Press release

Magna Carta comes to China

An original version of Magna Carta has arrived in China for the first time as part of a ground-breaking World Tour

Magna Carta

To mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, an original edition from Hereford Cathedral has embarked on an ambitious world tour, and is set to arrive for the first time in history in China from Tuesday 13 October for two weeks of exhibitions and special events across three major cities.

Over the course of the next three months this iconic document along with the only surviving letter sent by King John from Runnymede in 1215, will pass through seven countries, across three continents, travelling a total of approximately 65,000 miles, with thanks to official airline partner British Airways.

On loan from Hereford Cathedral, this is one of only 4 surviving 1217 Magna Carta documents in existence. As part of the tour the Magna Carta and King John’s Writ left the United Kingdom last month for New York where it was on public display at the New York Historical Society. During the course of this display it is estimated that around 5,000 people visited the exhibition.

The artefacts arrived in Luxembourg for a brief display at the highest court in the European Union - the European Court of Justice - before arriving in China, including Hong Kong, to then be followed by exhibitions Singapore, Malta and Portugal.

This visit is just one milestone in a notable year of UK-China relations. The Duke of Cambridge had a successful visit to China in March; Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, and Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, have both visited China this year; Vice Premier Liu Yandong visited the UK in September; and President Xi will undertake his first State Visit to the UK later this month. UK-China links have never been stronger. The State Visit will build upon existing areas of cooperation and open up further areas of collaboration, including in the field of rule of law.

The tour in China began in Beijing on Tuesday 13 October, and will then move on to Guangzhou finishing with a three-day exhibition in Shanghai.

A facsimile of the Magna Carta will also be specially created to be on display in Chongqing at the Three Gorges Museum from 22 October to 5 November.

This tour will provide the first ever opportunity for thousands of members of the public to see the document up close, alongside a number of Chinese treasures. Special events will also bring together British and Chinese historians and experts to discuss the modern day significance of the Magna Carta as an internationally recognised symbol of the rule of law, and its impact on common law systems across the world.

The British Ambassador to China, Barbara Woodward CMG OBE, commented:

Recognised as one of the most important documents as the foundation for the rule of law in modern society, we are delighted to bring the Magna Carta to China for the very first time.

I would like to take this chance to invite our friends across China to visit this important piece of our cultural heritage during this golden year of UK-China relations, and for it to spark further cooperation on rule of law and legal services.

Reverend Canon Chris Pullin, Chancellor from Hereford Cathedral, added:

I am delighted that our copy of Magna Carta is embarking on this global tour, which will enable more people than ever from across the world a unique and exciting opportunity to see the document close up and learn about what it represents.

Further information

  • Magna Carta has played a key role in the history of democracy around the world and still forms part of British law today. Magna Carta established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law.

  • More information on Magna Carta and the 800th anniversary is available on the Magna Carta Committee’s website and you can follow the World Tour on twitter @HFDMagnaCarta

  • You can find out more about how Hereford Cathedral is celebrating Magna Carta 800 on their website

  • The Magna Carta 800 Global Tour is made possible by the generous support of British Airways, who are flying the document in its First cabin

  • Photos of the Magna Carta Global Tour so far can be accessed on Flickr

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Published 13 October 2015