|Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd R, front) visits the former site of the Lyon Sino-French Institute in Lyon, France, March 26, 2014. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)
LYON, France, March 26 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday visited the former site of the Lyon Sino-French Institute here as part of his ongoing state visit to France.
Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan walked through the campus before stopping at the main building to inaugurate a center for the promotion of China-Lyon relations and a museum of the Lyon Sino-French Institute.
Xi said the institute had witnessed a unique period of exchange between China and France, and recorded China's two important periods of foreign relations in its recent history.
China is willing to work with France in the collection, preservation, and research of related materials, said Xi, adding that he hoped for more Chinese visitors here and further advancement of exchanges between Lyon and China.
The Lyon Sino-French Institute, established in July 1921, was the only Chinese "university" outside China. It has trained many Chinese talents who later became crucial leaders in the construction of the People's Republic of China (PRC).
Prominent figures include builders of the PRC -- Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping and Chen Yi -- and scientists Qian Sanqiang and Yan Jici, artists Xu Beihong and Xian Xinghai, as well as writers Ba Jin and Qian Zhongshu.
In the 1980's, when the school was resumed, it also cultivated many talents for China's reform and opening-up, adding a new chapter to the cultural and people-to-people exchange between the two countries.
The Chinese president thanked the Lyon municipal government for its great effort to preserve the historical materials related to the institute.
During the trip, Xi also talked with a 99-year-old alumnus of the institute, Li Zhihua, who took 27 years to produce the first French translation of the Chinese classic, "A Dream of Red Mansions". Xi praised his perseverance and academic talent, saying he is an excellent example of the graduates of the institute.
At present, the people-to-people exchanges between China and France are quite different from in the past, Xi noted, citing the number of young people studying in each other's country at close to to 50,000.
The China-France friendship borne by the Lyon Sino-French Institute will be carried forward and passed down through generations, Xi said.
France is the second leg of Xi's ongoing European trip, which will also take him to Germany and Belgium. Before France, Xi visited the Netherlands and attended the third Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague.