The left parts of this combo photo taken on Dec. 11, 2019 by Wang Pu show an exterior view of National Library of China (NLC) in Beijing, capital of China (upper left) and the French-language version of "An Introduction to The Analects of Confucius" collected by the NLC (lower left); the right parts of this combo photo taken on Nov. 27, 2019 by Han Qian show an exterior view of the Arsenal site of the French National Library (BnF) in Paris, France (upper right) and another French-language version of "An Introduction to The Analects of Confucius" kept at the BnF (lower right). (Xinhua)
BEIJING, July 11 (Xinhua) -- Among the cornucopia of valuable collections in the National Library of China (NLC), there is a precious copy of the original French version of "An Introduction to The Analects of Confucius" published in 1688. It is a national gift Chinese President Xi Jinping received from French President Emmanuel Macron.
In the book, a line of writing by its author Francois Bernier reads: "To readers -- the book serves as the key or introduction to reading Confucius."
Featuring classic bookbinding styles from the Age of Enlightenment in France, the work sheds light on the political, ethical, and moral ideas of the great Chinese philosopher Confucius, who lived more than two millennia ago.
In March 2019, Xi and Macron met in Nice, France. There at a century-old house, Macron presented the book to Xi and told him that the early translations of "The Analects of Confucius" had inspired French thinkers Montesquieu and Voltaire.
Hearing Macron's introduction to the book, Xi said that he would take this precious gift back to China's national library.
Following the meeting between the two leaders, the book was subsequently shipped back to China, the place of its intellectual origin. As the first complete foreign manuscript from the Age of Enlightenment collected by the NLC, it is now well-curated in a constant temperature and humidity depot.
As many people from the two countries believe, the ancient book serves as not only a testament to the long-standing cultural communication between China and France but also as a witness to the increasing bilateral cooperation in cross-civilizational exchanges.
As a classic of traditional Chinese culture, "The Analects of Confucius" was introduced to Europe as early as the 17th century, and the status of Confucius in Chinese civilization has constantly been put on par with that of philosophers such as Socrates in the West.
Apart from "An Introduction to The Analects of Confucius," the NLC is also in possession of about 260 translations of "The Analects of Confucious" in 24 languages.
To introduce these precious works to the public, the NLC has held a special exhibition featuring the book's translated versions in French, Italian, German and English from the 17th Century to the 19th Century.
The pride of the visitors was evident in the messages they left. One of the messages read "Confucian classics are a key for the world to understand the Chinese civilization."
The rich content of "The Analects of Confucius," as well as the values and philosophical thinking it epitomizes, revealed to European scholars the height of Chinese civilization, said Xiong Yuanming, director of the NLC.
Xi has always attached great importance to the endeavor of carrying forward fine traditional Chinese culture and remained a champion of cultural exchanges with the world.
On Sunday, Xi and his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella respectively sent congratulatory letters to a cultural exhibition titled "Tota Italia: Origins of a Nation" held in Beijing.
In the letter, Xi reiterated that mutual respect, solidarity, and harmonious coexistence are the right path for the development of human civilization.
China is willing to work with the international community to promote equality, mutual learning, dialogue, and inclusiveness among civilizations, to replace estrangement with exchange, clashes with mutual learning, superiority with coexistence, and to build a community with a shared future for mankind, Xi said. ■