celje

image from event’s CfP

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

PAGODE – Europeana China Storytelling Challenge

PAGODE – Europeana China is making an impact on education, being included in a students project for the Master in Cultural Studies at KU Leuven. The organizing students of this “PAGODE group” are Gelan Cen, Lilia Chalakova, Shau Zou Fong, Jing Yun and Emily Jayne Benson-Kallman.

The project includes two elements, a video competition and an annotation sprint of digital collections. Both tasks are based on PAGODE’s crowdsourcing campaign launched in Autumn 2020, where a wealth of images about Chinese Heritage cultural collections, sourced from Europeana and carefully selected by PAGODE’s curator Sofie Taes, is available for users to play with.

In the video competition, participant students are expected to select one, several or a series of pictures from the Scenes and People from China campaign in the PAGODE crowdsourcing page and explain the reasons for their choices by recording a nice video to be shared on social media. The videos will be evaluated by an independent jury basing on a detailed evaluation system, to award the nicest one.

In the annotation sprint, participant students will be challenged to join the effort of annotating and curating photographic materials about Chinese culture that are currently published in Europeana, by looking at the images and adding descriptive tags selected from controlled vocabularies. Each addition counts points to the user, who is ranked in a lively classification of top-scoring. The student who will have reached the higher score will be awarded as the winner. The annotation sprint will be open until 22nd of May and the overall target is to reach 24.000 annotations. Afterwards, the annotations will be reviewed and validated by PAGODE experts and then sent to Europeana for publication.

The organizing students of the “PAGODE group” say “We are expecting to hear different voices from Chinese culture lovers by offering a unique opportunity for you to have an inner conversation with yourself. Every participant, in this case, can be recognized as a citizen historian who makes substantial contributions to safeguarding the memory of their past and paving a promising path for the future of their ethnicity. We hope, by holding an interactive and engaging event based on social media, we will be able to send the message that it is interesting and fashionable to talk about cultural heritage. Every piece of cultural heritage is a vivid and faithful reflection of daily life in the past. Therefore, people should be handed the power to share what they think about a particular cultural heritage and why they feel related to it.”

img. The solitary stillness of the mountains and ravines, c. 1980, CC-BY Qian Songyan, Östasiatiska museet via Europeana

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

PAGODE festival: The China collection of the Finnish Missionary organization (FELM)

PAGODE Digital Festival is proud to present an online talk and presentation to discover the collections of the Finnish Missionary Organization at Finnish Heritage Agency.

The talk will showcase beautiful heritage photographs and will explore challenges and delights when working with China-related images.

Presented by Ismo Malinen.

Ismo is Chief intendant of the Picture Collections at the Finnish Heritage Agency (since 2012). Studies in History, Archaeology and Museology, University of Helsinki (MA). Museum professional since 1999 and long experience in many fields: museum collections, collection management, exhibitions and since 2009 developing and coordinating the digitization of collections. Member of Photoconsortium and Vice Chair of the Finna Consortium. Finna is the national platform for millions of items of cultural and scientific material in Finland.  

Co-organized wiith Paula Laajalahti at FELM Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission.

Date and time: Tuesday 25th May 2021 h. 14:30 – 15:30 CEST

>>> Join via Zoom by clicking here!

Facebook live streaming also available.

image courtesy Museovirasto – Finnish Heritage Agency


PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

Europeana China Feature Page

PHOTOCONSORTIUM, International Consortium for Photographic Heritage, and EUROPEANA, the European Commission’s digital platform for cultural heritage are proud to present a prime accomplishment of PAGODE – Europeana China. This project, aimed at creating a dedicated thematic space that highlights and celebrates Chinese heritage in Europe, officially launches a feature page on April 4th, showcasing a variety of Chinese and China-related cultural heritage items and resources from European cultural institutions such as museums, libraries and photographic archives.

“International exchanges have been and are still at the basis of the evolution of our society. In particular, this is true in the relationships between Europe and China. While goods are moving and determining the economic values of these exchanges, people move with their ideas and cultures. Mutual understanding and acknowledging the value of the variety of cultural heritage in the world is key to support the creation of healthy spaces for business development.” says dr. Mauro Fazio, Italian Ministry of Economic Development, the PAGODE project coordinator. “Digitisation, curation and access to digital treasures of Chinese heritage held in European institutions, as the main objectives of this project, are expected to contribute to the process of digital transformation in the light of a more inclusive, equal and global growth.”

