Palace Museum Missteps

Updated:2011-08-26 17:33


Palace Museum Missteps

Palace Museum Missteps

Palace Museum, the house of the nation's cultural treasures, also known as Forbidden City, is again in trouble. Less than two months after nine exhibits were stolen in May, a slew of misdoings by museum staffers on the nation's precious relics were exposed to the public and made the whole nation worried, if not shocked.

Readers who have been following the news all along may wonder, is the agency who guards and protects the gem of our culture so old and heedless that it cannot take good care of the treasures that have stood the test of time? Or, judging from their response to doubts over the handling of the relics and the planned opening of a private luxury club within the palace walls earlier, can we just raise the question - are they abusing their right to the heritage site?

Palace Museum Missteps



On May 9, several works of art on loan from a Hong Kong collector, which were valued at 10 million yuan ($1.54 million), went missing from an exhibition in the Forbidden City's historic Palace Museum. Police recovered several of the items, but not before Chinese citizens expressed shock and outrage over lax security in the Forbidden City.

Wrongly written character

On May 13, the Palace Museum honored the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Public Security with a silk banner to commend them for their work in cracking the burglary case. But instead of the Chinese character han, which means to protect, it had a homophone, which means to shake.

On May 14, the Palace Museum refused to admit the mistake; but on May 16, it apologized on its micro blog.


Exclusive Club

On May 11, presenter Rui Chenggang of China Central Television (CCTV) exposed on his micro blog that Jianfu Hall within the Forbidden City was to be turned into an exclusive club, for which 500 memberships would be sold worldwide. The Palace was dragged into the worsening scandals.


Broken plate

On July 4, the Celadon Plate with a Mouth in the Shape of Mallow Petals, a first-class Ge ware national treasure of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), broke into six pieces when a researcher made a wrong adjustment to the testing device during a pressure test.

The museum did not report or admit the incident until July 31, after it was exposed by a blogger named "Longcan". >>> 



On Aug 2, the same "Longcan" revealed that the Palace Museum had covered up four other accidents in which important artifacts had been damaged in recent years. >>>


Damaged wall panel

A report said a rosewood bird-and-flower wall panel with jade inlay work, part of the collection of the Qing court, was soaked and damaged during repair.


Hush money

A report said some employees of the museum had pocketed ticket revenues in 2009. Their actions were filmed by a witness who asked the museum for 200,000 yuan ($31,300) in hush money. The museum compromised and gave 100,000 yuan to cover up the scandal.

Ancient book

An informer, who claimed to be part of the Palace Museum staff, reported the loss of some ancient books in the museum library.



On Aug 5, another rumor said the Palace Museum had bought five rare Song Dynasty letters (pictured below) during an auction in 1997. But in 2005, the five letters showed up again on the auction market and were sold for three times the price they had fetched in 1997.  >>>

Tax evasion

A report said tickets to commercial exhibitions held outside Duanmen Gate do not contain the tax stamp, which puts the Palace Museum under suspicion of tax evasion.



Palace Museum Missteps

Palace Museum Missteps

 Palace Museum Missteps

Rui said on his posts on May 11, "I heard the Forbidden City's Jianfu Hall Garden has been transformed into a so-called high-end club for global top rich by some renowned enterprise and the Palace Museum, and 500 seats of the club membership are open for global sale. Days earlier a foreign guide also showed me that he had just arranged an exclusive palace of the Forbidden City for the family of a multi-billionaire from the United States. The loss of several exhibits isn't dreadful, while the loss of something more precious is."

"The Palace Museum needs fund and it can be raised in many ways. All Chinese across the world, rich or poor, will offer support. Foreigners who love China's places of historic and cultural interest will do the same. No need to raise money like this."

He posted another message on his micro blog three days later:

Palace Museum Missteps

"I heard the entrance fee for the Jianfu Palace club is one million yuan. It amounts to 500 million in total with 500 members, which can build another five Jianfu Palaces. The palace was restored thanks to $14 million donated by Ronnie Chan, a Hong Kong-based US property tycoon years ago. He should not have thought of such returns of gratitude from the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City belongs to every Chinese."

"Twenty days ago, the state's top-level celadon-glazed dish, a masterpiece of the Ge kiln porcelain of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), was accidentally damaged while being tested by the Palace Museum's department for antiques scientific protection.” He wrote in a blog post on July 30:

"It's another major incident after the burglary that should be reported to the Ministry of Culture. But unfortunately, until now, it has been kept strictly secret by several persons and the people with knowledge of the accident were told not to let the secret out. I'm not sure whether the museum has reported it to the Ministry of Culture, but it's still shocking that the ministry still has not revealed any information about such a major accident until now."

He posted another blog on Aug 2:

Palace Museum Missteps

"According to insiders, a few days after the accident, the museum curator even didn't know it. There are reasons - if the broken pieces are secretly glued together and put back in the place it used to be, nobody would know it. Haven't they done that for years?"

Then he revealed four accidents of relics damage in recent years, claiming that several pieces of top-level relics had been damaged or abandoned.


Palace Museum MisstepsThe Palace Museum's efforts at a cover-up before admitting that a priceless porcelain dish had been broken by accident make people believe the public would've been fooled if not for Internet users' exposure and media reports, said commentator Zhang Tianpan in Nanfang Daily.

As for the public, it was not the accident itself that cannot be forgiven but the museum's practice of trying to cover up the incident, which was lame and arrogant and irritate the public's anger, Zhang wrote. More

Located in the center of Beijing, the Palace Museum, historically and artistically one of the most comprehensive museums in China, was established on the grounds of Forbidden City, a palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties and their collection of treasures.

Built in 1406 to 1420, the Forbidden City is nearly 600 years old. As the world's largest surviving palace complex, it covers an area of about 720,000 square meters -- 961 meters by 760 meters.


Palace Museum Missteps