Blog Post

Ken’s Diligent Service in Beijing: Day 3

So cool—spent the entire day in the Forbidden City. Started out by meeting the guys (and gal) working in the restoration studios. They're internationally recognized craftsmen using traditional skills to restore the incredible interiors and furniture of the Qianlong Gardens.

Bamboo marquetry, inlaid gemwork, and delicate black-and-gold lacquerware are their specialties. And much of this intricacy is on enormous furniture pieces hand-carved of agarwood, one of the world's densest and most valuable woodworking materials. By the time they're done, nearly 100 pieces will have been restored, to be crated up and shipped to the States for the touring exhibition mentioned in my second report.

While we were there, a group of very important-looking Palace Museum officials showed up at the workshop. Turns out they were giving a behind-the-scenes tour to China's foremost architecture historian, a wonderfully spry 86-year-old gentleman who's quite the celeb in Chinese restoration circles. Who knew such circles even existed? We all hit it off, and his entourage ended up inviting us to a lavish banquet lunch, which involved several unidentifiable but tasty dishes and toasting with what appeared to be the Chinese equivalent of Jägermeister.

Before another meeting in the afternoon, Henry gave me a quick behind-the-scenes tour of the rest of the Forbidden City. It was a bit of a sprint-through, so I'll have to get back later to take all of the required tourist photos.

We finished off the day with a reception for The Prince's (as in Prince Charles ) Charities Foundation, who were celebrating the opening of their Beijing office. WMF has been working with the foundation to produce a documentary about the restoration at JQZ. The prince himself was only there via pre-recorded video, but we met a lot of other folks working in preservation here in China.