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Ken’s Diligent Service in Beijing: Day 4

Fun fact: for some inexplicable reason, people always ask me for directions. I'm not sure why they ask me, but figure it's either because I look essentially harmless, or because they think my height somehow instills in me preternatural wayfinding skills. At any rate, if you were lost in the Forbidden City, who would you ask for directions? Why, the giant pink American, of course, which is exactly what a group of befuddled Brits did this morning. And odder still, I knew the answer.

The first meeting this morning was with Mr. Wang, the director of historic architecture at the Palace museum. We ran through a whole laundry list of topics, from securing lacquer restoration experts to malfunctioning audio guides and a bit of a mildew problem in Juanqinzhai.

Chinese etiquette note: because there's no voicemail on cell phones here, it seems it's perfectly acceptable to take calls in the middle of meetings, even if you were in the midst of making some important point. Also, meetings tend to limit themselves to about an hour and a half, as everyone drinks enormous quantities of tea.

After a quick lunch, we did a walk-through of the garden as sort of a dress rehearsal for a couple of VIP tours we'll be giving on Saturday and Monday—the first to a delegation from the U.N., and the second to a potential project partner. It was my first chance to see some of the unrestored places that aren't open to the public. As I mentioned earlier, WMF's 10-year restoration plan includes 27 buildings throughout the garden, and they are amazing! And they all have great names, too—like the Building for Enjoying Lush Scenery.

Soon we were off to another meeting, this time with Mr. Duan, a deputy director of the Palace Museum. The Palace Museum's offices aren't in some fancy modern building, but rather in the parts of the Forbidden City not open to the public. Here's the court in front of Mr. Wang's office.