Overseas visitors will be able to better appreciate the grandeur of the Palace Museum, or the Forbidden City, next year when foreign guides speak to them in their own tongue.
The museum announced yesterday that it is seeking 20 expatriates to volunteer as guides before, during and after the Beijing Olympic Games.
"We are the first public museum in China to try to recruit foreign volunteers," Duan Yong, director of the museum's foreign affairs office, told China Daily.
The museum, which was the royal palace during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, drew 8.77 million visitors last year, including 1.5 million foreigners.
The expatriate volunteers it is seeking are those whose native languages are English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish or Arabic; and they should have basic Chinese language skills.
Candidates have to be interested in Chinese culture and be able to volunteer for at least two hours per week; but it is not necessary that they know much about the Forbidden City, said Duan.
After being recruited, volunteers will have part-time training courses at the Forbidden City for about three months, and start working in May 2008.
The museum, which started recruiting volunteers in 2004, has 185 Chinese on its roster, including about 20 who can speak English.
But with the number of foreign visitors to the museum rising year by year, there is a growing demand for guides who can speak foreign languages.
Asked why it has to be foreigners, Duan explained: "We think that native speakers can explain things more accurately, and make foreign visitors feel at home."
Those who are interested can email their passport details and resumes to email@example.com, and get more information about voluntary work at the museum's website www.dpm.org.cn/english.