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Palace Museum to add foreign relics hall

China's Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, is to renovate an unfinished Western-style "Hall of Water" into a hall for foreign cultural relics, according to the museum curator.

It will be the first foreign cultural relics exhibition hall in China, said Shan Jixiang, curator of the museum, at a seminar on Sunday.

Construction began on the "Hall of Water," otherwise known as Yanxi Palace, or the Hall of Prolonging Happiness, in 1909 in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The hall, known under yet another popular moniker as the "crystal palace," was built on a white marble base, with cast iron and glass walls and floors. It was intended that by its completion, water would be filled into a well surrounding the hall, so that people inside the pavilion could view swimming fish through the transparent glass.

However, construction was suspended in 1911 due to a tight budget, according to the official website of the Palace Museum. The Palace Museum built several warehouses around the hall in 1931 to store paintings and calligraphy.

"These groups of buildings combine Chinese and Western style, which are incompatible with a Chinese architectural complex," said Shan. "So we plan to make it a hall of foreign cultural relics."

Located in the heart of Beijing, the Forbidden City was home to China's emperors and was the highest center of power for about 500 years. It attracts more than 14 million visitors annually.