Translated by Wang Wei, Zhou Fujing Edited by David Ball, Justin Davis
There are many fascinating museums in China’s capital city. They cover themes such as history, astronomy, culture, art and many other topics. Holiday periods are a great time to visit these treasures and enjoy a captivating, educational journey based on various themes. An overview of some of the most appealing museums is provided in this helpful piece.
Beijing features a variety of museums, covering more than 10 different subjects, such as history, military, astronomy, aerospace, culture and art. It has the most in China and ranks second internationally in term of quantity and categories of the museums, after only London.
The Palace Museum, the National Museum of China, the Military Museum of Chinese People’s Revolution, China Science and Technology Museum, the Capital Museum and the Beijing Museums Association established the Capital’s Museums Union in 2011. It has more than 120 members so far. It issues annual passes and maps of museums, offering convenience for visitors.
In recent years, Beijing has made efforts to launch more boutique exhibitions, carry out more cultural activities, open more museums free of charge and organise more lectures in order to benefit as many of its residents as possible with cultural development achievements.
Autumn is a great time to plan a trip to the city’s museums, especially during the Golden Week holiday. One will likely have a great time and learn more than they can imagine.
The Palace Museum
The Palace Museum is a must-visit attraction in Beijing. The magnificent architectural complex demonstrates the immensity and grandness of past dynasties; the exquisite furnishings and graceful layout of the Six Eastern Palaces, Six Western Palaces and the Inner Court exhibitions showcase the gentle atmosphere of court life.
The Eastern Chamber of the Hall of Mental Cultivation traces the vicissitudes and the internal and external troubles the Chinese nation endured about a century ago.
Puyi, the last emperor of China (reign: 1909–1912), was expelled from the Forbidden City in 1924. The Palace Museum was established in the Inner Court the next year. It was constructed on the basis of the Forbidden City, the imperial palace of the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties. It is a large, comprehensive museum that integrates the ancient architectural complex, imperial court collections, history, culture and art. The museum serves to protect and administer the architectural complex and court collections. It is an institute to collect, research and display Chinese cultural artifacts from the Ming and Qing imperial courts.
The museum has thoroughly preserved the imperial palaces and valuable collections that the Ming and Qing courts left behind such as ceramics, paintings, calligraphy, bronze works, timepieces and works of jade. The collections have been augmented by national allocations, solicitation and private donations. Some of the cultural relics from the Qing Dynasty were relocated to the National Palace Museum in Taipei in 1948 and 1949. Some treasured pieces that Puyi took out of the palace have been retrieved. After 1949, the collections were further expanded and could be divided into several categories: calligraphy and paintings, cultural relics from the court, ancient utensils, books and historical documents, totaling 1.86 million items. They cover much of the history of Chinese civilisation and nearly all categories of cultural relics.
The Palace Museum has permanent exhibition halls, such as the Treasure Hall, Clock Hall, Paintings Hall, Bronze Hall, Opera Hall and Porcelain Hall. It will also host thematic cultural relic exhibitions. One can gain a great understanding of China's outstanding achievements in arts and crafts. It is a magnificent treasure trove of Chinese art. The Palace Museum launched an online ticketing system on the 2017 National Day Holiday, which has been very convenient for tourists. People come to the Palace Museum in an endless stream to experience its colourful exhibitions and abundant and diverse collections.
National Museum of China
When one is standing in Tian'anmen Square, one will likely eventually be attracted by a grand building situated to the east. This is the National Museum of China, the museum with the largest floor area in the world.
The National Museum of China is the top museum of history and art in China. It displays China's excellent traditional culture, revolutionary culture and advanced socialist culture. This comprehensive, national museum integrates collections, exhibitions, research, archaeological exploration, public education and cultural exchanges. Fortyeight different-sized halls are distributed in an area of 65,000 square metres. It houses about 1.4 million items, showcasing the brilliant, 5,000-year-old Chinese civilisation.
The exhibits provide a thorough illumination of traditional Chinese culture. A few highlights are an exquisite, dragonshaped statue carved out of Xiuyan jade, which is nicknamed “China's first dragon”; Simuwu ding, a grand, rectangular bronze tripod from the ancient Shang Dynasty (16th century–11th century); a bronze food container with inscriptions about King Wu of Zhou being engaged in an expedition against Shang troops; humorous and vivid, singing pottery figurines from the Eastern Han Dynasty period (AD 25–220); and pottery, calligraphy, paintings, ancient documents and books from the Song (AD 960–1279) to Qing dynasties.
