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China: Around The Nation

‘Bureaucracy hindering efforts to maintain Forbidden City’

Palace Museum in Beijing says residency requirements should be eased to make it easier to retain and recruit specialised craftsmen who care for former imperial palace

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 February, 2017, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 February, 2017, 4:00pm

The head of China’s famed Palace Museum has suggested granting Beijing household registration to skilled craftsmen who undertake the monumental task of renovating the historic complex.

The director of the Palace Museum, Shan Jixiang, said in an interview it was a challenge to retain skilled craftsmen, the news website Thepaper.cn reported.

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Many of the elderly craftsmen are nearing retirement age, Shan said, and they are ineligible to stay on because they lack a Beijing household registration, known as a hukou.

As many as seven craftsmen specialising in refurbishing old architecture were slated to retire last year alone, the report said. Only after jumping through bureaucratic hoops was Shan able to keep them on.

Most craftsmen at the former imperial palace, also known as the Forbidden City, have at least 30 years’ experience under their belt.

A crop of 15 apprentices have been hired in recent years to learn at the feet of master craftsmen to ensure a smoother succession.

After nearly four years of practice under close supervision, the apprentices have acquired the basic know-how to qualify for staff jobs.

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However, joining the staff requires a Beijing hukou, which many of the apprentices lack.

“Once they’ve passed the examination to qualify for a job at the Palace Museum, we’ll try to get them the hukou,” Shan was quoted as saying.

The Forbidden City was home to China’s emperors from the 15 century to the beginning of the 20th century.