Forbidden City Private Club? Some Genius Actually Thought It Was A Good Idea

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I’m amused, I’m horrified, I’m confused. How many times do China’s leaders have to talk about the problem of income inequality and social stability for these rich douchebags to figure out that this kind of thing is inappropriate?

From the Global Times:

Two days after the Forbidden City management group explicitly denied transforming a palace hall into a lucrative private club, media reports have unveiled damning new evidence supporting that allegation.

Citing an unnamed source, the Beijing News reported Sunday that the Palace Museum last month had handed out registration forms for a club located in the Jianfu Palace, rebuilt with money from the Hong Kong-based China Heritage Fund in 2005.

The source told the newspaper that he had attended an opening ceremony for the club organized by the Beijing Forbidden City Cultural Development Company, a subsidiary of the Palace Museum.

The organizer told the source the palace could provide banquet and conference services to its limited membership of 500, the Beijing Times reported.

The entry fee was 1 million yuan ($153,901), China Central Television anchor Rui Chenggang reported on his microblog Saturday.

10 responses on “Forbidden City Private Club? Some Genius Actually Thought It Was A Good Idea

  1. Danny Friedmann

    Incredible. Reminds me about the Starbucks affair right in the middle of the Forbidden City. I am still amazed that that could happen. Well but then again, at least Starbucks was accessible to the masses.


  2. Spandrell

    It shows things don’t ever change. The forbidden palace was for the ruling class, they are just using it as such. Commoners should be shut up and go to Yiheyuan while its still open.

  3. perspectivehere

    Anything wrong with this?

    “Located on the National Mall within viewing distance of the U.S. Capitol, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History welcomes approximately 7 million visitors a year, making it one of the most visited museums in the world. With its unparalleled collections and monumental architecture, it is also a premiere site for after-hours special events. Corporations and organizations making an unrestricted contribution to the Museum may co-sponsor a special event in celebration of their gift at one of Washington, DCs great public buildings. Personal events such as wedding receptions, retirement parties and birthday parties are not permitted.

    The soaring four-story Rotunda provides a perfect setting for standing receptions or seated dinners. Featured is the Great African Bush Elephant, the largest display of its kind. Dramatic lighting and other special dcor elements can transform the Rotunda into a spectacular venue. The Rotunda can accommodate up to 350 guests for a seated dinner and 500 guests for a standing reception. The capacity increases to several thousand if the Rotunda is used in conjunction with nearby exhibition halls.”

    We have 14 million unemployed in the U.S. – huge gap between rich and poor, and yet the government-funded Smithsonian allows itself to be rented out by wealthy corporations for special events with a “donation” to the museum.

    In substance it is the same even if the details of payment (“private club” vs “special event”).

    By the way, I don’t see a problem with commercial use of a landmark public venue so long as the operator earns adequate revenues to cover expenses and security arrangements and even make a profit.

    1. Stan Post author

      Fair point. The devil is in the details, I suppose. I’ve been to private events at the Smithsonian, and they were at night. Maybe that matters. Also, those venues were available to the public at other times.

      So I’d question whether the “private club” is a separate venue or just private events using spaces that can be accessed by the public during normal hours. Sounded to me like the former.

    2. C. Custer

      I don’t know. I think the Smithsonian and the Forbidden City are a bit different. The Smithsonian houses lots of valuable cultural artifacts, but the Forbidden City is ITSELF a valuable cultural treasure. So, having a private VIP club in the Forbidden City is, to me, a bit like having a private VIP club inside a Smithsonian exhibit, which I don’t think they do?

      I imagine the Rotunda in question was actually designed for those VIP events, and while you might argue the Forbidden City has always been one big VIP club, I still think there’s a difference. But I don’t know that much about the events at the Smithsonian. Are people allowed to visit those areas during the day? That makes a big difference too, I think.

      1. Stan Post author

        FWIW, I went to a couple events at the Smithsonian. Same venue, same exhibits as during the day, but we had alcohol and food, and it was at night. As you might guess, the private food & drink version is much more enjoyable.

  4. perspectivehere

    Instead of private club membership fees, maybe dinners at the Jingfu Gong could be given for those who support and make substantial donations to the Chinese Communist Party.

    This would be akin to the entrenched US practice of inviting campaign donors and friends (aka cronies) to overnight stays at the White House, which first became scandalous when Republicans accused Clinton of “selling the historic Lincoln Bedroom” in 1996. After being pressured to disclose the Lincoln Bedroom guest list, it emerged that guests from 1995-1996 accounted for $5.4 million in donations to the Democratic National Committee, with the highest being investor Dirk Ziff, who gave $411,000 and movie producer Steven Spielberg, $336,000, among 24 donors who paid more than $100,000 each.

    And the visit also would include access to valuable historic objects unseen by the public:

    “Describing a Lincoln Bedroom stay, [Los Angeles attorney David] Etra said it is almost impossible to sleep. ‘It is so unbelievably exciting and unbelievable that you are staying in the White House,’ he said. ‘One hesitates to put a coffee cup down on the coffee table because there’s an original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation under glass.'”

    Seriously, when one is a steward/occupant of The People’s Property, it takes creativity, judiciousness and
    commercial sense to come up with appropriate ways to generate revenues from under-utilized assets, particularly those which are expensive to upkeep.

    In this case, instead of a “private club” concept, had they launched a general fundraising program like many US museums with ascending levels of support – from “ordinary members” which entitling annual free passes plus magazine subscription, to “privileged members” which might mean private lectures and tours, to the “lifetime president’s circle” for donors giving RMB1 million or more, and entitling such donors to use of nonpublic areas of the Jianfu Gong for private catered events….you get the idea.

    A plan like this might have raised a debate but would not be as politically unacceptable.