Mys­ter­ies Un­veiled

A new show of­fers glimpses into the For­bid­den City’s se­crets

Beijing Review - - NATION - By Ji Jing

Acul­tural va­ri­ety show ti­tled Shang Xin Le Gu Gong is tak­ing China by storm. Trans­lated as There Is Some­thing New in the For­bid­den City, the unique broad­cast has been go­ing on air ev­ery Fri­day night since Novem­ber 9 on Bei­jing TV and video stream­ing on iqiyi.com.

This is not the first time that the For­bid­den City, or Palace Mu­seum, China’s royal res­i­dence dur­ing the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (16441911) dy­nas­ties, has ap­peared in a TV pro­gram. Pre­vi­ous en­deav­ors sought to in­tro­duce the his­tor­i­cal site to au­di­ences through doc­u­men­taries such as Mas­ters in the For­bid­den City, which fol­lowed cul­tural relic re­pair­ers at the Palace Mu­seum and was first broad­cast on China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion in 2016.

How­ever, the new show is be­ing ac­claimed for its light-hearted way of bring­ing the mu­seum closer to or­di­nary peo­ple. Pro­duced by the Palace Mu­seum it­self and Bei­jing TV, it is co-pro­duced by the Hwachain Cul­tural Com­pany.

Zhu Yong, Di­rec­tor of the Film and Tele­vi­sion Depart­ment at the In­sti­tute of Gu­gong Stud­ies, a re­search in­sti­tute af­fil­i­ated to the Palace Mu­seum, is the chief screen­writer for the show. He said the show hopes to present the mu­seum’s cul­tural trea­sures ac­cu­mu­lated over nearly 600 years to young au­di­ences in a vi­brant and fash­ion­able way.

Lively pre­sen­ta­tion

Each episode starts with Shan Jix­i­ang, Pres­i­dent of the Palace Mu­seum, as­sign­ing a mis­sion to two ac­tors, Deng Lun and Zhou Yi­wei. They then con­sult ex­perts from the Palace Mu­seum and his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments to find clues to ex­e­cute the mis­sion.

The Palace Mu­seum has real cats that have be­come icons and have fea­tured in many cul­tural and cre­ative prod­ucts. A vir­tual cat is the au­di­ence’s in­struc­tor through­out the show.

A head shot of the cat pops up at the bot­tom of the screen when­ever it is nec­es­sary to dis­sem­i­nate in­for­ma­tion re­lated to the mu­seum. The cat’s voice is lent by the ac­tor who did the voice for Lu Ban in Glory of the King, an on­line game pro­duced by China’s In­ter­net gi­ant Ten­cent.

In the first episode, Shan asks the two ac­tors to look for the “se­cret gar­den” be­long­ing to Qing Dy­nasty Em­peror Qian­long (1711-99). They are later joined by Hong Kong ac­tress Ada Choi who played the em­press in the 2011 Qing Dy­nasty cos­tume TV drama The Leg­end of Zhen­huan. The three set out to look for the gar­den and fi­nally find it in the Ning­shougong (Hall of Peace­ful Longevity) Gar­den in the north­east­ern sec­tion of the Palace Mu­seum, an area closed to the pub­lic.

Juan­qinzhai (Studio of Ex­haus­tion Af­ter Dili­gent Ser­vice) in the north­ern­most part of the gar­den is the most lav­ish struc­ture within the Ning­shougong Gar­den. Qian­long built it as his res­i­dence af­ter ab­di­cat­ing.

How­ever, since Qian­long never re­ally let go of power even af­ter ab­di­ca­tion, he never ac­tu­ally lived in the gar­den but only watched plays and other forms of en­ter­tain­ment there.

The ar­chi­tec­ture shows the em­peror’s fas­ci­na­tion with the land im­me­di­ately south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, known as Jiang­nan. Bam­boo-shaped wood carv­ings and dou­ble-side em­broi­dery all demon­strate his love for Jiang­nan, which he vis­ited six times dur­ing his life­time.

Sev­eral short plays are pre­sented in Juan­qinzhai in the mid­dle of the show with Zhou play­ing Qian­long in dia­logue with him­self, show­ing his in­ner strug­gle be­tween be­ing em­peror and his pur­suit of free­dom.

At the end of the show, a cul­tural and cre­ative prod­uct de­signer cre­ates a cos­met­ics set con­sist­ing of a lip­stick, an eye­brow pen­cil and a box of pow­der dec­o­rated with im­ages of

The snow-cov­ered tur­ret of the Palace Mu­seum

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