Lonely Planet Writer

A section of Beijing’s Forbidden City will open to the public for the first time

Travellers will be able to access a part of Beijing’s Forbidden City for the first time ever when a new visitor’s centre is complete in 2020.

Post-restoration interior at Juanqinzhai in the Qianlong Garden. Image by Si Bing, Courtesy of World Monuments Fund

The World’s Monuments Fund (WMF) has announced that a new interpretive centre at Qianlong Garden is part of a comprehensive restoration in partnership with the Palace Museum, often known as the Forbidden City. Once complete, the centre will give the public access to the site, which was designed as a private retreat by the fourth emperor of the Qing Dynasty.

Post-restoration interior at Juanqinzhai in the Qianlong Garden. Image by Si Bing, Courtesy of World Monuments Fund

The centre will be inside a restored structure in the second courtyard of the garden. There will be three distinct halls around an open pavilion, each designed to give visitors a glimpse of the past and present of the building. The Qianlong Garden was built between 1771 and 1776, with the intention of being part of the emperor’s retirement complex after his 60-year reign.

Pre-restoration view of theater in Juanqinzhai. Original image, World Monuments Fund

According to WMF, “the buildings contain decoration and furnishings from a time widely considered to be one of the boldest and most extravagant periods of interior design in China’s history. The structures possess some of the most significant, exquisitely-designed interiors to survive relatively unchanged from imperial China”. There will be an exhibition space that shows off the 18th century design and creation of garden, another will show the conservation efforts, while the main hall will be an open space with a view of the third courtyard rockeries so that visitors can look on to the garden.

As the buildings have never been opened to the public, it is considered one of the most significant sites within the Forbidden City to remain unrestored. Portions have been undergoing conservation efforts for more than a decade and the visitor’s centre is set to be finished to coincide with the 600th anniversary of the Forbidden City in 2020.