Wednesday, August 02, 2006

China Joins Europe, Russia, And Ukraine In The Historic Preservation Bandwagon: Imperial Chambers Sealed For 82 Years Slowly To Be Reopened To Public

... "Anyone who has visited Beijing in the last few years knows that the Forbidden City, the ancient home of China’s emperors, is in the midst of a total restoration. Plans call for work to be completed by 2020, in time to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the imperial compound.

The refurbishment is part of Beijing’s selective preservation work in advance of the 2008 Olympics. Heavily visited historic sites like the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven are undergoing multimillion-dollar face-lifts, even as a few ancient residential neighborhoods are being bulldozed for new development. One such neighborhood, Qianmen, is less than a mile from the Forbidden City.

The scope of the work inside the high gray walls of the Forbidden City is displayed in the office of Jin Hongkui, the deputy director of the Palace Museum, as the imperial compound is formally known.

Last Friday he used a red penlight to highlight the different stages of renovation on a large map of the complex, including the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the central structure of the Forbidden City, which is now shrouded in scaffolding.

Mr. Jin said the renovation program, which began in earnest in 2002, was focused on finishing the largest public buildings before the Olympics and would restore the entire complex by the 2020 deadline. He said almost 2,000 construction workers and craftsmen were involved.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the whole world is watching,” he said. “We can’t make any mistakes.”

The craftsmen and workers doing the renovation are Chinese, but Mr. Jin said foreign conservationists were providing advice on certain projects. Preservationists with the Italian government are consulting on the work at the Hall of Supreme Harmony.

Mr. Jin said the arrangement with the World Monuments Fund was the first major collaboration involving an American conservation group and the Forbidden City. The partnership began in 2003, when the fund committed $3.3 million to restoring the building known as Qianlong’s Lodge of Retirement.

Last March a broader $15 million agreement, which included $5 million from the Chinese side, was announced to restore all 24 buildings and the elaborate outdoor courtyards of the entire Qianlong Garden.

Last week’s visit allowed conservationists from both sides to discuss the renovation and also gave the Americans a new chance to explore buildings sealed from the public since the last emperor, Puyi, was ordered out of the Forbidden City in 1924." ...

The Qianlong Garden is only 1.7 acres, or roughly 1 percent of the acreage of the Forbidden City, but Mr. [John] Stubbs said the complex had been built with some of the finest examples of Chinese art and craftsmanship, as well as European influences....

"We knew it was fine,” he said of the Qianlong Garden, “but we didn’t know how brilliantly fine it was.”

The group is bringing over American conservation specialists in textiles, wood and lacquer to share the latest preservation techniques." ...

Jim Yardley "Beijing Journal: Restored, an Emperor’s Lair Will Be Forbidden No More" New York Times August 2, 2006.

Please see full New York Times article for Slide Show: Restoring the Forbidden City

A. Craftsmanship and historic preservation

Q. What is the opposite of economic terrorism?

Chinese craftspeople work to restore hundreds of years old painted silk walls and hangings in the Forbidden City, Beijing, China.


The 24 buildings and the elaborate outdoor courtyards of the Qianlong Garden have been sealed from the public since the last emperor, Puyi, was ordered out of the Forbidden City, in 1924. The Qianlong Apartments and Garden of the 600 year old Forbidden City were built in the 1770s, about ten years after Catherine the Great of Russia purchased 250 European paintings and began the Winter Palace-Museum complex, known today as the Hermitage. The Qianlong Apartments and Garden section of the Forbidden City was also intended as a Hermitage -- in this instance, for the retirement of Qianlong, the fifth emperor of the Qing Dynasty.

Photo credit: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times via New York Times. With thanks.


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