Palace Mu­seum be­gins build­ing branch in north­west­ern Bei­jing

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By WANG KAIHAO wangkai­hao@chi­

Af­ter years of prepa­ra­tion, con­struc­tion of a branch of the Palace Mu­seum for­mally kicked off on Wed­nes­day in Bei­jing’s north­west­ern out­skirts.

The branch, cov­er­ing 62 hectares in the north of Haid­ian district, will serve as satel­lite in­sti­tu­tion of the com­plex that was China’s im­pe­rial palace from 1420 to 1911, also known as the For­bid­den City.

The branch will in­clude 35,000 square me­ters of ex­hi­bi­tion space, a con­ser­va­tion cen­ter for cul­tural relics of 20,000 sq m and a ware­house of 23,000 sq m, ac­cord­ing to Shan Jix­i­ang, di­rec­tor of the Palace Mu­seum.

Plans call for it to fully open in June 2022, but the con­ser­va­tion cen­ter may be ready for vis­its by the pub­lic in 2020, when 600th birth­day of the For­bid­den City falls, Shan said.

“Hav­ing such an in­sti­tu­tion will im­prove our ser­vice and ex­pand our room to dis­play our col­lec­tions,” he said.

The lack of suf­fi­cient ex­hi­bi­tion space has been a lin­ger­ing prob­lem for the mu­seum, which houses about 1.86 mil­lion cul­tural relics.

The need to pro­vide a safe and se­cure environment for ar­ti­facts ex­hib­ited in the an­cient build­ings has meant that only 2 per­cent of the mu­seum’s trea­sures can be si­mul­ta­ne­ously dis­played to the pub­lic.

“Our col­lec­tions of large items, like the huge num­ber of ta­pes­tries and sedan chairs, par­tic­u­larly need ex­hi­bi­tion spa­ces,” Shan said. “It’s cur­rently im­pos­si­ble to dis­play them in the For­bid­den City, but the new mu­seum will of­fer good con­di­tions to put them on dis­play.”

The di­rec­tor said the new mu­seum will also be­come a hub for study­ing the hor­ti­cul­ture of the im­pe­rial age. Plants grown there will be taken to the For­bid­den City in down­town Bei­jing for dis­play.

“Some­times, it’s dif­fi­cult to breed some plants down­town be­cause of the ur­ban heat,” he said. “It’s bet­ter to do so in the out­skirts.”

The new com­plex will be also used to pre­serve and pass along ex­per­tise in the ren­o­va­tion of an­cient ar­chi­tec­ture and tra­di­tional crafts­man­ship. Skilled crafts­men who are in­her­i­tors of in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage will join in ren­o­va­tion of cul­tural relics to re­vive old tech­niques.

There are many rea­sons for the lo­ca­tion for the new mu­seum. “This choice is to re­spect his­tory,” Shan said.

“Dur­ing im­pe­rial years, when the royal fam­ily needed more space for palaces or re­sorts, they tended to choose a new area in north­west­ern Bei­jing, as in the case of the Sum­mer Palace.”

The new site also holds the re­mains of an old porce­lain kiln. The kiln, which was used for items for the roy­alty, will be­come an­other at­trac­tion.

The new build­ing’s de­sign was cho­sen from five fi­nal en­tries, based on the judg­ment of schol­ars and pub­lic in­put, Shan said. The mu­seum ad­min­is­tra­tion op­posed any “mav­er­ick” plan from over­seas stu­dios and in­vited do­mes­tic tal­ent to sub­mit pro­pos­als.

The ar­chi­tec­tural plan se­lected is from a team led by Zhang Yu with the Bei­jing In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tec­tural De­sign.

Red and yel­low — two colors that were of­ten used by roy­alty in the For­bid­den City — are fea­tured in the new com­plex. The eco-friendly and en­ergy-sav­ing con­struc­tion also is de­signed to match the sur­round­ing nat­u­ral environment.

Sup­port in­fra­struc­ture such as sub­way ac­cess also is planned. Shan said he ex­pects the mu­seum branch to re­ceive 3 mil­lion an­nual vis­its.

Wang Ning, deputy mayor, said the mu­seum “can be a hub for cross-bor­der cul­tural com­mu­ni­ca­tion and thus help our goal of mak­ing Bei­jing a global city”.

Top: A com­puter-gen­er­ated graphic shows the de­sign of the Palace Mu­seum branch. PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY Above: Shan Jix­i­ang, the mu­seum’s di­rec­tor, briefs re­porters on the branch’s con­struc­tion. ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY

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