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The Forbidden City at 600: Women in the Imperial Palace

March 17, 2021 @ 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Much is known about the lives of the emperors who lived behind the vermilion walls of the Forbidden City. But what of the women? In the third program of a series commemorating the 600th anniversary of the Forbidden City, Jan Stuart, top China curator at the Smithsonian, and Di Yajing, architecture expert from the Palace Museum, will share objects and spaces used by the women of the imperial court. Following that, Jay Xu, director of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, will join them in a wide-ranging conversation about life within the walls of the Forbidden City. Wang Xudong, director of the Palace Museum, will open the program with thoughts on conservation of the Forbidden City for the next 600 years.

Speakers’ bios

Jan Stuart has been the Melvin R. Seiden Curator of Chinese Art at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Asia Art, since November 2014. Prior, she was Keeper of Asia (Head of Department) at the British Museum from 2006 to 2014, and a curator at the Freer and Sackler from 1988 to 2006.  Current curatorial focus emphasizes art from the Song dynasty forward with focus on ceramics, lacquer, cloisonne and textiles, as well portraiture and court paintings. She received the Secretary of the Smithsonian’s Research Award for her international exhibition and book with collaborator Daisy Yiyou Wang, Empresses of China’s Forbidden City, 1644-1912,  co-organized with the Freer and Sackler, Peabody Essex Museum and the Palace Museum. She holds degrees from Yale and Princeton Universities.

Jay Xu is the Director & CEO, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, where he has served since 2008 as the first Chinese American director at a major American art museum.  Xu earned his MA and PhD in early Chinese art and archaeology at Princeton University, and has had nearly forty years of international museum experience as a research scholar, curator, and museum director. He previously served as assistant to the museum director at the Shanghai Museum; research fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; curator of Chinese art at the Seattle Art Museum. He also served as head of the Asian art department and chairman of the department of Asian and Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. An award-winning scholar of Chinese art, Xu focuses his academic research particularly on ancient Chinese bronzes and archaeology, and has also worked on topics in Chinese painting and calligraphy, Chinese ceramics, history of Chinese art collecting and museum development, and contemporary Chinese art.

Di Yajing is a deputy research fellow and Deputy Director of the Palace Museum’s Architectural Heritage Department. Her research focuses on cultural heritage conservation, and she is chiefly engaged in surveying, recording, monitoring and researching world cultural heritage. She has been in charge of more than 40 World Cultural Heritage surveying and monitoring projects at the Palace Museum and has published more than 20 academic papers. Dr. Di is the main contributor to the Report on World Cultural Heritage Monitoring of the Palace Museum publication series and has presided over recording work for the Research and Conservation Project of the Hall of Mental Cultivation. She has also participated in the “Development of Technology and Equipment for Monitoring and Analyzing the Deterioration Risks of Immovable Cultural Heritage” project, one of China’s Key National Research and Development Programs.

Wang Xudong is the Director of the Palace Musuem in Beijing, which he has led since joining the museum in 2019.  He is now a member of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s CPC Leadership Team, and Director of the Palace Museum (at vice-ministerial level).  Dr. Wang’s work has focused primarily on the conservation of caves, ancient mural paintings and earthen sites, as well as research into monitoring and early warning systems and the preventive conservation of cultural heritage. Since 1991, he has presided over sixty conservation projects at nationally protected key cultural heritage sites, undertaken nearly twenty national, provincial or ministerial-level projects, and presided over or participated in more than ten international cooperation projects with cultural heritage protection and management institutions in other countries such as the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom and Australia. He has published over 170 academic papers and six monographs as primary author, including Key Earthen Site Conservation Technology Research and Normative Research on Ancient Mural Paintings.



This program is supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.


March 17, 2021
7:30 pm - 8:30 pm
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