Palace Museum puts selection of treasures online

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2001, 12:00am

Beijing's Palace Museum has brought 5,000 years of Chinese culture into the IT age by putting part of its huge collection online.

In a project that took three years and 20 million yuan (HK$18.9 million) to complete, the museum in the Forbidden City has made information and images from its databases electronically available to the public. Minister of Information Industry Wu Jichuan yesterday launched the Web site at a brief ceremony in the Forbidden City.

'This gives the world and those who want to understand China a modern tool,' he told guests from the Ministry of Culture, museums and the information technology industry.

The Web site, which was set up with the help of the ministry and Sinosoft, a computer software group under the Academy of Sciences, offers information on some 4,000 items - a tiny fraction of the museum's collection of nearly one million art treasures.

'There are graphics and background information and specialised research reports,' Tan Bin, party chief and deputy director of the museum, said.

'We wanted to make this information available to the Web community, people who are interested in cultural artefacts in general and to scholars.'

The Web site will add data on other items in the museum's collection - many kept in storage. Initially, the bulk of the information will be in Chinese, though a limited amount is in English.

'We have some 10,000 items that are considered to be first-grade national treasures,' a museum official said. 'We hope to get to the point where all of those are included on the Web site but this will depend on the funds we have available.'

Museum officials said the project would be purely a public service and no revenue would come from it.

'In order to be a world-class museum we have to take this route,' said Mr Tan.

The Forbidden City was built by Emperor Yongle of the Ming dynasty and finished in 1420. It remained the imperial centre of power until the Qing dynasty was overthrown in 1911.

Its collection includes bronzes, pottery, gold, ornaments, calligraphy, paintings and more recent items such as clocks and furniture.

Museum officials said the oldest piece was a 5,000-year-old jade dragon.