The museum depicts the untiring struggle of Chinese people for more than 170 years since the Opium War in the 1840s, revolutionary culture and advanced socialist culture. Chinese people experienced the Taiping Rebellion, the Yihetuan Movement, the Revolution of 1911, the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC), sparks of revolution at Jinggangshan and the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. The nation established a socialist system and has set off on a path of reform and opening up since 1978. Almost 70 years of explorations since 1949 and, more recently, the spirit of forging ahead after the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012 demonstrate the nation's spirit of ceaseless self-improvement.
The museum has abundant and splendid collections in various genres, about 6,000 of which are of great historical, scientific and artistic value.
The museum has two permanent exhibitions: Ancient China and Road to Rejuvenation. On November 29, 2012, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, and the members of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee visited the Road of Rejuvenation Exhibition to call for the grand rejuvenation of Chinese nation.
The museum, as the “cultural parlour” of China, hosts dozens of thematic exhibitions and international exchange exhibitions in about ten different categories, such as bronze works, numismatics, porcelain, stone carvings, revolutionary cultural relics, and modern works of art. These objects depict the charm of traditional Chinese culture and are an important part of the world's heritage.
The museum has walked a glorious path for about 100 years. It has accumulated profound historical and cultural resources and has become an important platform for collecting and protecting cultural relics, exhibitions, social education, scientific research and foreign exchanges. It attracts ten million tourists every year and is one of the most popular museums in the world.
The Capital Museum integrates the charm of ancient and modern structures. It can be found on Chang'an Avenue, several kilometres west of the National Museum of China.
The building itself is a piece of art. The massive roof inherits the overhanging eaves of traditional Chinese structures. Long stone walls symbolise ancient city walls. A distinctive, oval-shaped bronze statue is embedded in the outer wall. The gradient at the entrance square continues the style of ancient platform structures. The path leading to the hall is similar to those leading to the imperial court in ancient times. The antique archway inside the hall reflects the symmetrical features of Chinese buildings. The museum represents harmony
between the past and the future as well as art and nature. A large and comprehensive museum, it thoroughly showcases national characteristics and striking features of the modern era.
The museum was relocated to this site in the past and reopened on May 18, 2006, coinciding with International Museum Day. It houses about 250,000 pieces of cultural relics, most of which were unearthed in the Beijing area after 1949. They the Neolithic Age, to the Shang and Zhou (11th century–256 BC) dynasties, and up to the Ming and Qing dynasties. Some of the items are unique treasures well-known both at home and abroad. The museum was formerly located at the Confucius Temple on Guozijian Road and is a major, national, cultural relic protection unit.
The museum is in alignment with Beijing's status as an “ancient historic and cultural city,” an “international metropolis” and its orientation as “the nation's cultural centre.” It is one of the top museums at home and abroad with its grand building, abundant exhibits, advanced technology and complete functions.
The antique archway, sunken courtyard with green bamboo and flowing water create a harmonious atmosphere with cultural and natural elements.
The museum follows the principle of “putting people and cultural relics first and serving society.” The permanent Ancient Capital • History and Culture of Beijing Exhibition is the core of the museum. It focuses on Beijing's profound culture and displays the historical development of the city chronologically from a primitive residential area; to a city; the political centre of North China; the development of a united, multi-ethnic, feudal state; and finally the capital of the People's Republic of China. The exhibition depicts magnificent Beijing culture and the city's evolution towards glory.
Folk Customs in Old Beijing is another permanent exhibition. It provides a vivid close-up of customs and rituals in Beijing and covers history from the late Qing Dynasty and early Republic of China period with its “Life in Hutong (lanes and alleys)” theme. Beijing's 800 years of history as an imperial city are the backdrop to this exhibition. It is grounded in the city's hutong and siheyuan (traditional, rectangular courtyard residences), which are very characteristic of the city. Weddings, births and festivals are related through the lens of a courtyard household and are strung together via the narration of an “Old Beijinger.”
The items displayed at the permanent exhibitions are from the museum's collections and are cultural relics unearthed from the Beijing area. The permanent exhibitions also feature the latest research regarding history, cultural relics, archaeology and other relevant disciplines. The museum also houses six boutique exhibitions about ancient porcelain art, bronze artwork from the State of Yan, ancient calligraphy art, ancient painting art, ancient jade art and ancient Buddhist art. They form a distinctive display of Beijing characteristics along with the temporary exhibitions.
