Smooth sail­ing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By WANG MINGJIE in Lon­don wang­mingjie@mail.chi­nadai­

The Ves­sel of Friend­ship pre­sented to Queen El­iz­a­beth II in 2015 by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, is on dis­play in Lon­don. The model of a trea­sure ship sailed by nav­i­ga­tor and diplo­mat Zheng He of the Ming Dy­nasty (1368-1644) features a dove and olive branch medal­lion, side el­e­ments from Dun­huang fres­coes as well as tra­di­tional Chi­nese sym­bols of friend­ship and peace.

A spe­cial dis­play of more than 200 items pre­sented as gifts to Queen El­iz­a­beth II through­out her 65-year reign has opened in Buck­ing­ham Palace.

Royal Gifts, which runs un­til Oct 1, in­cludes a gift from Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping — the Ves­sel of Friend­ship, which is a model of the 15 th-cen­tury trea­sure ship sailed by Zheng He, who was a great Chi­nese nav­i­ga­tor, ex­plorer and diplo­mat. He led seven ex­plo­ration voyages to the In­dian Ocean be­tween 1405 and 1433 dur­ing the Ming Dy­nasty (1368-1644).

Dec­o­rated with a dove and olive branch medal­lion, with tra­di­tional Chi­nese sym­bols of friend­ship and peace, Xi pre­sented it to the queen dur­ing his state visit to the United King­dom in Oc­to­ber 2015.

Over­all, there have been about 10 gifts pre­sented to the queen by Chi­nese lead­ers dur­ing her reign, said Sally Good­sir, the as­sis­tant cu­ra­tor of dec­o­ra­tive arts at the Royal Collection Trust, who is cu­ra­tor of this year’s summer ex­hi­bi­tion.

“I re­ally want to show this piece, as it has never been dis­played be­fore and ob­vi­ously was pre­sented very re­cently. It is a won­der­ful ex­am­ple of Chi­nese crafts­man­ship,” she said. “The ship came with a lit­tle book­let, ex­plain­ing that the ves­sel came with the Chi­nese peo­ple’s wish for friend­ship and peace with the United King­dom, which I think is a lovely mes­sage to come with a diplo­matic gift.”

The ex­hi­bi­tion ex­plores the queen’s roles as head of state, and of the Com­mon­wealth, through gifts pre­sented by peo­ple from all walks of life, and from 100 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries. The gifts were re­ceived dur­ing state vis­its, over­seas tours, and of­fi­cial en­gage­ments.

A pa­per­weight made from a di­nosaur bone, a hand­bag wo­ven from ba­nana leaves, and a BAFTA Award are among the in­trigu­ing ob­jects on dis­play.

The gifts have of­ten been ex­am­ples of lo­cal crafts­man­ship and artis­tic tra­di­tions, such as the white Kili bag of wo­ven co­conut leaves given to the queen by Pres­i­dent Christo­pher Jore­bon Loeak of the Mar­shall Is­lands fol­low­ing a re­cep­tion at Buck­ing­ham Palace for heads of state and gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives at­tend­ing the open­ing cer­e­mony of the Lon­don 2012 Summer Olympics.

Some of the gifts record sig­nif­i­cant events or mo­ments in na­tions’ his­to­ries, such as the Union Flag badge worn in space by Ma­jor Tim Peake, which was pre­sented to the queen at Wind­sor Cas­tle in April.

For her 90th birth­day in 2016, Salt Is­land, one of the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands, pre­sented the queen with a li­nen bag con­tain­ing salt, re­flect­ing the tra­di­tion, rein­tro­duced in 2015, of the is­land pay­ing the monarch an an­nual rent of a pound of salt on her birth­day.

Con­tained within the ex­hi­bi­tion is a trib­ute to Diana, Princess of Wales. This year marks the 20th an­niver­sary of her death. Diana, who was killed in a car ac­ci­dent in Paris on Aug 31, 1997, un­der­took many of­fi­cial du­ties, both at home and abroad.


The Ves­sel of Friend­ship

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