Palace Museum chief named

Updated: 2012-01-12 07:51

By Cheng Yingqi (China Daily)

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Head of scandal-plagued Forbidden City scheduled to retire this year

BEIJING - China appointed a replacement for the retiring head of the Palace Museum on Tuesday, which was hit by a series of scandals last year.

Shan Jixiang, former director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, will replace Zheng Xinmiao, the current director, a museum official told China Daily on Wednesday.

Palace Museum chief named
Shan Jixiang is appointed as new head of Palace Museum.

The appointment was announced by the Minister of Culture Cai Wu during a meeting at the Palace Museum on Tuesday, Chang Lingxing, a spokesperson for the museum, said.

But Chang added there has been no mention of any plans to replace or reorganize the museum's six vice-directors.

Zheng, the former director of the museum, was born in 1947, and will hit the official retirement age of 65 in October.

The reputation of the museum, also known as the Forbidden City, was tarnished by a slew of scandals last year.

A thief broke into the museum and stole nine rare items in May. In July, a museum worker damaged a rare antique porcelain dish, and the museum was reportedly trying to cover up the accident.

Zheng has served as director of the Palace Museum since September 2002.

Pan Shouyong, a professor of museum studies at Minzu University of China, said Zheng's retirement was not a surprise, because he will soon turn 65.

"Usually, the service term of a museum director is five years, but there is no limit on reappointment, so most directors hold the office until they reach the compulsory retirement age."

Pan also said Zheng helped improve the transparency of the museum during his term.

During Zheng's time in office, the museum's collection was thoroughly catalogued and found to contain a total of 1,807,558 million relics, Pan said.

That was an improvement from what was earlier stated: "an ambiguous estimate" of 1.5 million.

Shan, the incoming director, has rich experience and expertise in protecting relics, Pan said, adding that his background will help with the ongoing renovation of the museum, which will be completed in 2020.

According to earlier reports, the project, which covers the Forbidden City and nearby buildings, was launched in 2002.

The first phase included the central axis that runs north to south through the heart of Beijing, linking a number of historical sites, including the Palace Museum, Tian'anmen Square and the Temple of Heaven.

Beijing has applied for the area to be listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.