As the world offered their sympathies to the tragic burning of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris on Monday, a sensitive topic of historical significance permeated among discussions on social media in China.
When news of the Paris tragedy broke online, many Chinese netizens offered their concerns and sympathies using the viral hashtag “Notre Dame de Paris and me.”
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However, there were those who found an opportunity to remind others of the destruction that befell a beloved complex of palaces and gardens in Beijing, China over a century and a half ago under the hands of British and French troops.
Prior to its destruction in October 1860, the Old Summer Palace, also called the Garden of Perfect Brightness (or Yuanming Yuan), was regarded as the home of the most beautiful collection of architecture and art in China.
French and British soldiers infamously entered the palace and extensively looted and destroyed the place during the Second Opium War, just as an Anglo-French negotiation delegation was arriving to meet with the Qing dynasty prince under a flag of truce.
When news emerged that the delegation composed of escort troops and two British envoys had been imprisoned and tortured, the British High Commissioner to China retaliated by ordering the complete destruction of the palace.
To this day, many Chinese people look back at the destruction with deep pain and anger.
“Honestly, I feel bad that 800-year-old architecture was set ablaze and it was a loss for the whole of mankind, but I find it hard to sympathize with the French people,” a Weibo user wrote in a post that gathered thousands of likes and comments.
“This easily reminded me of the Yuanming Yuan being burned down by the British and French armies, which was more valuable than Notre Dame. There is a karmic cycle and who has heaven ever forgiven?”
“It serves them right … weren’t they pleased when they burned down the Yuanming Yuan? I don’t feel empathy but can only exclaim well-done,” commented another.
Comparisons of the fire at the cathedral in Paris to the destruction of the royal palace in China, have even reached mainstream media discussions, South China Morning Post reports.
“Chinese people relate to the hurt feelings of lost treasure experienced by the French people. Today, when the whole world is lamenting the collapse of the tower of Notre Dame, please don’t forget that after Yuanming Yuan was looted and burned a hundred years ago, China grieved alone,” a commentary from state news agency Xinhua read. The post was reportedly removed later from the website
Meanwhile, China Central Television opined that it is high time to let go of the past.
“The fire is not only a tragedy for France but also a loss to mankind. It is narrow-minded and pathetic to rain hatred on something innocent. We should remember the shame but let go of the hatred,” noted the opinion piece posted on the CCTV.com website.
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Notre Dame de Paris, a medieval Catholic cathedral in Paris, France, sustained serious damage after catching fire on Monday evening while undergoing renovation and restoration.
Featured image via Pixabay/harrylxt