Jesuit brother honoured in China for Year of the Horse

The Year of the Horse, which began on Sunday, is being celebrated in China with an exhibition of paintings by Giuseppe Castiglione, a Jesuit brother and painter who worked at the court of Emperor Qianlong for 51 years, and a film about his life.

Br Castiglione, who was born in Milan in 1688 and died in Beijing in 1766, painted pictures of emperors, concubines and especially horses. His work is treasured in the museums of the Imperial Palace in Taipei and Beijing.

To mark the Year of the Horse, the museum in Taipei prepared a giant animated digital version of his 100 Horses painted entirely on one long scroll, Castiglione's absolute masterpiece. The exhibition was inaugurated last October in the presence of the two directors of the museums in Beijing and Taipei and representatives of several foreign delegations invited for the occasion.

Last week, the production of a documentary-drama about him was completed. The film is produced by Kuangchi Program Service in Taipei in cooperation with Jiangsu TV in Nanjing. The last part of the shoot took place in the huge film studios of Hengdian - which completely rebuilt the Forbidden City in Beijing and Wuxi. This was made possible thanks to collaboration with Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation, the biggest television company in China.

Australian actor Ashok Zaman plays Br Castiglione. He said he found the story fascinating. 'It's the story of a foreign artist who completely immersed himself in a different culture, at a time when very few foreigners were present in China. Especially when we shot in the studios of Hengdian, where the Imperial Palace in Beijing is rebuilt to scale and of such amazing detail, it helps you put yourself in the shoes of an artist who had left Italy forever - not an easy choice, with a great mission in his mind'.

The final version of the film will be in Chinese, for airing on national television, as well as in English and Italian.

By Jo Siedlecka, Independent Catholic News