Beijing Museum of Natural History
The Beijing Museum of Natural History is located on the southern part of the Central Axis in Dongcheng District. It is adjacent to the Park of the Temple of Heaven. The Beijing Tianqiao Performing Arts Area lies across from it. The museum houses precious fossils, such as a Juramaia sinensis specimen, which is known as the “Jurassic mother from China”; a Anchiornis huxleyi fossil; the only Dinornis fossil preserved in China; a
skull fossil of an internationally-known, ancient Yellow River elephant; a 26-m-long Mamenchisaurus Jingyanensis fossil; and the only mummified dinosaur in China.
The museum houses a total of 270,000 fossils and other specimens. It uses the concept of evolution to explain biological diversity and its relation to the environment. It constructs a panoramic sketch of the evolution of life on earth.
People are compelled to explore the mysteries of nature. The Paleontology Hall explains the origin of life and evolution in its early period. The fossils on display remind visitors of extinct creatures. The Plants Hall covers aquatic plants to terrestrial plants. Even the blooming of a flower and the spread of a seed contain mysteries and narrate aspects of plants' evolution across billions of years. The Animal Hall decodes the mysteries the “friends of humans.” The evolution from apes to humans, which is depicted in the Human Hall, is an astonishing epic.
The first large-scale museum of natural history founded after the People's Republic of China was established, the museum has three main functions: specimen collection, academic research and popularisation of paleontology, zoology, botany and anthropology. The museum is not a dull place for science popularisation. It has hosted many interactive activities that help people explore the nature and has attracted many young fans. Events such as Animals— Friends of Mankind” and the Dinosaur Park help cultivate people's love for nature science in a joyful atmosphere. China Science and Technology Museum The China Science and Technology Museum is on Beichen East Road in Chaoyang District. It lies north of the National Stadium (“Bird's Nest”). It looks like a huge box, a magic cube or a Lu Ban Lock pieced together from several blocks. It is the only comprehensive, nationallevel science and technology museum in China. It is known as the new China Science and Technology Museum. The old one is situated on the East Third Ring Road.
The museum helps people learn while being entertained. It has many interesting and informative exhibitions that invite the participation and interaction of visitors. It encourages visitors to explore for themselves. The museum attempts to spread information and encourage scientific thinking, scientific methodology and scientific spirit. Both children and adults are the target audience. The museum also organises various science popularisation activities, training programmes and experiments to help deepen people's understanding and comprehension of science and technology and improving scientific literacy. Exploration, unlocking mysteries and discovering secrets .
The new China Science and Technology Museum opened on May 9, 2006 and has five thematic halls: Science Paradise, The Glory of China, Science & Technology and Life, Explorations and Discoveries, and Challenges and the Future. It has four special-effect theatres: the Dome Theatre, which features state of the art film projection and planetarium functions; Giant Screen Theatre; 4D Theatre; and Motion Theatre.
The museum takes concrete steps to implement “national rejuvenation through science and education” and “talent strategy” concepts. Visitors are eager to learn more about science. The museum has something for everyone, whether they are amateur enthusiasts or professionals.
National Art Museum of China
The National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) building has striking national characteristics. It is located on Wusi Street in Dongcheng District. It has a yellow glazed-tile roof and some pavilions. It became a national, cultural landmark structure after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
The NAMOC opened to the public in 1963, and its name was inscribed by Chairman Mao Zedong.
The six-storey museum has 21 halls. They exhibit works of art by renowned Chinese artists from both ancient and modern times, such as Su Shi, Tang Yin, Xu Wei, Ren Bonian, Wu Changshuo, Huang Binhong, Qi Baishi, Lin Fengmian, Liu Haisu, Pan Tianshou, Li Keran and Wu Guanzhong. It also displays works by calligraphers such as Yu Youren, Gao Ershi, Sha Menghai and Qi Gong and sculpted works by Liu Kaiqu, Zeng Zhushao, Ziao Chuanjiu, Zhang Chongren, Wang Chaowen, Liu Huanzhang, Wen Lou and Zhu Ming. Excellent works by worldrenowned foreign artists, such as Pablo Picasso, Kaethe Kollwitz and Ansel Adams, are displayed in the special exhibitions areas.
The museum houses about 110,000 works in total. The development of fine art in China is depicted chronologically. Visitors can view classic works and pioneering new art from up close.
