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Guest Blog – Setting the Scene: Cultural Heritage in China

On the 25th of February our small party of UK heritage professionals stepped on board a direct flight from Heathrow to Beijing. I was travelling in the delightful company of Alexandra Warr (Senior Advisor, Historic England), Debbie Dance (Director, Oxford Preservation Trust), Tony Crouch (City of Bath World Heritage Site Manager) and Humphrey Welfare (Chairman, Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site Partnership Board and Trustee of the Churches Conservation Trust). The Tour was funded by the UK Government’s Prosperity Fund and organized by the British Council.

Less than 24 hours later we were standing in the grandest of the ceremonial courtyards of the Forbidden City. Nothing – none of the books I had read or films I had seen – prepared me for this incredible experience. As anyone who has been there will know: The scale of this complex is mind-blowing. But that wasn’t all, we had the site more or less to ourselves! We had arrived just before closing time and visitors were a few courtyards ahead of us, being herded towards the exit.