A glitzy eatery in China's forbidden city

Thousands of visitors make their way into the Forbidden City, in Beijing on October 2, 2010.

Ancient China and fast-money China are colliding in the Forbidden City, a Ming dynasty imperial palace and one of Beijing's most touristed sites.

According to the state-run outlet China Daily, Beijing's cultural guardians are outraged that a corporation has set up a private restaurant/club in the palace complex.

According to one source, the eatery is so elite that only 500 can gain membership, which costs nearly $200,000.

The private restaurant, critics contend, is a blight on grounds that should be preserved and respected.

But this isn't the first commercial venture awkwardly plopped into the 15th century palace. 

Until 2007, visitors to the grand home of 24 different emperors could swing by the Forbidden City's Starbucks franchise. (Having stumbled across this Starbucks during a visit to China, I can confirm that its presence was quite bizarre. It was quite like finding an Au Bon Pain in the Taj Mahal.)

According to Xinhua, at least one Chinese social science professor has called for the country to "take a tougher line and penalize violators if it wants to prevent further damage to its cultural relics."