01/31/2014, 00.00
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The Year of the Horse with Giuseppe Castiglione, a Jesuit painter at the court of Emperor Qianlong

by Xin Yage
A digital and animated exhibition in Taipei, a movie about his life ( 1688-1766 ) . He painted pictures of emperors, concubines and especially horses. His gifts of spiritual and cultural dialogue also appreciated by actors and directors. DVD soon to be released in Chinese, English and Italian.

Taipei (AsiaNews) - Today is the Chinese New Year  and a new year of the Horse begins, one of the 12 zodiac animals . And today there is also a special relationship between China, Milan and the entire West through an artist who lived in the imperial palace for 51 years. He specialized not only in portraits of emperors and their concubines, but also in painting the imperial horses. The artist in question was Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世宁, Lan Shining), a Jesuit who lived between 1688 and 1766, who was born in Milan and died in Beijing, honored by the great Emperor Qianlong with an imperial funeral. Not surprisingly, Qianlong was a very great open-minded man, passionate about art and culture.

The Castiglione masterpieces are treasured in the museums of the Imperial Palace in Taipei and Beijing. On the occasion of 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.

Commemorations of Castiglione's artistic talents do not stop there. Just two days ago the production of the docu-drama about him wrapped. The film is produced by Kuangchi Program Service (光启 文教 视听 节目 服务 社) in Taipei in cooperation with Jiangsu TV (江苏 卫视) in Nanjing. The last part of the shoot took place in the huge film studios of Hengdian (浙江省 横店 影视城) - which completely rebuilt the Forbidden City in Beijing and Wuxi (无锡 国家 数字 电影 产业 园) - where the major Chinese film productions are filmed and edited with digital post-production . This has been possible thanks to collaboration between Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation (江苏 省 广播 电视 总 台) , the biggest television company in China in terms of investment in original drama and third most important Chinese television network. For the ten days of shooting, the film crew included more than 50 people, and everything was filmed with Sony F55 and Epic One Red in 4K format, for more than 20 TB of recorded material.

The main actors involved included four 'emperors' ( Kangxi , Yongzheng , a young Qianlong and older Qianlong), six 'concubines' , three 'eunuchs', various foreign artists including Jean C., French actor who has played the part of Michel Benoist, the architect specialized in the realization of the fountains of the old summer palace in Beijing, and the Martinson brothers (老丁 和 小丁 神父) who represent two other artists in the wake of Castiglione.

The main actor, Ashok Zaman, an Australian currently living in Shanghai, who played Castiglione, was chosen last month after a meticulous casting, and said he was honored to interpret the Milanese artist : " I knew nothing of Castiglione - he says - I did not know who he was until the day of casting. It's my first time to act in a historical documentary and I find it extremely 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 to feel completely in context to put yourself in the shoes of an artist who had left Italy forever,not an easy choice, with a great mission in his mind".

Ashok started his career as a photo model and, passionate about film, studied acting, his great love along with the daily practice of meditation: " For me, the spiritual dimension of life is important, from the standpoint of philosophical and transcendent, something that is often dismissed by our modern lifestyle .I used to model, then my work in Shanghai is often in commercials where everything is so well built and ' false ' in a sense , because in the end you have to sell a When speaking about the artistic qualities of Giuseppe Castiglione, Ashok's eyes light up " I just worked in a scene where I was looking at a copy of the one hundred horses, the details are spectacular, just think that Castiglione took four years to complete it and that he could not.

The television crew that was responsible for the shooting in other places, went to the museum in Taipei at the end of December.

These days every Chinese repeats the wish: "Ma Dao Cheng Gong (马到成功),"may the year of the horse be one of opportunity for success and a better life. Castiglione not only "arrived (马 到)" on a horse but painted it in its most beautiful, realistic and fascinating details for the emperors Kangxi , Yongzheng and Qianlong . With the hope of a new year for all the huge Chinese population and those who are passionate about art, to build bridges between peoples, to understand deeply the spirituality and desires hidden in the dreams of millions of people. Gao Wei (高 巍 导演), Jiangsu TV director, supervisor of the entire docu-drama  now in his third collaboration with Kuangchi Program Service , says that "commemorating Castiglione the humble artist and at the same time one of extraordinary depth is a priceless human and spiritual experience. We filmed in Beijing , Milan, here in these studies, interviewed artists and experts from different backgrounds , all somehow fascinated by Lang Shining (Castiglione's name in China)".

Post production should be completed before the summer. The final version will be in Chinese, for airing on national television, as well as in English and Italian. 

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