Palace Museum unveils calendar for 2019

Updated 2018-09-11 08:59:00

The Palace Museum is releasing a new calendar to welcome the Year of the Pig and promote its collections.

There are still a few months to go before 2019, but the Palace Museum in Beijing, also known as the Forbidden City, has already begun its campaign to welcome the Year of Pig by releasing a new calendar on Monday.

This will the 10th year in a row that the Forbidden City Publishing House, which is affiliated to the museum, has released a calendar, one of its most sought-after souvenirs.

Each page of the calendar promotes one collection from the museum, China's former imperial palace, with pictures and text.

The Palace Museum is home to 1.86 million cultural relics, and 42 percent of the country's total "registered national-level key cultural relics" are held by the institution.

"The 365 representative artifacts (in the calendar) represent each day of the year," says Chen Lihua, the editor-in-chief of the calendar. "But choosing them was not easy."

The editors had to pick the artifacts from a large inventory and hand in the pictures of 700-odd artifacts for a final round of selection.

Appearance was a key requirement and the items being chosen also had to match certain themes.

"The artifacts also needed to showcase auspicious signs," says Chen.

Each month of the calendar focuses on one type of artifact.

For example, August looks at royal boxes which were picked as "box" (he) in Chinese sounds like the word for "harmony", which is the foundation of a happy family.

The December page covers paintings of a royal banquet to indicate wishes for prosperous life.

The Palace Museum is releasing a new calendar to welcome the Year of the Pig and promote its collections.

"For many, the calendar is an introduction to the world of fine art," says Chen.

"It showcases the culture and history of China," she says. "And it also promotes the outstanding techniques and wisdom of ancient craftsmen."

The Palace Museum used released calendars in the 1930s, but this tradition was halted when war broke out in 1937.

The credit for reviving the calendar tradition goes to Zheng Xinmiao, a former director of the Palace Museum.

Speaking about how he took up the idea, he recalls a visit to a museum in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, more than 10 years ago.

"There the museum staff told me that they had copies of our calendars from the 1930s," says Zheng.

"I was surprised to learn that. And they asked whether we had copies in our collection."

Zheng then got staff to check the files and found some of the calendars. So, he decided to revive the calendar tradition in 2010 as a way to promote the museum.

The 2010's calendar followed the format of the one from 1937, but was updated to keep up with modern developments.

Since 2011, the Chinese zodiac has been used as the key theme in each year's calendar. And color printing was introduced in 2012.

As for the dates in the calendar, they are written using Chinese calligraphy taken from rubbings from stone inscriptions, according to Chen.

One benefit of producing the calendar is that it is helping the museum categorize its treasures.

The January part of 2019 calendar focuses on artifacts related to pigs.

When work began on the calendar the authorities wondered if they had enough artifacts bearing the motif as it is not as common as the dragon or tiger, common totems of power in an imperial palace.

Nevertheless, they found more than 100 artifacts.

Shan Jixiang, the director of the Palace Museum, says that about 680,000 copies of the Palace Museum Calendar 2018 were sold last year.

And more than 700,000 copies of the 2019's edition have been printed so far. Each copy sells for 76 yuan ().

Other versions of the calendar that have been released this year include an English-Chinese one and another about royal food.

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