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Yu Zhuoyun's Centennial Exhibition: Stories in 60 Years

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Location:Tower Gallery, East Prosperity Gate (Donghua men) and Southeast Corner Tower

Dates: 2018-12-15 through *

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The Palace Museum presents “Yu Zhuoyun's Centennial Exhibition” at the Tower Gallery atop the East Prosperity Gate (Donghua men) and the Southeast Corner Tower on the Forbidden City’s perimeter wall. The second in the Museum’s “Heritage Architecture Guardians” series, the exhibition opened 14 December 2018.

The theme of the exhibition is “Yu Zhuoyun’s Journey as a Practitioner of of Heritage Architecture Preservation,” which begins in the Republican Period and summarizes his major contributions as a guardian of the Palace Museum through the end of the last century. Spanning more than sixty years of political and economic changes, Yu Zhuoyun’s (1918–2004) career began with a probational position as an associate of the Commission for the Preservation of Cultural Relics (Wenwu zhengli weiyuan hui) and culminated in his oversight and leadership in technical aspects of architectural preservation at the Palace Museum. Organized into two main sections, the exhibition features his primary contributions in the context of historical events. The first part showcases Yu’s professional methodology through various archives, photographs, and other materials arranged chronologically while the second part presents several research themes through his publications.

Republican Period

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Group Shot: Public Works Section, Commission for the Preservation of Cultural Relics

The exhibition opens in Yu Zhuoyun’s formative years with a backdrop of political turmoil as he began his education at Peking University in the Department of Architecture in the School of Engineering. He was later assigned to the North China Rehabilitation Bureau (Huabei jianshe zongshu), and, after the war, began working as an associate of the Commission for the Preservation of Cultural Relics.

Early Economic Restoration Period

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The Forbidden City in the 1950s

As the newly established People’s Republic of China restored economic development after the war, Yu worked for the Commission on projects such as surveying temples throughout Beijing and restoring the ancient Nongan Pagoda in Changchun, Jilin Province. During this period, he would later join the engineering team at the Palace Museum; there, he contributed to the five-year political plan and strategies for emergency restoration of endangered architecture. In these and other ways, he was instrumental in the development of the Museum’s architectural preservation.

Large Scale Economic Development Period

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Group Shot: Participants of the Restoration of the Northwest Corner Tower

In 1954, Yu officially began working at the Palace Museum. During this time, the Museum’s architectural preservation developed at a rapid pace. Through the efforts of individuals such as Yu and Shan Shiyuan (1907–1998), the Museum pioneered the use of lightning-protection technology, restored the northwest Corner Tower, undertook a major restoration project in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the nation’s founding, and conducted emergency restorations and reinforcement on the Meridian Gate (Wu men).

Late Cultural Revolution Period

In 1973, Yu directed the compilation of The Palace Museum Five-to-Seven-Year Plan, which was approved the following year. During this period, he contributed to the Museum’s infrastructural development and the restoration of heritage architecture.

Reform and Opening Period

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Group Shot in Front of the Office upon the Completion of the Five Year Plan

After the successful completion of the five-to-seven-year plan, Yu directed another five-year plan for 1982–1987, which further emphasized the protection of the Museum’s architecture. Meanwhile, he wrote the first systematic introduction to the architecture in Palaces of the Forbidden City (Zijin cheng gongdian). He wrote many other important works and established standards for the field.

Late Twentieth Century

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The Forbidden City in the 1980s

In the 1980s the Palace Museum’s Department of Historic Architecture Preservation brought in new personnel. In 1989, Yu retired from the Museum and began serving as an engineering consultant for projects in the Forbidden City and beyond. With more time placed on his research interests, he published many works, including A Collection of Essays on Chinese Palace Architecture (Zhongguo gongdian jianzhu lunwen ji).

 

Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

 

Temporary Closure

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