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TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - Taiwan will display on Wednesday a collection of art lent by Beijing for the first time, 60 years after a stash of similar treasures was taken out of China by the founders of modern Taiwan.
In a sign of improved ties between the two sides, Beijing agreed earlier this year to lend the 37 objects from the imperial dynasty that ruled China until 1911 and said that similar exchanges could be worked out in 2010.
"This is a new beginning," Beijing Palace Museum Director Zheng Xinmiao told reporters in Taipei. "It has caught the attention of both sides of the Taiwan Strait."
But Taiwan has declined to reciprocate, fearing that China would seize the art, claiming rightful ownership.
China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. But ties have improved since China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou took office in Taiwan last year.
A 650,000-piece collection of Chinese art, which experts say is perhaps the best in the world, is kept at Taipei's National Palace Museum, taken to the island when nationalist KMT forces fled China at the end of the civil war with the Communists in 1949.
Another 600,000 or so pieces that were left behind are now stored in Beijing's Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City.
The works from China that go on display from Wednesday through January 10 include vases, boxes and paintings from the brief reign of Qing Dynasty Emperor Yongzheng, who was known for a refined taste in art.
The art from Beijing complements the Taipei museum's 203 pieces from the same period. Two additional items have been donated from Shanghai. They are expected to be popular with the thousands of daily visitors from Taiwan, China and Japan.
"Before there were pieces here and pieces there, and now finally they're all in one place," said museum volunteer Chang En-chi. "Some have never been seen here before."
Editing by Miral Fahmy