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Palace Museum to go 'adorkable': curator

2014-11-26 15:17 Xinhua Web Editor: Gu Liping

The Palace Museum, home of 24 ancient Chinese emperors over the course of 600 years, opened its doors to two new residents this week.

In its latest effort to attract younger crowds, the museum, less formally known as the Forbidden City, unveiled its two latest mascots - a joyful male dragon named "Zhuangzhuang" and a proud female phoenix named "Meimei".

They debuted at the 2014 Museum Products and Technology Expo held in Xiamen, southeast China Fujian Province on Sunday and have since been well-received.

"We are very delighted to see that many people find the dragon-phoenix mascots 'adorkable'," said Shan Jixiang, curator of the Beijing-based Palace Museum, using a trendy Chinese phrase to describe the mascot's dorky but adorable appearance.

"We are excited to promote our museum in the way that the general public find easier to accept."

The unveiling of the mascots are a bit step in a new effort by the old landmark to develop creative industry based around traditional culture.

The museum was built out of the Forbidden City in 1925. It was home to the country's royal families from 1420 to 1911, when the Qing Dynasty was overthrown by the revolution led by Sun Yat-Sen. It is also the largest ancient royal residence under protection in China.

By the end of August this year, the museum had unveiled 6,754 new products with modern, creative designs.

Prior to the latest effort "replicas of valuable collections and books are basically all you could find," Shan said.

Donning Qing Dynasty imperial costumes and wearing cute and fun facial expressions, the mascots quickly went viral on the Internet.

Other popular products include stereo earphones made of beads and jewels resembling the jeweled chains around the neck of the Empress Dowager Cixi and hoodies typical of the imperial family.

The 'adorkable' gadgets helped the 600-year-old Forbidden City, with a reputation of being conservative and remote, project a more friendly approachable appeal.

"We tried to popularize the history around the Forbidden City by way of learning the interests of the audience and creating interesting products with cultural meaning," said Shan.

At the expo in Xiamen, Patricia Rodewald, former director of Education at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta in the United States, applauded the efforts.

"Great collections won't have the best effect unless the stories and history behind them are told in a way visitors enjoy," Rodewald said.

Rodewald suggested her Chinese counterparts focus on visitors instead of trying to attract crowds based solely on large collections.

For its next step, the Palace Museum plans to bring two new Apps online next year, trying to give people access to the treasures of the Forbidden City on their mobile phones, according to Shan.

"We want everyone to access our digital museum," he said.

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