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Opening the Forbidden City: for Dr. Chen Shen, the opening this month of our latest blockbuster from China is the culmination of years of work.

Chen Shen


Bishop white Chair of East Asian Archaeology




Ph.D., Anthropological Archaeology university of Toronto


M.A., Archaeology university of Tulsa, Oklahoma


B.A., Archaeology Wuhan university, China

It has been an incredibly busy year for Dr. Chen Shen, senior curator and Bishop White Chair of East Asian Archaeology. As the ROM's lead curator on The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China's Emperors, presented by the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation with Manulife as lead sponsor, created in close collaboration with China's illustrious Palace Museum, he has travelled to China six times in the last 18 months alone, attended hundreds of hours of meetings selecting, negotiating, and examining the roughly 250 artifacts that make up this extraordinary show. As well, he has worked extensively in the development of the in-gallery narrative experience, prepared numerous articles for publication, and helped design a wide array of family and adult programming to be offered in parallel with The Forbidden City exhibition. "It has been an amazing year," says Chen. "There is so much that goes into an exhibition as important as this. So many people, so much effort. It is going to be spectacular and showcase China's rich history."

Chen is no stranger to exactly this kind of intense curatorial work. Since joining the ROM in 1997, he has curated numerous major exhibitions at the Museum: including, the critically acclaimed Treasures from a Lost Civilization: Ancient Chinese Art from Sichuan in 2002, and in 2010 the highly popular The Warrior Emperor and China's Terracotta Army.

This year marks Chen's 30th anniversary in the field: it was 1984 that he began his archaeological fieldwork in China. Following the completion of his Ph.D. at the University of Toronto in 1997, he joined the ROM. Today, in addition to his senior position at the ROM, Chen is a professor at U of T in both the Anthropology and the East Asian Studies departments and is an Academic Trustee member at the Archaeological Institute of America.

Since 2009, in collaboration with scientists from Beijing's Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chen's fieldwork has involved numerous major excavations, including at China's Zhoukoudian site, renowned for the discovery of the Peking Man fossils in the 1920s. His research focuses on human origins and lithic technology development, and is supported by research grants from Canada's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research in the U.S., the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the ROM Governors.

Here at the ROM, Chen is responsible for the development of the Museum's Chinese galleries, exhibitions, and collection management. He is the author of Anyang and Sanxingdui: Unveiling the Mysteries of Ancient Chinese Civilizations and is the senior editor of Current Research in Chinese Pleistocene Archaeology.

He has published many academic papers in both English and Chinese.

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Title Annotation:Insider Profile
Author:Church, Matthew
Publication:ROM Magazine
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Mar 22, 2014
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