China Asks: What's Eating the Forbidden City?
A sense of dignified peace is what most visitors take away from China’s 600-year-old royal palace, the Forbidden City, in the heart of Beijing.
But reputations at this stately complex of red walls and dragon-scale roofs, officially called the Palace Museum, have been tarnished in recent months by undignified and culturally painful management mistakes.
Government-appointed officials who run the museum amplified the damage by failing to respond quickly – or not at all – to public questions about stolen and broken valuables, special favors for the rich, and swarming termites.
The wave of blunders began May 8 when a lone burglar slipped past the museum’s supposedly impenetrable alarm and camera systems and snatched valuable cosmetic cases and purses on loan from the Liang Yi Collection in Hong Kong. The thief apparently scaled a 10-meter wall and escaped a security guard’s custody.
One the heels of that gaffe, rumors spread on the Internet that the museum’s newly renovated Jianfu Palace, usually closed to the public, was being used for gatherings of an exclusive club’s ultra-wealthy members.
Perhaps even more mortifying for museum managers was a July 30 microblog posting that quickly went viral with claims that a precious Song Dynasty porcelain plate had been broken during a routine procedure, and the loss had been covered up by museum officials.