Restoration of Jianfu Palace Garden for Garland Magazine
The Jianfu Palace Garden (or the Garden of the Palace of Established Happiness) is located within the Forbidden City, former imperial palace complex that now houses the Palace Museum, in Beijing, China. It was the first garden commissioned by the Qianlong emperor (r.1736-95) and housed his art and antiquities collection. It was destroyed entirely by a mysterious fire in 1923.
In the 1990s, China Heritage Fund initiated and fully funded a massive reconstruction effort of the Garden in partnership with the Palace Museum - the first construction in the museum since the imperial period. The Garden was restored to its former glory in 2005. Since handover to the museum’s management, it has been used predominantly for diplomatic receptions. Although officially part of the World Heritage Site (Forbidden City), access to the Garden is by invitation only and has limited exposure on media and to the public.
Considering the Garden’s theatrical past and the relatively new concept of state-owned museums in the 20th Century China, this article contributes to Garland’s ‘Ancient Now’ China issue and traces out how the restoration of Jianfu Palace Garden was 1) motivated by reconnecting to a national identity through building onto a continuous history, 2) an act of negotiating a process of authenticity, and 3) an outcome of collaborative efforts discovering old and navigating new social fabrics of craft communities. It argues that heritage conservation is the construction of both the interpreted past and the present, generating products of particular cultural contexts at the time. In this case, it also revealed that the preservation of intangible heritage craft is closely connected to the feasibly of an authentic process in monument conversations.
The article is due to be published in June 2019.