Buried deep in a corner of Beijing's Forbidden City, a major restoration project is underway on a secluded compound of pavilions and buildings untouched since 1924.
They are now part of a conservation project by the Imperial Palace Museum, in collaboration with the New York-based World Monuments Fund.
The Forbidden City was designed as the private retirement retreat for the 18th Century Chinese Emperor Qianlong.
Many of the buildings' contents are untouched since the Emperor designed the secluded gardens and pavilions between 1771 and 1776.
Under Emperor Qianlong's stewardship, the design and style of Chinese furniture changed. Craftsmen carved out elaborate designs, using bamboo and gold.
The area was designed as a personal and intimate space, and a respite from the grandeur of the formal areas of the Imperial Palace.
The buildings and the gardens were designed as a scholarly and spiritual zone of contemplation, and a reflection of the Emperor's personality.
The pavilions have now been stripped to the bare earthen floor as part of the restoration.
The World Monuments Fund is funding the restoration project in partnership with the Palace Museum.
Henry Tzu NG, president of World Monuments Fund, said, "The outside of many of these buildings is traditional Chinese architecture which many people are familiar with, tiles, painted timbers and the shape of the platforms. However, what's not known by the public are the exteriors. And some of the final surviving 18th century interiors are of extraordinary quality, because they have remained relatively untouched since the time they were built over two hundred and thirty years ago."
Bringing the entire Qianlong complex back to life will take until at least 2019.
While the pavilion is being restored, artifacts from the Qianlong complex and gardens will be shipped to the United States for a series of exhibitions beginning at the Peabody Essex Museum.
It is the first time that items of this scale and importance have gone on display, highlighting the level of collaboration between the WMF and the Imperial Palace.
Each of the 90 exhibits that are being shipped to the US is of unique historical value. Museum workers examine each Buddha, jade carving and painting before packing them for the journey.
One of pieces travelling to the US is the "three friends throne", which includes jade carvings of three classic Chinese artistic images - pine, bamboo and plum trees.
Li Ji, vice-director of Palace Museum, said, "We are not trying to tell visitors of the exhibition how great and precious all these antiques are, we want to present the inner world of Emperor Qianlong, as the owner of these pavilions. We just try to present his understandings of art, furniture and gardening through this limited number of antiques. The audience can draw its own conclusions about the emperor" .
Many of the items in the darkened corners of the Qianlong complex have been well protected from the sun and environmental damage.
Bamboo carved screens and lacquer ware is still in a very good condition, and now craftsmen are painstakingly restoring each object to its former glory by hand.
The exhibit will also travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Milwaukee Art Museum.