The State Memorial and Natural Preserve "Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy "Yasnaya Polyana"
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“Leo Tolstoy and His Time” Exhibition Opened in Peking

On September 23, 2014 the exhibition “Leo Tolstoy and His Time” opened at the National Museum of China. For the first time in their history, the Yasnaya Polyana Museum and the State Leo Tolstoy Museum in Moscow present objects from their collections to a Chinese audience.

Among those who took part in the opening ceremony were Ambassador of Russia to the People’s Republic of China Andrei Denisov, the writer and former Chinese Minister of Culture Wang Meng, Advisor to the RF President on Culture and Art Vladimir Tolstoy, Director of the Yasnaya Polyana Estate-Museum Ekaterina Tolstaya, Deputy Director of the State Tolstoy Museum in Moscow Lyudmila Kalyuzhnaya, Director of the National Museum of China Lu Zhangshen, and also curators of the exhibition Galina Alexeeva and Wang Shu. 


According to the Chinese curator of the exhibition, this project, using Tolstoy as its subject, reveals Russian culture and literature to the Chinese audience. The exhibition has six sections, which are devoted to such topics as the family, creativity, Tolstoy’s spiritual crisis, and his influence on the 20th century. And, of course, the topic “Tolstoy and China” has an important place in this list.

It is little known that after the Crimean War Tolstoy was invited to China as an instructor for artillery officers. He never made that trip. Twenty years later, the writer referred to teachings of Chinese sages in search of the confirmation of his own reflections about the meaning of life. He would study writings by Chinese philosophers and works of folk art. Chinese legends, proverbs and sayings would be used in his “ABC Book” and “Russian Readers.” 

Chinese sayings can be found in abundance in the collections of wise sayings that were published in the last years of Tolstoy’s life; the most frequently quoted Chinese authors in them were Confucius and Lao-tsu. Tolstoy’s personal library, especially its foreign section, shows the evolution of the writer’s interest in Chinese literature and philosophy. And beginning in the 1900s, Chinese writers and cultural figures appeared among Tolstoy’s correspondents. In 1906, Tolstoy wrote his famous article “Letter to a Chinese” that sounded like a testament addressed to the people of China. Among significant exhibits on display, there is a letter of a Chinese student to Tolstoy and a letter written by Tolstoy himself to a Chinese scholar. 


For the exhibition ‘Tolstoy and His Time,” 200 memorial objects left their permanent places at Yasnaya Polyana and in Moscow; among them are Tolstoy’s personal items and clothes, an inkstand belonging to his father Nikolai Tolstoy that was used during the work on “War and Peace,” and books from the author’s personal library, including “The Light of China” by Lao-tsu with Tolstoy’s notes in the margin. The portrait of Tolstoy by Ilya Repin was removed from the Tolstoy House for the first time, let alone the evacuation during World War II.

While the exhibition is on display, classical screen versions of Tolstoy’s works are being shown to its visitors: “Anna Karenina” by Alexander Zarkhi and “Resurrection” by Mikhail Shveitser, and also documentary footage of the last years of the writer’s life.

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