After the Fire: Two Restorations in the Forbidden City
Evening presentation by Ronnie C. Chan, Chairman and Happy Harun, Project Director, China Heritage Fund
Drinks reception at 6:30 pm; presentation at 7:00 pm; close at 8:00 pm.
Emperor Qianlong considered gardens essential to a ruler’s mental and emotional well-being. He built his first private garden in 1742 at the Palace of Established Happiness (Jianfu Gong 建福宮), located in the northwest quarter of the Forbidden City. Filled with exquisite pavilions, weathered rocks, sunken courtyards and winding galleries, this Garden became Qianlong’s favorite retreat, where he kept his most precious art collection.
In 1923, when the deposed emperor Puyi still lived in the Forbidden City, the Garden burnt down. For three-quarters of a century, the devastated Garden laid unattended beneath a pile of rubble. In 1998, the Hong Kong-based China Heritage Fund (CHF) offered to support a complete restoration. This first-ever large-scale reconstruction project inside the Forbidden City since the early 20th century was completed in 2005. CHF’s second collaboration with the Palace Museum is the current reconstruction of the Hall of Rectitude complex (Zhongzhen Dian 中正殿), which was destroyed by the same 1923 fire. The "Hall of Rectitude Prayer Compound" was initiated in 1697 by Emperor Kangxi (Qianlong's grandfather) to take charge of all court rituals of Tibetan Buddhist worship. Elaborate redesign and reconstruction by the very devoted Qianlong eventually turned the site into the Tibetan Buddhist center for the Qing courts. The 14 structures in the complex also became imperial production centers and repositories of a large collection of Tibetan Buddhist sutras, sculptures, stupas, thangkas and instruments.
Upon completion in October 2012, the Hall of Rectitude complex will house the Palace Museum’s "Research Center for Tibetan Buddhist Heritage," and state-of-the-art exhibition space to showcase the Chinese emperors’ private collection of Tibetan Buddhist art objects, many of which have never been publicly displayed. Ronnie C. Chan and Happy Harun will discuss CHF’s efforts at the Forbidden City, and reveal some of Zhongzhen Dian’s inauguration festivities.
Ronnie C. Chan is the Founding Chairman of China Heritage Fund. He is also the Chairman of Hang Lung Properties, Co-Chair of Asia Society globally, and Chairman of Asia Society Hong Kong Center.
Happy Harun is a graduate of Stanford University, as China Heritage Fund’s Project Director in Beijing, she has been involved with CHF's restoration projects from the outset.