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Past set to come back to life in full royal glory

Local | Bernard Charnwut Chan Feb 13, 2019
The Hall of Rectitude and the Garden of the Palace of Established Happiness are in the northwest part of the Forbidden City - now the Palace Museum - in Beijing. The hall dates from around the 1690s, the time of Emperor Kangxi, and hosted Buddhist rituals and housed a large collection of Tibetan religious treasures. The latter was built some 50 years later by Emperor Qianlong as a personal, luxurious retreat of galleries and courtyards. In June 1923 - when deposed emperor Puyi was still resident in the city - a fire largely destroyed these compounds. For decades, they were left abandoned. In 2000 and 2006, the Hong Kong-based China Heritage Fund offered to support their reconstruction. The plan was use old paintings and records to recreate the structures and features of the prayer halls, pleasure gardens and pavilions as they would have been at the height of Qianlong's reign in the mid-18th century. The project emphasized use of authentic materials and construction and decoration methods, from roof tiles to the paintwork on wooden pillars. The whole process involved recreating and preserving not just built heritage, but traditional tools and crafts. Like much of the Forbidden City, these two sites have not been open to the public. But the Palace Museum is undergoing major upgrades to visitor access and facilities ahead of its centennial in 2025, and authorities have just announced that the Qianlong garden will open in 2020. Bernard Charnwut Chan is chairman of The Jockey Club CPS Advisory Committee

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April 2019