China’s Forbidden City, one of the most important cultural heritage sites as well as the most visited museum in the country – with an average of eighty thousand daily visitors, is currently undergoing major repairs.
The Forbidden City was the political and ritual center of the People’s Republic of China for over 500 years.
These prestigeous walls have protected China’s mighty emperors for centuries, but recently showed signs of a breakdown.
Contractors began work at the site on Saturday, local reports confirm.
“People usually think the walls are much more solid than our wooden palace architecture,” said Shan Jixiang, director of the museum. “However, the result of our detailed investigation has told us they are not.”
The ongoing restoration project at the museum is expected to protect its walls from collapsing.
Experts recently completed a survey on the condition of its 3,437 meters wall which showed hidden dangers as some sections have developed holes over time. The sagging walls have also been infiltrated with grass and tree roots.
Image shows aerial view of the Forbidden City.
In the years 1420 to 1912, the Forbidden City was China’s imperial palace (from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty). It is located at the centre of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum.
The Forbidden City was constructed between 1406 to 1420, and is said to have a total of 980 buildings over 180 acres.
The well guarded palace is surrounded by a moat 3,800 metres long and 52 metres wide. Intruders were discouraged by guards in watchtowers with bow and arrows.
There are five entrances to the gate – the central one reserved for the emperor. The empress was allowed through it only once – on her wedding day.
The Palace Museum boasts of over 14.6 million annual visitors, and is now regarded as the most visited Museum in the world.
Records confirm the walls were renovated after some heavy rainstorms and earthquakes in the 17th and 18th centuries.
In 1988, a part of the north wall collapsed and was never rebuilt until 1999-2000 when the museum’s management carried out a preventive maintenance project.
However, the previous major upgrades only focused on the walls’ surface.
In 1999 and 2000, the museum undertook a preventive maintenance project, but it mainly focused on the surfaces. Shan said restorers are looking in depth this time. New, high-tech tools like ground-penetrating radar are being used.
“We want to thoroughly cure the ‘illnesses’,” Shan informed reporters, adding that “some new high-tech machines which include a ground-penetrating radar will be used.”
Zhao Peng, the museum engineer who is in-charge of its restoration project, said his team will stick to traditional Chinese construction methods, but he also acknowledged expected difficulties.
“In some cases, it would be easier to use new bricks than reusing materials in the wall to fix the problems,” he said.
“But the principle of minimum intervention in the restoration of cultural relics demands that we reuse as many original bricks as possible.
“It’s thus a challenge to devise a plan to combine and match old and new materials,” Zhao added. “Any new materials used must conform to the look of the existing brick.”