China's Forbidden City opens relic 'hospital'

A state-of-the-art conservation centre to "treat" ancient cultural relics in disrepair opened at Beijing's Palace Museum on Thursday.

The base, informally called the Relic Hospital, covers 13,000 square meters and boasts the nation's most-advanced restoration workshops, said Shan Jixiang, the museum's director.

"It is the largest cultural heritage conservation centre in China," he said.

"I hope it will become a hub for nurturing expertise, not only for China, but also worldwide."

The facility has a laser technology lab, a joint venture by China and Greece to share conservation experiences, and features a training centre for the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

This year saw the release of the highly popular Masters in the Forbidden City, a three-part documentary that followed experts at the museum.

A feature-length version was screened at cinemas this month.

The Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, was home to the royal court between 1420 and 1912.

Today, it houses more than 1.8 million sets of cultural relics.

"Traditional craftsmanship will be combined with modern methods, and the lives of cultural relics will be prolonged by the 'doctors'," Shan said, referring to experts at the new centre, who like medical doctors wear white coats.

He added that the base will eventually be opened to tourists, although no time frame has been set.