In recent years, the NAMOC has curated and organised a series of new exhibitions to meet people's ever-increasing interests in art and for their aesthetic enjoyment. Some of these include the Chinese Spirit Exhibition Series, the Academic Invitational Series Exhibition, the Donation and Collection Exhibition Series, the International Exhibition Exchange Series and The Belt and Road Exhibition Series. About 1,000 influential exhibitions that reflect the development trend and prosperity of Chinese art and serve as a platform for artistic communication between China and the rest of the world have been hosted.
As a national-level art museum and palace for Chinese art, the NAMOC is dedicated to exhibition, collection, research,
public education, international exchange, artwork restoration and the cultural and creative industry. It is a platform for public cultural services as well.
To meet the nation's demands for culture, the new venue of the NAMOC will be built inside Olympic Park, near the National Stadium.
Today Art Museum
If you have already been impressed by the exhibits on show in the capital's national level museums and want to experience something a little different, why not visit the Today Art Museum in Beijing's Central Business District, an area which showcases the city's rapid social and economic changes.
When visiting the Today Art Museum, you cannot help but notice the row of white figures sitting on the roof of the museum which seem to be looking at something below. The statues entitled “Looking at an Exhibition” were designed by Wang Jianwei for permanent outdoor exhibition at the museum. The designer feels the meaning of drama is to be found in daily life and daily life to some extent is also a drama. According to Wang Jianwei, he wanted to use this work to conduct a deliberate conversation between “audiences” and “performers.”
The museum's entrance is also a piece of contemporary art in itself. The entrance is a steel structure in the shape of the Chinese character “之”( zhi). From a distance, visitors seem to only see a long ramp and no stairs—the way into the museum only revealing itself as they approach. This reflects the design concept of combining form and function. The zigzag-style barrierfree ramp allows visitors to observe their surroundings from more angles and begin their journey exploring the beauty of art before they have even stepped foot in the museum. In addition, this design feature also enables large exhibits to be brought in and out conveniently.
Over the years, Beijing has focused on protecting its traditional urban layout and redeveloping its old buildings. The museum is one representative of this policy. Covering an area of 1,400 square metres (sq. m) and housed in what used to be the boiler room for the Beijing Brewery, its 12-metrehigh ceilings make it an ideal venue for showcasing contemporary works of art. The building formerly housed large boilers and so its high load-bearing capacity means it can meet the requirements of showcasing large-scale contemporary exhibits. Renovating old buildings is one method to protect and develop the city whilst respecting its original characteristics. Visitors can experience avant-garde style here as renovation breathes new life into this old building, preserving the history of the city's urban development.
One striking feature of the museum is that its interior has been painted entirely white, thereby maximising the effect of the exhibits. The facilities at the museum are both flexible and convenient. Display panels can be freely combined and matched according to the exhibition type; track lighting can be adjusted depending on the exhibition layout; and non-loadbearing walls can be taken down or put up to meet the differing needs of exhibits.
The museum's high-quality services and facilities have attracted many top Chinese and international contemporary artists to hold their exhibitions—with shows of paintings, sculptures, photographs and audiovisual arts all playing a role in promoting exchanges in contemporary art between China and other countries.
The development concept behind the museum is to “understand, create and share today's art.” As China's first private non-profit museum, it has formed a comprehensive development model and can provide a variety of services and resources, including organising exhibitions, academic exchanges and artistic salons; providing art education, contemporary art appraisal, artistic information and image data services; collecting works of art; and publishing books and magazines.
This multi-faceted museum attracts a large number of art lovers every year. Visiting the Today Art Museum has become a fashionable and artistic way of life, so if you get the opportunity, why not explore the museum with friends and immerse yourself in its diverse artistic atmosphere.
When people hear the names Fangcaodi or Parkview Green, their thoughts immediately turn to ideas of beautiful scenery. Fangcaodi is located outside Chaoyangmen Gate and was an area dominated by grasslands and wheat fields during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). To its east was Dongdaqiao, a bridge which formed part of a major grain transportation route from Tongzhou to the centre of Beijing. In ancient times, grain was shipped from the south of China to Tongzhou along the Grand Canal, from where it made the journey to Beijing by passing through Chaoyangmen Gate. This strategic position brought prosperity to the areas near Chaoyangmen Gate and by the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), several military agencies had set up business in Fangcaodi.
“Jiujing huanshi tu” (“Panoramic Views of Old Beijing”) painted by Wang Daguan presents the layout and landscapes of old Beijing. The bustling scenes on either side of Dongdaqiao, including Fangcaodi, are portrayed in the beginning of the scroll painting. Time flies but Fangcaodi still maintains its vitality. Soon after the founding of the People's Republic of China, the offices of some associations in the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles were established in Fangcaodi and many well-known cultural personages
spent memorable years there. Nowadays, Fangcaodi is a vibrant centre containing office buildings, hotels and shopping malls, which lead a trend of urban development with innovative and ecofriendly technologies.
