Dublin will play host to a festival of Chinese art and culture this week as the Chinese New Year is celebrated around the world.
The Chinatown Festival 2005 is being held from February 9 to 15 at the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks, where there is a collection of more than 1,500 Chinese artefacts.
The celebration of Chinese culture will also involve a market with more than 50 stalls selling ethnic food and products.
An Asian Pavilion will host an exhibition of photographs of China and workshops will give families the opportunity to try a range of activities from Kung Fu to lantern making and calligraphy.
Museum Director Dr Patrick Wallace said: “We are delighted to host such a prestigious event at the National Museum of Ireland, not least because of its close association with the numerous precious Chinese artefacts that we have on site here in Collins Barracks and we hope that visitors will make the time to visit and enjoy these treasures during the festival.”
Among the artefacts on display is the 700-year-old Fonthill Vase – renowned as one of the best-documented pieces of early porcelain – which was owned by King Louis the Great of Hungary in the 14th century and the Dauphin of France in the 18th century.
The museum is also exhibiting Tang Dynasty animal figures of Duck, Ram and Horse, which are more than 1,000 years old, and a Ming lacquered sweetbox.
This year’s event is the second in Ireland.
Last year, the Chinatown Festival was visited by more than 127,000 people, while Chinese audiences in Beijing and Shanghai experienced Irish music, dance, theatre, poetry and visual art in a reciprocal Irish Festival in China.
There has been a cultural agreement between the two countries since the 1980s, and in 2001 they signed a Memorandum of Understanding which committed them to strengthening friendly relations.
The government recently concluded an deal with China to grant Ireland “approved destination status”, opening the way for up to 50,000 Chinese tourists to visit the country annually within the next four years.
The first day of the Chinese New Year is February 9, though celebrations will continue over several days.
This year is the Year of the Rooster, which is said to be an “ominous year for marriage”.
Each year in the Chinese calendar is named after one of 12 animals and the New Year – which is calculated by the lunar calendar – usually falls around the end January.