BEIJING DEPICTED BY AN ITALIAN

2002-9-9

More than 200 photos depicting the Old Beijing, city walls, parks and gardens, the lives of ordinary Beijingers and foreign diplomats have been put on show at an ongoing exhibition in the Chinese capital. 60-year-old Italian Adriano Màdaro is the curator of the exhibition, entitled "Peking in the beginning of the 20th Century". Having spent 27 years collecting 7,000 photographs of Old Beijing, he has finally realised his long-held dream of displaying these photos in the city itself. Born in Venice, Màdaro caught the "China bug" when he first read "The Travels of Marco Polo" at the age of 15. At 16, when many of his peers did not even know where China was, he was reading translated works by Lu Xun and Lao She, two famous modern Chinese writers. His career as a journalist allowed him to visit China for the first time in 1976, and the current exhibition in Beijing marks his 106th visit to the country. Though these visits have taken him to all corners of China, he seems to be especially drawn to the capital, and he's probably just as familiar with the city as any local Beijinger. He is currently writing his monumental seven-volume series called 'China Between the 18th and 20th Centuries.' So why is he so interested in China and Chinese culture? What does Beijing look like in his eyes? I recently met Màdaro in Beijing to find out the answers myself. He was staying in a hotel named the Marco Polo Beijing, a reminder of the first European to cross the entire continent of Asia and leave a record of what he saw and heard.