Parkview Green is a commercial complex which combines a shopping mall, office buildings, hotel and cultural and artistic resources located in Fangcaodi, an area with a strong international atmosphere and prime location in Beijing. It is no wonder that young people often gather there to enjoy fashion and art.
When talking about the artistic elements of Fangcaodi, one simply must mention the Parkview Museum. The museum advocates the concept of “People First” in combining contemporary art exhibitions, artistic research and public education. Covering an area of over 4,000 sq.m, it features two large exhibition halls for hosting a variety of exhibitions, including paintings and performance art, and a lecture hall with seating for over 100 people.
The museum organises a wide variety of activities, such as Venetian mask-making for the Venice Carnival, lessons on the evolution of costumes in Italian theatre, and wine tasting whilst enjoying works of art. Office workers who love the arts can participate in their “Night of the Museum” event, which usually runs until 9:30 p.m.
The museum attracts both adults and children with its series of fun and educational art activities and actively encourages parents to take their children to experience art. The staff not only provide young visitors with a customised art tour but also teach them the etiquette of visiting museums. In a relaxed atmosphere, parents and children can view and learn about art, enriching their aesthetic experience and enhancing their artistic creativity and imagination.
Artistic elements are in Parkview Green's DNA and can be found across the complex, making it look like an artfilled museum. The “green concept” is a highlight of Parkview Green. For example, the Parkview Museum applies cutting- edge environmentally friendly technologies to its air- conditioning and lighting systems and has become a green, sustainable venue with artistic resources. Visitors to the museum can experience the beauty of art surrounded by a unique, modern environment in a green masterpiece.
The China Millennium Monument World Art Museum
The sundial is the earliest form of timekeeping device, which indicates the time of day by the position of the shadow cast on an object exposed to the sun's rays, and as such was an important invention by human beings for timekeeping. In Beijing, there is a sundial-shaped building with a corridor and rotatable altar surface, implying the ancient Chinese concept of “heaven and earth.” As stated in the Book of Changes: “Heaven, in its motion, gives the idea of strength; The capacity and sustaining power of the earth is what is denoted by Kun. The superior man, in accordance with this, with his large virtue supports men and things.” The sundial-shaped building is the China Millennium Monument. In the centre of its main building is a large needle-shaped structure at a 45-degree angle, and in the square outside one can see the burning “Flame of China,” which was symbolically lit at the Peking Man Site in Zhoukoudian to symbolise the fact that the Chinese civilisation will never cease.
The China Millennium Monument is an elaborate combination of traditional Chinese culture and modern design. The structure
combines architectural, landscaping, sculptural and mural elements, embodying the harmonious development of man and nature, and a fusion of the scientific spirit and morality, as well as cultural exchanges between East and West.
Built to commemorate the year 2000 and as a place Beijingers could usher in the new century, the China Millennium Monument is a landmark in Beijing. The monument is a centre of Chinese and foreign cultural, artistic and technological exchanges and a national patriotic education base. Many major events, including the opening ceremony of Beijing Design Week, Mid-autumn International Poetry Meeting, Beijing International Photography Week and Spring Festival performances have been held here.
The monument's square combines cultural elements from all across the country. In order to carry forward the Olympic spirit and culture and promote national fitness activities, sub-venue activities of the Beijing Olympic City Sports Culture Festival are held here every year. Every autumn, the “Beijing Rhythm” exhibition is held in the monument showcasing the latest domestic and international art forms and cultural products, enriching Beijingers' leisure life and entertainment.
The most fascinating part of the monument is its World Art Museum— China's first museum focused on the collecting, exhibiting and researching of works of art from around the world. The museum contains artefacts and artworks from the Peterhof State Museum, British Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art amongst others, which provides Beijingers a rare opportunity to explore art from around the world. In addition, the museum also organises exhibitions showcasing traditional Chinese culture.
The museum has been focused on international art exchanges to support Beijing's development into China's cultural and international exchange centre, as evidenced by its mission to “spread world civilisation, promote cultural exchanges, popularise art education and serve the public.” Visiting the museum is the perfect opportunity to explore art from all over the world.
