IT IS true, some of the sculptures are very nude, '' said Mr Jacques Vilain, curator of the Rodin Museum in Paris. ''Some of the people in Beijing were astonished. To show nudes now, even in 1992 is not usual there.'' For the first time, the Rodin Museum is taking some of Auguste Rodin's better-known sculptures on a tour of the three Chinas. In May, works such as The Thinker, The Kiss and the Burghers of Calais will come to Hongkong after a visit to Beijing and Shanghai, and before heading for Taiwan. Mr Vilain said the response in Beijing had been enthusiastic. The government had made no attempt to censor the exhibition, he said. The museum was given a free hand to bring to bring whatever pieces it deemed representative of the powerful and controversial artist's work. Rumour has it that Josef Stalin was one of Rodin's admirers - something China's communist leadership might have appreciated. What was undeniable was the exhibition's success, Mr Vilain said. ''There is the political position, and then there is the exhibition,'' he said. In Beijing, this meant 120,000 paying visitors in the space of one month. These figures do not include some of the special groups allowed into the exhibit free of charge. A group of 500 blind people, for instance, was given a tactile tour of the works. As in Beijing, the organisers expect a large turnout from Hongkong's student community. ''We will be very happy if students go to see the exhibition and do drawings,'' Mr Vilain said. ''It is in the spirit of Rodin's donation to the French Government.'' Rodin first made his mark on the world a little over a century ago, and the significance of his work has grown enormously. In his own time, his sculptures were often rejected, or denounced as ''pornographic''. Today, he is seen as the father of modern sculpture. ''Rodin split with academic art, but opened up art of the 20th century,'' Mr Vilain said. Even at the start of this century, when Rodin donated his sculptures and sketches to the government of France, many in power were ''absolutely against the donation''. During his lifetime, he was subjected to repeated public and official rejection of his works, because his style was at odds with the academic movement which prevailed. Today, his influence can be seen in the works of great artists who followed. When Rodin made his donation, he specified the number of casts to be made from his molds would be limited to 12. The reproductions allow for permanent Rodin exhibits to be held in various museums around the world. Currently, outside of Paris, there are Rodin collections in five museums in the US, as well as in London, Copenhagen and Tokyo. Many of the sculptures coming to Hongkong would be those usually exhibited in Paris, said Mr Vilain. Others will alternate from city to city. The Thinker, for instance - perhaps the best-known of all modern sculptures - will be seen in Hongkong in its original size. Beijing, however, saw the enlarged version, which usually sits in the garden of the Paris museum. Rodin sculptures have already made their way to Japan and South Korea. Asked why it had taken so long for the figures to come to Asia, Mr Vilain said financing was the main obstacle. Although it was the museum's policy never to disclose the price of an exhibition, Mr Vilain said this one was ''very expensive''. Sponsorship by France's Elf Foundation made it possible. In Hongkong, the exhibition will be held from April 30 to June 2, at the Hongkong Museum of Art. It is being presented by the Urban Council and the Association Francaise d'Action Artistique of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The exhibition will coincide with a month of French promotional activities in May.