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Imperial Telephone Bureau

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Location:West side hall of the Palace of Gathered Elegance (Chuxiu gong)

Dates: 2009-01-01 through *

In April 1910 during the Xuantong reign (1909-1911), ten switchboards were installed in the Forbidden City, the then imperial palace of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Meanwhile, a total of six telephones were installed in the Palace of Gathered Elegance (Chuxiu gong), Palace of Established Happiness (Jianfu gong), and Palace of Eternal Spring (Changchun gong). This telecommunication system constituted the only imperial exchange of China. 

    This small-scale exhibition is housed in the west side-hall of the Palace of Gathered Elegance, the very site of the installation of these six telephones in the Qing court. With selected court memorials and various displays, this unique introduction reveals the arrival of a modern telecommunication system (telegram and telephone) to the capital city Beijing and the imperial palace in the late nineteenth century and highlights the role of the innovator Sheng Xuanhui (1844-1916), who fostered the embrace of modernization.

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