An 1800's-era time capsule was unveiled this month at China's Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, in Beijing. The ornately decorated tin "treasure box" was found during renovations at the museum's Hall of Mental Cultivation, which was home to the last eight emperors of the Qing Dynasty from 1644 to 1911. Xu Chaoying, an expert in ancient architecture at the museum, says it was customary to hide trinket boxes under the roofs of major buildings within the Forbidden City to ward off evil spirits, fire or other disasters after construction was complete. Of this latest find, Xu says, "It was unconventional. We've never seen any other sealed treasure box in the Forbidden City, which may show its importance."
Xu says the capsule was welded shut when it was found in September which may signal royal connections, so they waited to open it this month in the museum's relics conservation center. He says the brightly painted blue dragon on the lid was amazingly well preserved and its contents revealed 24 gold coins bearing the words, "May the world be peaceful." Xu says that's the biggest haul of the 50 boxes found so far in the Forbidden City. "We usually found only four gold coins in a box. Sometimes, there's only one."
The ancestors weren't just concerned with coins, they also left five ingots of gold, copper, steel, iron and tin, samples of herbal medicines, cereal seeds, Buddhist scriptures, crystals, pearls and hopeful sentiments of good fortune. Although researchers aren't sure of the exact date of the treasure box, there was a clue reading "the sixth year of the reign of Jiaqing (1801)." Renovations will continue on the museum until 2020 when the Forbidden City celebrates its 600th birthday.