Guanfu Museum gets its name from an expression from Tao Te Ching, as guanfu means “to see all things return to their original state.” According to the Tao Te Ching: “The state of vacancy should be brought to the utmost degree, and that of stillness guarded with unwearying vigour. All things alike go through their processes of activity, and then we see them return to their original state. When things in the vegetable world have displayed their luxuriant growth, we see each of them return to its root. This returning to their root is what we call the state of stillness.” According to this concept, in order to understand the essence of the world, people must repeatedly observe it.
Located at Dashanzi in Chaoyang District, Guanfu Museum was founded by the well-known collector and researcher, Ma Weidu. The museum opened on January 18, 1997, and began to accept donations from the general public. As a non-profit museum, its exhibitions focus on traditional Chinese culture and encourage people to explore Chinese history.
China is the home of porcelain. Walking into the museum's Porcelain Exhibition Hall, one can see a wide variety of porcelain wares. Some are over 1,000 years old, showcasing various styles from the Tang (AD 618–907), Song (AD 960–1279), Liao (AD 907–1125), Jin (1115–1234), Yuan (1271–1368), Ming and Qing dynasties.
During the Song Dynasty, China's porcelain making industry entered into a period of unprecedented prosperity with the Ru Kiln, Jun Kiln, Ge Kiln, Guan Kiln and Ding Kiln operating in Henan Province at that time. Porcelain wares produced from these five kilns were famous for their exquisite glazes and are considered priceless relics today, whilst those produced in other kilns, such as Cizhou Kiln, were more practical and were popular with the public. The hall also displays porcelain wares produced during the Liao and Jin dynasties. They combine artistic elements of Han Chinese and nomadic tribes in the north of ancient China, featuring a simple and natural style. During the Yuan Dynasty, the production of porcelain wares reached a high level of maturity in terms of workmanship and decorative arts. Artefacts displayed in the museum include some representatives of Yuan porcelain. Moreover, various porcelain wares produced in Jingdezhen (the centre of porcelain production during the Ming Dynasty) are a real highlight in the museum. The reigns of emperors Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong (1661–1795) of the Qing Dynasty were heydays in porcelain production in ancient China, and works of this period featured delicate craftsmanship and distinctive shapes. When visiting the museum, you also have the opportunity to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of porcelain wares produced during the Qing Dynasty.
Besides porcelain items, ancient Chinese furniture is also on show at the museum. Furniture produced during the Ming Dynasty is famous for its elegant shape, rational structure, beautiful appearance and high level of practicality. These pieces of Ming furniture showcase the condensed wisdom of the ancients. During the Qing Dynasty, the Imperial Workshops gathered a variety of outstanding artisans, including carpenters from across the country. In the early-qing Dynasty, the overall economic situation was relatively prosperous, enabling Qing furniture to grow out of the traditional Ming Dynasty style and enter into a new stage. Qing furniture, with its beautiful decoration, fine workmanship and rich changes offered up a new image that was immediately popular at that time. In the Furniture Exhibition Hall, you can see furniture made from mahogany, rosewood and yellow pear, as well as appreciate a restored traditional Chinese study complete with furniture.
Traditional Chinese workmanship was famous for its ingenuity. In ancient times, the traditional handicraft industry in China was made up of a wide variety of master artisans who regarded making the most exquisite products as a great pleasure. In doing so, they not only satisfied people's material needs, but also met their spiritual demands. According to traditional Chinese culture, if one wears a round piece of jade with a piece of string tied through a hole in the middle, the jade is considered to bestow one with a certain amount of power. No matter it the object was made from gold, silver, copper or iron, after it was processed and decorated, it would add colour to people's lives.
In the Workmanship Exhibition Hall, one can see many exquisitely made artefacts, from an over 7,000-year-old red-painted wooden bowl (a representative of “Liangzhu Culture,” located around the present-day drainage basins of Qiantang River and Taihu Lake), to cloissonné enamel and gilt bronze items produced during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1736–1795) of the Qing Dynasty. The skills of ancient Chinese artisans imbibed their era with its artistic elements. The exhibits, including pieces made of cloissonné enamel, gilt bronze, metals, bronze, lacquer, jade and wood housed by the museum are representatives of traditional Chinese craftsmanship.
At the museum, there is a unique display of Chinese doors and windows. In ancient times, these architectural features were an important part of any building, combining form and function, and featuring a large range of traditional Chinese cultural elements. In the Doors and Windows Exhibition Hall, exhibits include various doors, screens, fences and other architectural components from dwellings produced during the Ming and Qing dynasties in the region along the Yangtze River and Yellow River drainage basin. They combine elaborate, gorgeous and simple characteristics and each tells its own story. Apart from these permanent exhibitions covering a large number of valuable artefacts, the museum also hosts various special exhibitions to showcase traditional Chinese culture.
