Palace Museum uses cultural creativity to spread traditional Chinese culture

The Palace Museum in Beijing Photo:

Nowadays, the Palace Museum in Beijing is not only a place where visitors can get a glimpse of the architectural magnificence of the Forbidden City, the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties, but also a source of inspiration for designers to invent creative products infused with cultural elements.

Recently, the popularity of Forbidden City lipsticks could be seen as the latest example of the Palace Museum's success in combining traditional Chinese aesthetics with culture-oriented fashion product design.

The lipsticks, which are available in six colors, flied off the shelves days after the Palace Museum announced its launch in an article published on its official WeChat account earlier this month, with Internet users expressing excitement about the craftsmanship of the cosmetics product imbued with traditional Chinese cultural elements.

The packaging design of the lipsticks is inspired by the costumes of imperial concubines, Chinese embroideries and valuable artifacts collected by the Palace Museum. For instance, one lipstick called "Lang Yao Red", which is most popular among buyers, is inspired by an ancient ceramic bottle. The cases of the lipsticks are also printed through 3D technology to present the texture of embroidery.

The popularity of the Chinese culture-inspired lipsticks strikes a sharp contrast to a boycott of Western luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana, which infuriated Chinese consumers by releasing a commercial advertisement showing arrogance and discrimination against China's chopstick culture. Currently, many Western fashion brands doing business in China have started injecting Chinese elements into their product design to appeal to the country's young people.

With Chinese younger generation becoming more eager to incorporate traditional culture into things they use every day, the Palace Museum has followed this trend not only for earning money but also for spreading traditional Chinese culture.

In October, Shan Jixiang, curator of the Palace Museum, said that about 10,500 kinds of culturally creative products had been developed by the museum, with a new focus on "how to create new themes and improve product quality", according to the China Daily. The culture-driven merchandises range from jewelry and accessory to dress and notebook.

The Palace Museum has also tried to change the stereotyping of products it sells as "solemn" and "upscale" by merchandising a line of products that are affordable for ordinary people, especially the young.

This attempt dates back to 2014, when the Palace Museum released a set of flash animations about Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing dynasty showing an unknown humorous and cute side of the ancient ruler, who is historically considered as workaholic and ruthless. In these flash animations, which is based on an infrequent painting collected by the Palace Museum, Emperor Yongzheng does things that ordinary people do, like fanning himself and fishing in the pond. It is a first step taken by the Palace Museum to display national treasures through digitalization technology.

Last month, the Palace Museum featured in a fresh variety show, in which the two hosts and a celebrity guest explore the secrets of historical figures or collections related to the Forbidden City in each episode, with the help of clues given by the museum's curator Shan. The TV show is highly acclaimed by the audiences as it popularizes knowledge about the Forbidden City in the form of adventure-like trips, some of which are made in the regions which are not open to the public.

Moreover, the Palace Museum is connecting itself with state-of-the-art technologies, with high technologies such as artificial intelligence and cloud computing widely applied to the preservation of cultural heritages.

The museum has joined hands with China's technology giant Tencent to establish a joint innovation laboratory, which will delve into the cutting-edge digital technologies that can be used for the protection, research and display of the antiquities exhibited at the Palace Museum.

Last year, Tencent developed the Tencent Super Resolution technology, which uses visual recognition to help viewers appreciate the high-resolution images of items on display without downloading the original photos.

Thanks to these cultural innovations, the Palace Museum earned an additional revenue of 1.5 billion yuan in 2017. Shan, however, said that most of the money earned from cultural creativity will be spent on holding children-focused cultural activities, which is aimed at helping the younger generation experience the essence of Chinese culture.

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