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Palace of secrets

TV crew produces intriguing documentary while uncovering stories of people who have protected the Forbidden City, Cheng Yuezhu reports.

By Cheng Yuezhu | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-01-28 07:38
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A sculpture of an animal-shaped deity on the roof ridge of the Forbidden City, also called the Palace Museum. CHINA DAILY

The Forbidden City, with a history spanning six centuries, has continuously inspired a sense of mystery and fascination both at home and abroad.

A documentary about the ancient palace, Masters in the Forbidden City (2020), reveals the ins and outs of the site in modern times.

In celebration of the 600th anniversary of the Forbidden City last year, the documentary tells the amazing stories of the ancient architecture.

In previous centuries, builders and restorers of the palaces were largely unknown. They toiled anonymously. After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, fortunately, restoration teams have had photos taken to mark their work and identities.

An old black-and-white photograph captures the first-generation restorers at the Forbidden City, in which the Palace Museum was established in 1925. These craftsmen took part in the restoration of the northwestern turret in 1956, a difficult task as the wooden structure of the building had fallen foul to rot caused by rain leakage.

The project required cooperation between researchers and craftsmen, but most of the people in the photograph are now deceased or unidentifiable.

To prepare for the 600th anniversary exhibition, Everlasting Splendor: Six Centuries at the Forbidden City, Xie Anping, a researcher at the museum and one of the curators for the exhibition, went on a journey to find the remaining, and now retired, senior preservation workers.

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