More safety and exhibits
Nearly nine times as large as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Palace Museum welcomes the majority of visitors to its central north-south axis and southern Outer Court, where its ceremonial palaces are concentrated.
Besides the Palace of Benevolent Peace and the Palace of Longevity and Good Health, most quarters on the western and eastern sides of the imperial site are inaccessible to visitors, though an array of halls on both sides are open to showcase a fine collection of rare and valuable works of art.
The out-of-bounds zones are either under repair or used as offices, stores or for research purposes, according to museum sources.
Shan and his team vowed to change the situation.
"The research and office facilities have occupied a good part of the walled enclosure of the Palace Museum," said Shan. "They must move out and make room to exhibit our cultural relics."
The Palace Museum now holds a total of 1.8 million artifacts, of which over 93 percent are designated as nationally protected "valuable cultural relics", Shan cited from the museum's latest audit findings.
The area within the 8-meter-tall red walls accounts for two-thirds of the entire complex of the Palace Museum. If all the research, office and service personnel as well as materials within the walls are removed as planned by 2016, authorities could install better security measures to prevent thefts and fires, the curator added.
A notorious incident last May in which a 27-year-old farmer stole art from the museum has sparked public concerns over security loopholes in the Forbidden City.
Shan, appointed curator in February, pledged to employ "the world's most advanced security equipment and technology" and improve his employees' awareness of their responsibilities.
"Safety, especially fire prevention, is always our priority," Shan stressed.
To illustrate his point, Shan picked up a cigarette butt from the ground before entering the red walls that house the Palace of Benevolent Peace, and pointed to cameras hidden under the eaves of some buildings.
The fear of fire has been a constant threat for centuries and caused people to become superstitious. For example, almost all roofs in the Forbidden City are built with yellow glazed tiles symbolizing royalty, but the library at the Pavilion of Literary Profundity (Wenyuan Ge) had dark-colored tiles. The reason was that dark colors were associated with water, symbolic of fire prevention.