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Palace Museum Strives to Become Top World Museum

The 600-year-old Forbidden City is striving to become one of the world's top museums.

Duan Yong, foreign affairs director with the Palace Museum, said during the 2006 Sino-American Museum Forum that the Museum will try to join the Louvre Museum, the Metropolitan Museum, the State Hermitage Museum, and the British Museum as one of the top 5 museums in the world.

One of China's best known icons and most popular tourist attractions, the Forbidden City was listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1987.

The Forbidden City, home to 24 emperors of the country's feudal Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, became a museum in 1925.

"But most foreigners only know the name Forbidden City, instead of Palace Museum," said Li Ji, deputy curator of the museum.

"The Forbidden City is not only a monument to past glory, but also a museum to showcase Chinese art and culture," Li said.

"The Palace Museum meets the basic requirements to become one of the world's top museums," Duan said at the 2-day forum sponsored by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage of China and the New York-based Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

It houses a collection of over 1.5 million artifacts, mainly from the ancient imperial court.

"We receive 7 million to 8 million tourists every year, with one sixth of them from overseas," Duan said.

The museum now provides audio guide equipment in 11 foreign languages, and the service will be extended to cover 40 foreign languages in 2008, according to Duan.

"We are equipped with the most advanced technologies, and we have built a showroom inside the museum that meets the highest art conservation standards," Duan said.

At present, the Forbidden City is undergoing the largest scale overhaul in its history.

However, Duan admitted that the museum still lags behind the world's other top museums in terms of management and image building.

"We need modern museum management expertise and professionals in this field," Duan said.

Thanks to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, more Chinese curators will attend study programs in the United States in the next two years.

The Palace Museum has also strengthened exhibition cooperation with the other famous museums such as the Louvre and the British Museum in order to promote inter-cultural exchange and establish a better image in the world, Duan said.

In 2005 the Palace Museum hosted the "Louis XIV: the Sun King-Treasures" exhibition from the Chateau de Versailles as well as a Swedish collection of Chinese ceramics. In September this year, it opened its doors to the "Treasures from the Kremlin" exhibition.

(Xinhua News Agency October 20, 2006)

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