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At the main entrance to the Jinsha Site Museum, visitors are impressed by a gigantic lantern shaped like the gold foil sunbird.[Photo by Huang Zhiling/chinadaily.com.cn]

It is that time of year

when lanterns light up the sky in the Jinsha Site Museum in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

To create a festive atmosphere for visitors during Spring Festival, the local government has sponsored a lantern festival in the garden-like museum which covers nearly 29 hectares for eight consecutive years since 2009.

But unlike previous events the current festival, which began on Saturday and ends on Feb 22, features both ancient Chinese and Roman culture.

On the Time Corridor of the museum, visitors are amused to see two lanterns shaped like an old man and woman walking toward each other to kiss.

“The lanterns are modeled on a relief on a sarcophagus of the Han Dynasty (202BC to 220AD) which was unearthed in Yingjing county in Sichuan. The relief is known as the first kiss on earth,” said Tao Xiaoli, an information officer in the museum.

“Each lantern is based on history and has a story to tell,” she said.

Her museum houses relics from the Jinsha Ruins discovered in Chengdu in 2001. Dating back some 3,000 years, they include gold and jade ware and ivory. The best-known relic is the sunbird gold foil chosen as the logo of China Cultural Heritage by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.

On the museum’s south gate which is the main entrance, visitors are impressed by a gigantic lantern shaped like the gold foil sunbird.

Near the Ruins Hall where relics from the Jinsha Ruins were unearthed, visitors can see lanterns showing an ancient story-telling figurine, two ancient Chinese making rice wine and an ancient young woman striking bells.

The story-telling figurine lantern is modeled on one unearthed in a tomb of the Han Dynasty (202BC to 220AD) in the suburbs of Chengdu.

At the end of the Time Corridor near the Relic Display Hall which houses relics from the Jinsha Ruins, visitors come across lanterns in the shape of soldiers from the Roman Empire.

“The soldiers do not look fierce. Instead, they look like cute children who guard the Relic Display Hall where relics from their country are on display,” said Sui Yongnian, a visitor who posed for a picture in front of one soldier.

To present the ancient Roman civilization to Chinese audiences, the Jinsha Site Museum, Tianjin Museum, Shandong Museum and Yunnan Museum have borrowed 233 sets of cultural relics of ancient Rome collected by Italian museums.

They include statues and gold and silver coins that will be on display in the Jinsha Site Museum until April 8 on the first leg of a China tour. The next three legs will be in Tianjin municipality and Shandong and Yunnan provinces.

“Many of the exhibits are being shown in China for the first time. The insurance for all the relics is nearly 100 million yuan ($15 million),” said Huang Yujie, an official in charge of relic display in the Jinsha Site Museum.

Parallel to the history of the Roman Empire from the first century BC to the fourth century, the exhibition follows a chronological progression along a symbolic route stretching from the Imperial Forums of Caesar Augustus to the Arch of Constantine.

All objects in the exhibition are meant to reconstruct the lives and everyday scenes of the Romans from the emperor to the intellectuals and ordinary people over a period of 500 years, organizers said.

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