When Prof. Wu Hung lived in the Forbidden City as a young scholar in the 1970s, he felt the constant presence of history. The palatial compound was quiet and empty after visiting hours, and Wu could contemplate its ancient art and architecture.
In the evenings, Wu often spent time in the largest open space within the palaces. Surrounded by the ancient architecture, he could see the vast sky and watch the seasons unfold.
“It was like living in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, only these palaces are even more immense and wonderful,” said Wu, a longtime University of Chicago faculty member. “Art was my next-door neighbor. The Forbidden City’s enormous art collections made me want to pursue a career in art history. I sensed a strong continuity in its art and architecture to our time.”