How a History Museum became a Web Red?

*Web Red direct translation of the Chinese word, 网红, which means cyber celebrities.

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The Forbidden City | The Palace Museum

The Palace Museum is housed in the Forbidden City, which housed the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China. For almost five centuries, it served as the home of the Emperor and his household, and the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government.

Built from 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 surviving buildings with 8,707 bays of rooms and covers more than 7,750,000 square feet. The palace complex exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture, and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia. The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

Today, there are over a million rare and valuable works of art in the permanent collection of the Palace Museum, including paintings, ceramics, seals, steles, sculptures, inscribed wares, bronze wares, enamel objects, etc. 

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But for the past few years, the Forbidden City as a Museum was always in trouble.

Always PACKED

Always PACKED

Not CLEAN

Not CLEAN

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The Chinese Internet users summarized the mistakes the museum has made, including exhibits that got stolen or were damaged by museum staff, typos in public document, and, most surprisingly, when a private club opened somewhere inside the palace museum, museum officials didn't know anything about it, until someone posted it on social media. 

However, everything improved because of this man.

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The new curator of the Palace Museum: Shan Jixiang (单霁翔). He visited all of the more than 9,000  rooms and houses in the Palace Museum, making him the first man  to do so in 600 years. (I know, the Forbidden City is indeed too big!) No one actually knew how many ancient cultural relics were in the museum, he gave the answer: There are 9,371 rooms in the palace and 1,807,558 artifacts.

And to enhance the security system, he customized every camera in the palace to match the architect style of the buildings. No more relics would be stolen under the new security system!

Under his management, now the Palace Museum looks like this:

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Last November, President Xi brought Trump to the Palace Museum.

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How does the Palace Museum became a Web-Red, a cyber celebrity?

Mr. Shan, the new curator, gets all the credit! In the past, visitors needed to wait more than an hour to buy the ticket to enter the palace. Since October 10 last year, all tickets are only available online and every day has visitor limitations to ensure the palace won't be too crowded. 

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Since the tickets are sold online, the Palace Museum opened their online market targeting millennials. The emperors and his concubines are no longer boring images on the history books, the creative team of the Palace Museum brought them to life.

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Also, their online merchandise shop is a big success.

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Small stationary supplies with the palace elements are the most popular ones. People claim they spent way more money on the merchandises than the entrance tickets. Sometimes for the small gifts, they want to visit the Palace Museum in person.

This week, the Palace Museum dropped another “bomb” to millions of cosmetic lovers.

The cosmetic packaging designs are all inspired by the paintings, vases exhibit in the Palace Museum.

Once the cosmetic line was available on Taobao.com, unsurprisingly, the kits sold out only in a very short amount of time. 

As a Chinese, I'm extremely proud of our history. Everything related to the Chinese history always draws my attention. To be honest, I was pretty sad when my parents brought me to Beijing to visit the Palace Museum when I was in elementary school, that trip was not pleasant at all! Everything's old and the place was packed. But to see the Ming/Qing dynasties Palace became such a vibrant place, there's no word can express how excited I am. I'm so thankful to Mr. Shan the new curator, he is obviously not that typical kind of Chinese scholar, who’s unwilling to change. Shan makes the museum interact with younger generations. Due to his passion, the museum is back to life and might become the most amazing museum in the world! 

By Cara Wang

(all photo courtesy to the Palace Museum)