Three cheers for Palace Museum's latest admission policy

Wan Lixin
Beginning at 8pm on December 3, 2021, all adolescents booking through the palace's online system or its WeChat public account may book free admissions to the palace.
Wan Lixin

Upon visiting the Palace Museum website today, one is greeted with a short bulletin, which reads: Beginning at 8pm on December 3, 2021, all adolescents booking through the palace's online system or its WeChat public account may book free admissions to the palace (including the jewelry and clock galleries) on dates after December 10.

This is a significant move on the part of the museum, reputedly China's largest museum of ancient culture and art.

In embracing this initiative, the museum is living up to its status as the "first national model location for national patriotic education," and as an "advanced unit for the education of adolescents in ideological and moral inculcation."

In recent years the Palace Museum has been in the news frequently, thanks chiefly to its proactive creation of a number of "innovative cultural products."

To enumerate just a few of its latest efforts in this aspect: Since 2018 it has released a video game based on the construction of the palace, a music album themed on ancient paintings, a TV drama featuring Kuai Xiang, a talented craftsman from Suzhou during the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) believed to be a chief architect in the construction of the palace, and a project aimed at explicating the cultural and scientific value of TCM recipes prescribed at the palace.

The palace also carries on a tradition of publishing a palace calendar (dating back to 1937) featuring pictures and artifacts from the museum, giving a degree of permanence to the otherwise ephemeral items as a calendar. The 2021 edition, of which I have a copy, has an ox-related theme (to mark the year of the ox), and extends to land tilling, harvests, and agriculture in general.

But no matter how esoteric these endeavors purport to be, they are still, in the final analysis, a marketing ploy.

By comparison, this short bulletin suggests, the museum is serious about its cultural mission.

Most young students have learned about the palace from their textbooks at an early age, but this is no substitute for the in-depth engagement and impact from an actual tour.

As a matter of fact, given the myriad historical associations the museum possesses, with proper guidance, the palace could well serve as an enlarged classroom.

And such is the size of the palace that a one-day tour could only be a perfunctory tour, and thus could not do justice to this massive house of treasures.

This new policy would enable our students to visit multiple times or regularly, promising more concentrated exchanges and more meaningful engagement, systematically.

By affording us a backward glance at our not-too-distant-past, this museum can help shape and enrich impressionable minds, telling them where we have come from, instilling cultural confidence in them, and pointing to the path forward.

More significantly, the move on the part of one of the top cultural establishments in China is very likely to encourage emulation, with similar cultural establishments elsewhere quick to follow suit.

On the streets, we come across slogans about "the whole society collaborating in bringing up adolescents". That's easier said than done.

According to China's laws on the protection of adolescents, museums, galleries, and a host of other cultural and sports facilities are required to offer admission to youth at a reduced price or free of charge.

Therefore, prior to the Palace Museum's aggressive new policy, preferential pricing for adolescents did exist with some facilities, but usually in the form of reduced prices or free admission on specific days.

Of course, the influx of young people will probably pose challenges in daily operation and management. The museum's services should be made more responsive to the needs of the segment of the population in their formative years, and some management issues would be unavoidable.

All of this demonstrates the museum's sense of mission.

The aggressive, unconditional free admission policy for adolescents exemplifies the museum's solicitous care for the growth of young people, and the endeavor is at once commendable and emulable.

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