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China to lend relics to Taiwan: state media

world Updated: Feb 16, 2009 13:09 IST

China's national museum will lend some prized cultural artifacts to Taiwan's Palace Museum in what could become a long-hoped for exchange programme between the two rivals, officials and media said on Monday.

The National Palace Museum, located in Beijing's famed Forbidden City, will send 29 Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) relics to Taiwan for a joint exhibition in October, the China Daily reported.

The exchange will be the first since civil war ended in 1949 with Nationalist armies carting off crates of some of the finest imperial treasures once housed in the Forbidden City to Taiwan.

It also comes amid a warming of ties across the Taiwan Strait after mainland-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou took office in Taipei last year.

The cultural exchange was agreed to at a signing ceremony on Sunday at the Forbidden City between a delegation from the Taiwan museum and officials from the mainland museum, the paper said.

"The significance of the first formal visit in 60 years by a delegation from Taipei Palace Museum to its counterpart in Beijing cannot be overestimated," the paper said in an editorial.

"However, efforts should also be made for the treasures in Taipei to travel to the mainland to realise a truly two-way exchange."

Taiwan is reluctant to "lend" cultural relics to the mainland out of fears that China would "impound" them, the paper said, citing Taiwan media.

But talks would begin this week over a possible joint exhibition by both museums during the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, it said.

"We really need to boost our communication to better serve people across the straits," the paper quoted Chou Kung-shi, director of Taiwan's Palace Museum, as saying.

"We have realised how sincere the mainland has been in inviting us to every corner of the Forbidden City."

A spokesman at China's National Palace Museum confirmed that officials from the two museums had met but refused to comment on the upcoming exchange.

"The leaders of the two Palace Museums... held their first ever talks and exchanged views on cooperation between experts and academics and how to make such contacts regular in the future," he said.

Since 1949, communist China has considered Taiwan a rebel province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.