Traditional culture is the “root” and the lifeblood of the Chinese people. This root is contained inside artefacts passed down over thousands of years as well as the outstanding traditional Chinese craftsmanship. As the People's Republic of China's first private museum, it has become one of Chaoyang District's first centres for promoting Chinese culture based on its rich collection of artefacts. The museum holds “Guanfu Classes,” whereby lessons are taught through the use of lively activities and focus on combining an education in traditional Chinese culture with current values to encourage children to learn about Chinese history. Parents who take their children to participate in the museum's parentchild programmes will find out just how much fun learning about cultural heritage can be. Moreover, several stray cats that have made the museum their home have become popular online celebrities, hailed as the “most cultured cats in history.” The museum advocates using representatives of traditional Chinese culture to enrich people's daily lives. After visiting its exhibitions, you can visit the museum's Guanfu Creativity gift-shop which contains products featuring Chinese cultural elements. So why not learn more about China's history and heritage
through the wide range of artefacts on display at the museum.
Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology at Peking University
The Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology at Peking University was China's first archaeological museum established in a university. The museum is located on the campus of Peking University, known as “Yanyuan” (the garden of Yan, an imperial garden during ancient times) in Haidian District, Beijing.
The museum stands in Mingheyuan (“Singing Crane Garden”), a small restored garden in the university's grounds. Mingheyuan was once an imperial garden, whose name was bestowed on it by Prince Mianyu, one of the sons of Emperor Jiaqing (reign: 1796–1820) of the Qing Dynasty. The garden was destroyed by the British and French Allied Forces during the Second Opium War in 1860, and witnessed the difficult years for intellectuals during the first half of the 20th century. A bronze bust of Arthur M. Sackler stands at the entrance to the museum.
Arthur M. Sackler (1913–1987) was an American psychiatrist, art collector and philanthropist who was particularly fond of Asian art. In 1965, he set up a foundation in his name to showcase more than 1,100 Chinese artefacts, including ritual vessels, bronze wares, porcelain wares and Buddhist statues. In 1980, he bought a Qing Dynasty emperor's chair which had been looted from the Summer Palace at auction for US$100,000 and had it sent back to China. Sackler repeatedly expressed his desire to help China preserve its rich cultural heritage by providing a modern museum and nurturing archaeologists and museologists.
China's first archaeological department opened in Peking University during the 1920s. Ma Heng (1881–1955, an expert on inscriptions on ancient bronzes and stone tablets, and former president of the Palace Museum) and Hu Shi (1891–1962, a scholar) served as director of the archaeological department, respectively. In 2000, the School of Archaeology and Museology was established in Peking University. The history of archaeological education and research in Peking University can be considered as the history of modern Chinese archaeology. In the 1980s, Arthur M. Sackler decided to establish cooperation ties with Peking University by setting up a museum. Although he died in 1987, his dream finally came true in 1993 when an archaeology and art museum was opened at Mingheyuan in Peking University with the support of the Sackler family.
The museum is a courtyard building constructed according to Ming and Qing architectural styles. Walking into this elegant, classic and simple museum, you can enjoy the wide variety of cultural relics and works of art, including stone wares, bronze wares, oracle bones, pottery, porcelains, works of calligraphy and paintings. Its 2,000-sq.m exhibition hall, is divided into several permanent exhibitions, covering the Paleolithic Period; Neolithic Period; Xia (21st century–16 century BC), Shang (16th century–1046 BC) and Zhou (1046–256 BC) dynasties; Warring States Period (475– 221 BC); Qin (221–207 BC) and Han (202 BC–AD 220) dynasties; Three Kingdoms Period (AD 220–280) and Jin (AD 266–420) Dynasty; Northern and Southern (AD 420– 589) dynasties; Sui (AD 581–618) and Tang Dynasties; and the Song, Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. One should not underestimate the museum's collection, as each artefact has a long and unique story in terms of its design, manufacture and collection. The museum's more than 13,000 items include those previously collected by Peking University and Yenching University (a Christian university that existed from 1919–1952 in Beijing), items excavated by archaeology students, donations from the general public and outside acquisitions.
When talking about the museum, it is important to mention Professor Donald Stone from Peking University's School of Foreign Languages. When he first visited, he discovered there were only a few archaeological exhibits, which made him think about donating his own collections. Since 2007, Professor Stone has given nearly 400 Western paintings to the museum.
