23 October 2018
Enamel Teapot with Plum Flowers on Red Ground, Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Under the agreement, long-term loans of Chinese treasures will be possible. Photo: Palace Museum
Enamel Teapot with Plum Flowers on Red Ground, Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Under the agreement, long-term loans of Chinese treasures will be possible. Photo: Palace Museum

How HK Palace Museum will contribute to city life

At the end of June, the signing ceremony of the collaborative agreement on the Hong Kong Palace Museum (HKPM) took place.

The agreement was signed by Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, on behalf of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA), and Shan Jixiang, director of the Palace Museum in Beijing. And looking on was President Xi Jinping, along with then chief executive Leung Chun-ying and his successor Carrie Lam.

In other words, it was an important event – and this reflects the significance of the Palace Museum project and the broader West Kowloon Cultural District.

With so many other things happening during the handover’s 20th anniversary, the details of the agreement did not receive much attention. It might be worth quickly going over the basic details.

Under the agreement, the Palace Museum in Beijing will lend the Hong Kong museum items from its extensive collection of Chinese treasures. It will also take care of getting approvals from mainland authorities where necessary. The WKCDA will take responsibility for the management and curating of the HKPM – the structure will be similar to the one for M+.

The Palace Museum in Beijing already loans exhibits to Hong Kong museums. Typically, these items for temporary display stay here for three months.

Under the agreement, long-term loans of one to two years will also be possible. The plan is to have around 900 pieces or sets on display in Hong Kong at any given time, with at least 600 of them on long-term loan. The Palace Museum will also take steps to increase the number of Grade One relics available for loan to Hong Kong.

The range of historic treasures held by the Palace Museum is huge. The WKCDA is working on recruiting a team of curators for the HKPM, and these experts will work with their Beijing counterparts on deciding themes for exhibitions and selecting suitable display items.

The plan is to start construction of the HKPM next year, with completion in 2022.

People are naturally interested in the design of the museum. Rocco Design Architects presented a variety of concepts for the public to see a few months ago.

The architects are still working on the design. But their basic aim is to have a structure that is contemporary and fits today’s Hong Kong but also reflects traditional Chinese architecture. For example, the building will probably have a vertical series of atriums that may bring to mind the courtyards of the Forbidden City.

The idea of a Palace Museum for Hong Kong attracted some controversy because of the way it was announced. The plan involved mainland authorities, and much of the initial decision-making took place behind closed doors. But the project itself is very exciting, and anyone looking at it objectively should see it as a positive contribution to city life.

The agreement signed on June 29 confirms the HKPM as a major addition to West Kowloon. The district will now have not one, but two, superb world-class museums. This represents a massive upgrade in Hong Kong’s status as a center for historic and artistic exhibitions.

This will have a big impact on our attractiveness as a tourist destination and as a center for cultural activities and associated disciplines like research and education. Most of all, I think, it will boost our city as a great place for all of us to live in.

Our existing museums are popular family destinations – for good reasons. The new facilities will significantly expand our choices for leisure and learning. The two museums will complement each other superbly – with their focuses on ancient Chinese treasures and modern Chinese and Hong Kong art. And along with their park and performance venue surroundings in West Kowloon, they will form perhaps the core public and community space in the city.

Let’s hope they can finish in good time!

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Executive Council member and former legislator; Hong Kong delegate to the National People’s Congress

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