Cute Souvenirs Could Bring $146 Million to Beijing’s Palace Museum

The Palace Museum's new mascots. Via Xinhua News on Twitter

A cartoon dragon and phoenix are the new mascots of the Palace Museum, Beijing’s center for imperial art and artefacts.

The cutesy pair, dressed in Qing dynasty imperial clothing, are dubbed Zhuangzhuang and Meimei, meaning “strong” and “beautiful.” The museum is banking on the duo to bring a more folksy image to the solemn institution and encourage local residents to visit the site.

“We tried to popularize the history around the Forbidden City by way of learning the interests of the audience and creating interesting products with cultural meaning,” said Shan Jixiang, curator of the Beijing-based Palace Museum to Xinhua News, China’s state news agency.

While dragons and phoenixes are traditional symbols of auspiciousness in China, the mascots are so far receiving mixed reviews. Some Chinese Internet users think they’re a cute pair but others on Weibo are criticising the designs as “ugly.”

The Palace Museum is based inside Beijing’s Forbidden City, the home of imperial power for the Ming and Qing dynasties. This year, the museum has introduced more than 6,000 new souvenirs that can be bought at the gift shop as well as online. The most popular items are decorated earphones and costume jewellery resembling necklaces worn by the Empress Dowager. This year, an estimated RMB 900 million ($146 million) is expected to be generated by souvenir sales alone. 

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