Jolan Wuyts, Collections Editor at Europeana: “In Europeana we have the opportunity to highlight collections that can be otherwise underrepresented, showcasing Chinese Heritage in European collections is one of those opportunities. The PAGODE project enables users to dive into Chinese heritage collections while at the same time being guided by important context and curation from PAGODE project partners. Collecting these editorials in a single feature page allows Europeana to give a platform to PAGODE’s curation efforts and other editorial on Chinese heritage in one place.”


Themed galleries, blog posts and curated  digital content will guide visitors through  this online treasure trove. Image by image, story by story, visitors can  immerse themselves in the rich narratives of two worlds that have been meeting and mixing for centuries. The feature page will offer ample opportunity for discovering the stories of Empress Cixi, of the mandarin duck, of the Chinese junk, and exploring thousands of curiosities and stunning images of Chinese heritage in Europe. To be added to the page in  September 2021 is a virtual exhibition of Chinese heritage and art in Europe.


img. Peasant Paintings from Huhsien Country, Peking 1976, 55. CC-BY Bai Tianxue, Östasiatiska museet via Europeana

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

online talk: Robert van Gulik and Chinese Culture

On 25th March, an online talk offers a journey into Chinese culture, by discovering the legendary Dutch writer, scholar and diplomat Robert van Gulik’s (1910-1967) passion for Chinese art. In particular the talk is dedicated to the Judge Dee Illustrations and Sources from the Asian Library at Leiden University.

The upcoming presentation will be the third Online talk of “Robert van Gulik and Chinese Culture, Refined Enjoyment of Elegant Leisure”, a series of events organized by the China Cultural Center Den-Haag to celebrate Robert van Gulik’s 110th anniversary.


  • Lin Fan – Lecturer, Chinese Art and Material Culture, Leiden University
  • Marc Gilbert – Curator of Chinese Special Collections, Asian Library, Leiden University Libraries

Date and time: Thursday 25th March 2021 h. 13:00 – 14:00 CET

Join via zoom:, Meeting ID: 297 070 4667

Facebook live streaming:

image: from the FB page of the event.

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

the fashinating story of empress cixi

This is the story of a noble Manchurian teenager, chosen to be one of the concubines of the Emperor of China Xianfeng. After the death of the Emperor in 1861, she became the regent of China for decades on behalf of her son first and her nephew later, both appointed Emperors as little children.

She would pass to history as ‘Empress Dowager Cixi’ (慈禧), taking decisions and using the imperial seal on behalf of her son and nephew. Her final act, on her deathbed actually, was to appoint little Puyi as the last Emperor, in 1908. Despite that decision of continuity, the glorious tale of the Chinese empire was nearing its end, as four years later Qing dynasty officials forced the abdication of Puyi. The end of the Chinese imperial era opened a new chapter in the history of the country: the Republic of China.

Discover story and legend of one of the most powerful women in history, and enjoy a great selection of images from Europeana in the blog authored by Sofie Taes and Julien Ménabréaz in Europeana website >>

This blog is the result of a collaboration between PAGODE – Europeana China and anther CEF-project co-funded by the European Union: Europeana XX. A Century of Change dedicated to the 20th century and its social, political and economic changes.

image: The lavish décor of Empress Cixi’s photoshoots at court. Cixi was a fervent buddhist and is seen here reenacting a scene from the life of Buddha (Laribe-album, pg. 240), c. 1903-1904, Creator: Laribe, Firmin (1855-1942). Photographe, Xunling (1880-1943). Institution: Bibliothèque nationale de France via Europeana. No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions.

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

the mandarin duck

As with doves and swans in the Western culture, in China the mandarin duck is considered a symbol of love, fidelity and fertility, and is the protagonist of stories, legends and popular belief. Because of embodying the sweetest of feelings, PAGODE – Europeana China project celebrates Valentine’s day 2021 with a nice blog about our feathered friend.

Either as a beautiful-looking bird to be admired, or as the emblem of marital bliss, the mandarine duck in China is a widely used pattern for artworks, painting and figurines and is also featured on objects for everyday use, including bed sheets, pillowcases, cups and saucers, and furniture.

Discover story and legend for this iconic bird, and enjoy a great selection of images from Europeana in the blog authored by Sofie Taes in Europeana website >>

image: Drawing of a pair of mandarin ducks, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, CC0 via Europeana.

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839