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Palace Museum spruces up

By ZHANG ZIXUAN  (China Daily)

10:10, April 20, 2013

Beijing's Palace Museum launched an eight-year campaign this week to remove all potential safety hazards, part of preparations for the imperial palace's 600th anniversary celebrations in 2020.

The museum, commonly known as the Forbidden City, houses 1.8 million cultural relics.

According to director Shan Jixiang, the 170,000-sq-m complex is vulnerable to fire, theft and earthquake as well as natural wear and tear.

"Our project will guarantee the safety of the architecture, the relics and the 15 million visitors who come here from all around the world every year," he said.

In the short term, Shan said, work will focus on eliminating threats from theft, extreme weather and stampedes by 2015, the 90-year anniversary of the Forbidden City's conversion into a public museum.

He said the first and most important work that needs to be done is the construction of the museum's north branch.

The Palace Museum owns a 476,000-sq-m site in northwestern Haidian district, 40 km from the city center.

The site, which used to be a brick kiln until 1997, will house a cultural heritage repair center in three to five years, part of which will be open to the public. There will also be an exhibition space, a greenhouse and a digital center.

There are also major plans for the main Palace Museum site. Its 22,000-sq-m underground storerooms will be enlarged by 6,000 sq m, and will feature modifications that automatically adjust the temperature and humidity.

In three years, all the academic institutes currently situated in the museum's Red Wall area will move to its southwest corner.

A new security system will be completed by the end of this year, and a new fire control system will be installed by the end of 2014.

Armed police will replace the museum's security guards, and smoking will be forbidden for all staff members.

The museum will also open and utilize more space for exhibitions. A 28,000-sq-m space in its southern area, including the Meridian Gate and the Goose Wing Buildings, will be put to use this year as exhibition space.

The same area will host a major exhibition in 2015 to celebrate the museum's 90th anniversary. Other areas will also be used for different purposes — for instance, the Imperial Kitchen will become a hall to exhibit ancient furniture, and the uncompleted Western-style Palace of Prolonging Happiness will display Western antiques.

A digital museum outside the Palace Museum's northern gate is being designed.

There will also be training workshops in traditional handicrafts such as the mounting of paintings and calligraphy.

Meanwhile, Shan said, routine repairs and maintenance will continue to be carried out. For example, the three-year restoration of the Xianruo Hall will be completed this year.

The safety project will be completed by 2020, when the Forbidden City is 600 years old, at the same time as the ongoing major repair project that was started since 2002.

"The project is a significant cultural construction, which will improve the Palace Museum's abilities in cultural heritage preservation, demonstration and public service, realizing its sustainable development," Vice-Premier Liu Yandong said when visiting the museum on Tuesday.

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