THE Chinese Ambassador visited Arundells this week to open a new photographic exhibition.

The pictures on display celebrate Chinese/British relations over the last 40 years.

Former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath, who owned Arundells, played a key role in reconnecting the west with China in 1972 after the Cultural Revolution.

Sir Edward visited China in May 1974, as Leader of the Opposition, where he held talks with Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai.

Chairman Mao presented him with a pair of Qianlong vases, which are displayed at Arundells, and two pandas, Qing Qing and Jia Jia, which he gave to London Zoo.

Sir Edward gave Chairman Mao a first edition copy of Darwin’s Origins of Species.

Deng Xiaoping went on to lead China after the death of Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou in 1976 and had many meetings with Sir Edward over the next decade.

These included discussions over the return of Hong Kong to China which eventually took place in 1997.

On Thursday, the Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming, together with Lord Hunt of Wirral, who is a trustee of the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation, officially opened the photographic exhibition and enjoyed a tour of Arundells.

They met members of the Friends of Arundells who campaigned to keep Sir Edward’s Cathedral Close house open to the public and businessman Peter Batey who is providing financial support while a fundraising campaign gets under way.

The photographs will be on display until July 26.