It is said that “archaeology transmits rationality and art stimulates innovation.” The museum has promoted archaeological education, research and social services. Some exhibits are archaeological specimens used in teaching; and others are items that Peking University's Archaeology Department has obtained based on its teaching and research over the years. Together, they are considered as the results and resources of Chinese archaeological research which play a role in popularising archaeological knowledge.
Archaeology is not unfathomable, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum serves both the university and the public. With support from experts in Peking University's School of Archaeology and Museology, the museum promotes archaeological education and art projects to the public and enhances their understanding and appreciation of archaeology and the arts. The museum advocates the concept of “constantly discovering new knowledge and sharing it with the world.” Over the years, the museum has collected, preserved, showcased and researched a wide variety of artefacts. If you get the chance, you really should visit this unique museum to learn more about archaeology and art.
China Film Archive
If one wants to watch a film at a special venue in Beijing, Xiaoxitian is a good
place to do so. Xiaoxitian has become a popular way for young people who love culture and the arts to spend their leisure time. Some art lovers, especially film enthusiasts, consider Xiaoxitian a sacred land. “Xiaoxitian” refers to the China Film Archive, which is located in Xiaoxitian, on Xinjiekouwai Dajie in Xicheng District.
As the archive of the National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA), the China Film Archive in Xiaoxitian has huge resources for film screenings. The archive considers it particularly important to attract more filmgoers and provide them with a better experience. Those attracted to the archive can enjoy classic Chinese films and original foreign films, but also watch avant-garde works by young directors, which are not available in commercial cinemas.
The schedule of film screenings at Xiaoxitian Art Theater is filled with lowbudget, independent films and dubbed foreign films, which are hard to find in other places. These films attract both film buffs and researchers alike, meaning getting tickets can sometimes be a little tricky. For more than 20 years, watching independent movies has become a distinctive way of life for film lovers, with more and more joining their ranks.
Founded in 1958, the archive contains over 30,000 Chinese and foreign films from various periods in its bases in Beijing and Xi'an. As the world's largest archive of Chinese films, it became a member of the International Federation of Film Archives in 1980, and the Chinese Film Arts Research Center— a research institute for film theories— was also founded here in 1984. The archive often organises film festivals on various themes for film lovers. The archive contains copies of nearly 20,000 Chinese films (including more than 5,500 digital versions) and approximately 15,000 copies of foreign films; more than 31,900 volumes of files about films, over 14,500 picture files about films, and more than 50,000 books and periodicals on films.
The archive has committed to promoting the spread of Chinese and foreign films. Nowadays, film lovers have a new venue in Beijing: No. 2 Baiziwan Nanerlu, Chaoyang District. The China Film Archive also has a new film library there, which serves as a professional storehouse for the preservation and usage of films, and text/picture files about films. At Baiziwan Art Theatre, filmgoers can also watch a variety of different films.
The archive has always adhered to the principles of selecting “different, international and diverse” films to show at Xiaoxitian or Baiziwan so as to meet the needs of filmgoers, whilst at the same time providing a platform for the production and screening of pure art films. The archive plays a role in strengthening the creativity and marketing of domestic films and promoting international exchanges via film.
Recently, screenings of art films, classic films and children's films have become highlights of the archive's “Film Screenings to Benefit the Public” project. The archive's Art Theater has also begun cooperating with dianying.taobao.com a website run by the Alibaba Pictures Group to develop online ticketing for the screening of niche films.
Watching an art film at the China Film Archive's Xiaoxitian or Baiziwan theatres, Broadway Cinematheque MOMA, Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art or Lumiere Pavilions has become a way of life for many and a way of satisfying people's needs, using multi-cultural and innovative methods.
Museums in Beijing with their profound, mysterious, exquisite, traditional, modern, classic and unique elements play host to visitors from all around the world. No matter what kind of experience one is looking for, a choice that fits one's taste is sure to be found somewhere in Beijing.
The National Museum of China, the largest single-structure museum in the world
The Capital Museum
Dinosaur fossils at the Beijing Museum of Natural History
Children try an interactive moon exhibit at the China Science and Technology Museum.
The National Art Museum of China
Sculptures at Parkview Green
The Golden Hall at the China Millennium Monument
Antique furniture at the Guanfu Museum
Peking University’s Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology ”Looking for Zhiyuan Fleet” exhibition from 2017
The French Film Panorama event exhibited at the China Film Archive in April 2017