Chinese museums lead trend in cultural innovation

Updated 2017-05-21 11:00:11 Xinhua

After visiting the Palace Museum in Beijing, Lei Shiyi, a college student from Chongqing Municipality, bought two bookmarks in the Forbidden City souvenir store.

"It feels like I'm taking part of the Forbidden City back to Chongqing," Lei said.

The Palace Museum's creative endeavor began in 2007 when it produced souvenirs for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Over the next 10 years, the museum has produced more than 9,600 items featuring the imperial palace and its exhibits.

Silk scarfs, for instance, in the patterns of emperors' dragon robes, while Chinese checkers sets draw inspiration from a roof decoration.

The museum boasts of over 1.86 million pieces of antiques.

"It is a museum's mission to connect cultural products with people's daily lives, and to uphold cultural values," said Shan Jixiang, director of the museum.

"In the past, souvenirs sold at the Palace Museum placed a special emphasis on history, knowledge and arts, but they lacked novelty and originality," said Shan. "They currently can not meet the demand of customers, youth in particular. We have to find a better way to show customers the Palace Museum's cultural significance."

"The museum's products are popular among tourists, which makes us proud and inspires us to develop more," said Yang Xiaobo, head of the museum's business management division.

The souvenirs are also popular overseas.

More than 200 items including notebooks with cover based on embroidery, as well as tapes featuring calligraphy and artwork, appeared at this year's Frankfurt Paperworld, a leading international stationery fair.

They became an instant hit and many international dealers asked for cooperation with the museum.

"Promoting Chinese culture worldwide is our duty," Yang said.

The National Museum of China, one of the largest museums in the world, also began a similar project in 2011.

The National Museum has come up with over 3,000 products. Its total sales of souvenirs amounted to 2.3 billion yuan (330 million U.S. dollars) by 2016.

"The National Museum aims to serve as a benchmark in commercial creativity for Chinese museums," said Jiang Mingwei, deputy manager of the museum's souvenir department.

The museum is working with Shanghai Free-Trade Zone and Alibaba to build a platform to design, produce, and sell creative souvenirs globally.

In March 2016, the State Council, China's cabinet, said China should "develop the creative cultural industry" with sensitivity, practicality, and originality.

"Chinese museums are leading a trend in cultural innovation," said Jiang.

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