“Even mountains and seas cannot distance people with common aspirations.” China and Italy have enjoyed a long history of great friendship. Records relating to the Roman Empire can be found as early as in the History of the Later Han Dynasty - Records of the Western Regions, wherein it is stated that “its people [Romans] are all tall and upright, similar to Chinese, so the region was called the Da Qin.” Roman history books also offer records stating that the Chinese were tall and had a sense of justice, and were known for their filial piety and longevity. The “Da Qin Nestorian Popular China Stele” erected in 781 CE provides a detailed record of the spread of Christianity in China. The introduction of The Journey of Marco Polo to Italy stimulated a strong interest in this ancient Oriental civilization among the Italian people. Italian missionary Matteo Ricci not only helped Xu Guangqi and others to introduce advanced European science and technology to China, but also translated Confucian Classics such as the Four Books into Latin, which subsequently had a far-reaching impact on the Enlightenment. These records fully demonstrate that despite the great distance between the two countries, both civilizations shared a strong affinity bounded by mutual appreciation and influence. Such mutual appreciation guarantees a persistent and long-lasting friendship between the two nations.
The National Museum of China and Italian cultural institutions have maintained close exchanges and have achieved fruitful results in recent years. In 2018, the National Museum of China cooperated with 21 Italian museums and 17 Chinese museums to host the exhibition “Embracing the Orient and the Occident: When the Silk Road Meets the Renaissance”. Through a cross-cultural perspective, the exhibition systematically introduced the many tales of long-standing cultural and artistic exchanges between China and Italy from the 13th to the 16th centuries, and demonstrated the historical process of multicultural integration. From April 24th to June 30th, 2019, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, “The Journey Back Home: An Exhibition of Chinese Artifacts Repatriated from Italy” opened at the National Museum of China, hosted by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People's Republic of China and the National Cultural Heritage Administration. It demonstrated the determination of the Chinese and Italian governments to jointly protect cultural relics and to soundly express the possibility of returning lost cultural relics to their motherland through judicial, diplomatic, and other related channels. This exhibition became a memorable story in the history of cultural exchanges between the two countries.