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Mona Lisa speaks! And it's in Mandarin

August 19, 2009 |  9:47 am

MonaFor five centuries, Mona Lisa has gazed upon her admirers in silence, her faint smile inspiring endless speculation as to what secrets she holds. Now, she's dishing about her personal life -- and it's in Mandarin.

"Hello, I am Mona Lisa. It's nice to meet you," she says in a Chinese Central Television video (click here to watch) taken at a show called the World Classic Multimedia Interactive Arts Exhibition in Beijing. Of course, it is not the real Mona Lisa, which is at the Louvre in Paris and firmly tucked away behind a bullet-proof screen that recently came in handy when an irate Russian woman threw a ceramic cup at it.

Instead, this Mona Lisa is a digital re-creation courtesy of the Alive Gallery in Seoul, South Korea, and is traveling to China on a three-city tour, along with a collection of other walking, talking masterworks from throughout the ages. In all, Chinese media reports say, there are 61 items on display, including digital renditions of "The Last Supper," the Egyptian Book of the Dead (a.k.a. the Papyrus of Ani) and Venus, as well as works by more modern artists, such as Wassily Kandinsky.

But the piece de resistance is Mona Lisa, who not only has a mastery of Mandarin -- and, in a previous incarnation, Korean -- but also waves to visitors. And in Beijing, it would seem, the only things being hurled at the artwork are softball questions.

"Are you married? Do you lead a happy life?" asks one woman on the CCTV video. "Yes, I am married, and my husband loves me so much," the painting answers -- reportedly with the help of "sound identification technology," though it is unclear exactly how the response is generated.

Apparently, Mona Lisa still has a few secrets left to tell.

-- Scott Sandell

Photo: Frame grab from CCTV