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Forbidden City to finish facelift before Olympics
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A wide-ranging facelift of China's famed Forbidden City will be completed ahead of Olympics, after over five years of repairs while the palace receiving tourists, said a spokesman with the historical site.

"Repair work will end before August, when people will see an enlarged open area of the palace," said Feng Nai'en, spokesman of the Palace Museum.

A 1,000-sq meter area in the palace will be opened for tourists for the first time this year, for an exhibition of imperial horse-drawn vehicles, said Feng.

The newly opened area is outside Taihemen or Gate of Supreme Harmony, the main gate of the Outer Court in the city, as well as Wenhuadian or Hall of Literary Splendor.

"Taihedian (Hall of Supreme Harmony), which has been closed for repairs for over two years will be unveiled with refurbished color paintings ahead of the Olympics," said Feng.

Taihedian is the highest and the most striking building in the Forbidden City. It is the place where emperors received high officials and exercised their rule over the nation.

Balusters made of white marble in the palace have be consolidated, carpolite lanes paved in accordance with elaborate designs from imperial times, so that the palace can be better preserved while accomodating swarms of tourists everyday, said Feng.

He said that a permanent medical station has been set up in the palace to provide medical aid to tourists.

The spokesman did not reveal the cost of the facelift, said by culture experts to be the biggest overhaul of the Forbidden City in 100 years.

The facelift of the Forbidden City has been the focus of a government program under the name of "The Protection Layout for Beijing as a Noted Historical and Cultural City," which has made yearly plans progressing on repairs of weatherworn historical sites in the ancient city since 2003.

The Forbidden City, seated in the center of Beijing, used to cover 6.8square km, when it was an imperial residence of emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368--1911 a.d.).

With the facelift, a total of 400,000 square meters will be open for tourists this year, compared to about 300,000 square meters while the repair has been going on.

As the world's largest palace complex, the Forbidden City is China's most popular tourist destination, which receives some 1.6 million foreigners a year.

(Xinhua News Agency April 9, 2008)

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