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ZHOU ENLAI (1898-1976)
ZHOU ENLAI (1898-1976)
ZHOU ENLAI (1898-1976)
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ZHOU ENLAI (1898-1976)

Part-printed letter signed (‘Zhou En-lai’) to Pablo Neruda (‘My dear friend’), Peking [Beijing], 30 October 1952.

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ZHOU ENLAI (1898-1976)
Part-printed letter signed (‘Zhou En-lai’) to Pablo Neruda (‘My dear friend’), Peking [Beijing], 30 October 1952.
In Chinese. One page, 279 x 206mm. Envelope, 226 x 102mm, printed: ‘Mr Ne Ruda/ [under] The seal of the Government Administration Council of the Central People's Government’. Provenance: From the collection of Santiago Vivanco: his sale, ‘Pablo Neruda. A Unique Archive’, La Suite, Barcelona, 8 October 2020, lot 119.

The opening of diplomatic relations between China and Chile in the 20th century: Premier Zhou Enlai writes to his friend, the Chilean poet-diplomat Pablo Neruda, thanking him for facilitating a meeting with the special envoy to the PRC, Alfredo de Amesti. Opening his letter affectionately, Zhou continues: ‘I have received your letter. Thank you very much for introducing Colonel de Amesti to me and for giving me a chance to meet him and exchange views with him on the question of establishing diplomatic and trade relations between Chile and China. I believe that this will have a great significance for promoting friendly relations between Chile and China/ Please accept my gratitude to you/ With heartfelt feelings, I send you my best regards’.

Pablo Neruda first visited China in 1928 on his way to Rangoon to take up the position of honorary consul, an unforgettable first visit which saw him stripped of his clothes and robbed by a rickshaw driver after a late night drinking in Shanghai. When he next returned in September 1951 – by this time a prominent figure on the international stage as one of the leaders of the Chilean Communist Party, living in exile – it was as a member of the jury of the International Stalin Peace Prize, invited to Beijing to present the medal to Soong Chingling. Travelling with his fellow judge, the Soviet author Ilya Ehrenburg, Neruda was greeted with great ceremony; Soong was a Vice President of the newly-formed People’s Republic of China and Neruda and Ehrenburg were hosted by many of the PRC leaders during their stay, including Premier Zhou Enlai, Vice President Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De and others. At that time Zhou Enlai was tasked with the fostering of closer Sino-Latin American relations, a mission of pressing importance in the 1950s against the backdrop of US-instigated Cold War blockades; the Pacific route had yet to be opened and travel between the two continents necessitated arduous multi-day journeys via the relatively small number of European and African countries who maintained diplomatic ties with China, which made investment in a select few cultural attachés such as Neruda particularly important as part of a programme of ‘people to people’ diplomacy. In 1952, Neruda co-founded the Instituto Chileno Chino de Cultura in Santiago with Salvador Allende and José Venturelli – the first such organisation in Latin America, it facilitated the invitation and reception of cultural delegations in China – and, later that year, this brand of informal diplomacy coalesced into something more significant, after Zhou was introduced by Neruda to one of these delegates, Colonel Alfredo de Amesti, travelling as a special envoy of the Chilean government. The meetings between Zhou and de Amesti were a success and resulted in talks regarding the possibility of exporting Chinese tea to Chile, the first step in the foundation of crucial trade relations between the two countries. In the present letter – only the second by Premier Zhou Enlai to be offered for sale by an international auction house – he thanks his friend for his instrumental role in helping Chile build a friendly working relationship with China.

[With:] Pablo Neruda (1904-1973). Autograph letter, Peking [Beijing], 22 September [?1951]. In Spanish. One page, 263 x 158mm, in green ink on Chinese paper printed with calligraphy and a floral design. Regarding onward travel plans from Beijing.

[And:] a typed translation into English of the Zhou Enlai letter.

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Sophie Hopkins
Sophie Hopkins Books & Manuscripts

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