• The Palace Museum has been a landmark destination for art and history enthusiasts.

The Palace Museum has been a landmark destination for art and history enthusiasts. (Photo : REUTERS)

With the success of Johanna Basford's "Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book" in China, the Palace Museum will be releasing a series of coloring books for adults this coming October.

The coloring books will depict drawings and patterns of the Forbidden City, with some dating back to the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912). The coloring books will also feature patterns on cultural relics recreated by employees of the museum.

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There are currently three books scheduled for publishing, with the books covering drawings on architecture, decorated patterns of royal garments and jewelry, as well as patterns of palace supplies, respectively. Two of the books are undergoing typesetting.

To market the series of coloring books, the staff of the museum conducted an online popularity contest.

On July 19, the museum uploaded three black and white patterns on its official Weibo account under the tag "Color the Forbidden City" and invited people to color them. In only a few days, around 200 netizens uploaded their colored works.

Nine of the uploaded entries have been selected as winners. Prizes have already been sent.

For a long time, the museum has wanted to get the public interested in color and architecture, according to Guo Ting, the social media manager of the museum.

"The Palace Museum thought about publishing colored photos of architectures in the Forbidden City as early as 2008, because they are aesthetically pleasing, but our thoughts back then were not as 'fashionable' as the coloring idea today. Since June, with the popularity of the coloring book, our team thought about trying it with patterns found in the museum," said Guo.

Coloring books are currently becoming popular in China. People have testified online that coloring books help reduce stress.

However, some have criticized the trend, saying that the books are a "lack of humanity nutrition," without enough focus on culture.

Scholar and professor at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law Qiao Xinsheng has expressed that that the coloring books are poor reading material.

"We are in an era of reading pictures, and not words, but without deep and thorough reading, the free thinking mind will be lost. This is alarming. Pictures will fill people's eyes and brains but they may flash by like slides. What will be left in our minds then?" said Qiao.

The museum has expressed how it wants to educate as much as entertain. According to the publishing company of the coloring books, experts wrote descriptions to accompany the pictures, allowing people to learn while enjoying the act of coloring.