Our Privacy Statement & Cookie Policy

By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies, revised Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can change your cookie settings through your browser.

I agree

A rare look at France's gift to President Xi: Confucius - in French

Dong Xue in Beijing


Chinese President Xi Jinping's first trip to Europe in five years will kick off with a tour of France, where he will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron as the two countries celebrate six decades since they established diplomatic ties.

Five years back, in a moment that symbolized the deepening cultural ties between China and France, Macron presented a unique gift to Xi during his visit to Nice - a copy of The Analects of Confucius published in 1688. 

The original copy of the book, with its leather cover, golden overhang, and red-painted edges, now resides in the National Library of China. CGTN was granted rare access to the book and the chance to discover the story behind the significant gesture.

The French version of 'An Introduction to The Analects of Confucius' is a classic, featuring a bookbinding style from the age of enlightenment in France.

The volume is about the political ideas, ethical thought and moral concepts of China more than 2,000 years ago. No one expected it would be returned to China more than two-centuries after it left.

"The book was addressed to princes in ancient Europe, who owned territory and would be able to govern in future," says Zhao Daying, an associate research librarian at the National Library of China.

"So what lessons could these readers take away? It was this moral, or political principle that Chinese emperors used in the way they governed the country."


Are we any closer to recreating the Sun's energy?

Why an Austrian heiress wants to give away her $27.3 million fortune

Words of wisdom: How to make the most delicious soup

As a classic of traditional Chinese culture, The Analects of Confucius was introduced to Europe as early as the 17th-century, and many scholars have compared the status of Confucius in Chinese civilization to that of Socrates in the West.

In March 2019, the book was given to President Xi as a national gift by Macron, as the two countries celebrated the 55th anniversary since they established diplomatic ties.

"The book proves that exchanges between China and France began in the 17th-century and have continued to the present day," says Shao. "I think the book is very rare. It's not only a medium for books, but also a bridge connecting the ancient and the modern, China and Europe."

President Xi once said rich philosophical ideas, a humanistic spirit, edifying thoughts and moral concepts rooted in traditional Chinese culture can provide the inspiration for both understanding and transforming the world, governing the country, and developing morals.

In France, The Analects of Confucius have been labeled one of the ten most influential Chinese books, even inspiring some to learn Chinese. The Chinese philosopher's influence is also seen in the growth in the number of Confucius Institutes across Europe, especially France. 

The country was one of the earliest to incorporate Chinese language teaching into the national educational system, promoting cultural exchanges and playing an important role in the wider relationship.

A rare look at France's gift to President Xi: Confucius - in French

Subscribe to Storyboard: A weekly newsletter bringing you the best of CGTN every Friday

Search Trends