China / Society

Taoist complex to get major renovation

By Wang Kaihao (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-03 07:32

Taoist complex to get major renovation

Workers gets busy on the Dagao Xuandian construction complex in Beijing on Thursday. Jiang Dong / China Daily

A major renovation project on a key Taoist historical relic in the center of Beijing was launched on Thursday by the Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City.

The project is on the Dagao Xuandian construction complex, covering 13,000 square meters beside the northern gate of the museum. Renovation on the main buildings is planned to be completed in 2016. Installment of auxiliary facilities will be finished in 2017, and it will open to the public after that.

Built in 1542, Dagao Xuandian served as the highest-level royal Taoist temple in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

"Though not well-known by the public, it is one of the most important Taoist temples in China, and you can never find another perfect example to study royal Taoist rituals," said Shan Jixiang, director of the Palace Museum.

During the invasion of the Eight-Nation Alliance in 1900, Dagao Xuandian was partially damaged by the French occupation force, and many Taoist cultural relics were plundered. It was taken to the Palace Museum in 1925. However, a PLA unit borrowed it for a temporary exhibition hall in 1950 without signing formal contracts, and did not return it to the museum until 2010.

"At first, buildings constructed after the 1950s will be demolished due to fire safety concerns," Shan explained. "The best way to protect these ancient constructions is to use them rationally."

Nevertheless, the palaces look to have been abandoned for a long time: Some roofs in the area are full of weeds, and even tree branches.

"We want to keep the vestiges left by the previous renovation in ancient times as much as possible rather than make it look new," added the director, who is also an ancient construction expert.

"We are still discussing whether to keep the slogans written during the 'cultural revolution' (1966-76) left on the walls because they also reflect a period of history of Dagao Xuandian.

"We tend to remove them, though. As a former royal religious site, it's better to restore its original facade."

According to the museum's plan, part of the Dagao Xuandian area will be open as a park to the public in the future, and some palaces will be used as exhibition halls, including a virtual exhibition hall displaying digital versions of cultural relics stored in the Palace Museum. The new tourist site will open at night, but it has not been decided whether entry fees will be charged.

"Because the Forbidden City has to close its doors at night and does not receive visitors like other major museums in the country, it will be an important complement when Dagao Xuandian opens."

The Palace Museum houses about 42,000 religious cultural relics, and 15 percent of them are about Taoism.

Shan said current exhibition space is not enough to present many highlights to visitors, and Dagao Xuandian will be an ideal place to display them.


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