Beijing National Museum of China

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No. 16 East Changan Avenue, Beijing, China - 86-10-65116400

Beijing National Museum of China Reviews

wabat wabat
160 reviews
National Museum of China Feb 11, 2017
The massive building flanking a major part of the eastern side of Tiananmen Square is the National Museum of China – the largest museum in the world, based on an area of around 200,000 square metres.

While a museum, in fact museums, under various guises have been on this site since the early 1900s they have been dull, dour, poorly laid out and uninspiring places, big on getting the communist message and take on history across to visitors. Unsurprisingly few foreign visitors bothered to visit them.

The current incarnation, opened in March 2011, while still, some would say, portraying a rather Party orientated take on Chinese history, is, in my view, a must see while in Beijing and you need to allow about 3-4 hours for a fairly rudimentary viewing.

For the record, I made it out without becoming a card carrying Communist Party member and found no more political bias here than one does in any other national level museum - perhaps bar those I had just visited in North Korea.

I certainly could spend much longer than 3-4 hours in this museum but would split it across a number of visits to avoid being ‘museumed out’. As entry is free this is a feasible option, though you do have to brave a queue and security screening on each entry.

Unlike other ’national’ museums around the world the permanent collection of the National Museum of China is composed almost entirely of Chinese exhibits – not an Egyptian mummy or a Van Gogh in sight! This is not to say that you will not find non-Chinese content and regular temporary (visiting) exhibitions cater for this. When I was there, there was a visiting exhibition “Ten Masterpieces of French Painting” featuring work from a number of Parisian galleries. I didn’t visit it but these presented a wonderful opportunity for local people or indeed visitors who could not make it to Paris to see some quality European art. That said, the majority of the museums temporary exhibits are of Chinese content and supplement its two permanent exhibitions:

Ancient China

A massive exhibition and the backbone of the museum, across numerous galleries and covering from prehistoric times to the late Qing Dynasty (late 1800s) with a fantastic collection of wooden and stone carvings, sculptures, models, pottery, porcelain, jade, calligraphy, currency, jewelry and so much more from across the years and dynasties.

The Road of Rejuvenation

This is the ‘contentious one’ so rather than me relating my take in this general review I quote from the Museum’s website:

"The Road of Rejuvenation is one of the museum’s permanent exhibitions that reflects the Opium War of 1840 onward, the consequent downfall into an abyss of semi-imperial and semi-feudal society, the protests of people of all social strata who had suffered, and the many attempts at national rejuvenation - particularly the Communist Party of China’s fight for the liberation and independence of people of every ethnicity. The exhibition demonstrates the glorious but long course of achieving national happiness and prosperity and fully reveals how the people chose Marxism, the Communist Party of China, socialism, and the reform and opening-up policy. It attests to the Chinese priority of holding high the unswerving banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and of remaining firmly committed to the Chinese socialist road and theory.

Today, Chinese civilization already stands tall in the East. With the bright prospects of the Great Revival already before us, the dreams and pursuits of Chinese sons and daughters will surely be achieved.”

Two very different exhibitions but both fascinating and worthy whatever time you can spare to indulge.

In addition to my first two pictures, the outside of the museum as seen from Tiananmen Square and a small section of the main lobby area, I have attached pictures of three exhibits:

Picture 3 - (Mao)Moving to Fight in Shanbei, 1959 by Shi Lui. A revolutionary and historic theme in the style of traditional Chinese landscape painting.

Picture 4 - A beautiful and very unusual gold and silver inlay, cloud-patterned rhinoceros vessel (zun) - Western Han (206 BC – AD8).

Picture 5 - World famous terracotta soldiers and a horse depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China dating from 210–209 BC and from the Emperor’s Mausoleum in Xian.

Selecting three items to show you from the many thousands on display was not easy! I will, over time, prepare separate reviews on some of the museum’s content and/or link other reviews to its content. Fear not, dear reader, I will not be covering all 1 million plus items.

Photography is permitted in the permanent exhibitions and regular displays, but no flash or tripod. In temporary exhibitions the rules vary - check prior to entry.

While there is a café and a tea room they are extremely small for a museum of this size and the tea room seemed very expensive based on the menu I saw. Neither establishment had any customers on the couple of occasions I passed by. The museum's bookshops and souvenir stalls, on the other hand, are of a high quality and certainly worth a look.

Admission fee

Free to permanent and regular exhibitions (fee for some temporary exhibitions). Foreign visitors must enter by the ticket office at the West Gate and show their passport to gain entry (separate entry for Chinese citizens though everyone joins the same queue to gain initial entry to the museum grounds). Audio guides are available in a number of languages at a cost of RMB30 (2014). Luggage must be deposited at the cloakroom (cost RMB1) after security check.

Opening times

Tuesday - Sunday, 9:00 - 17:00

Closed Mondays

But do check the website for entry over holiday periods.
National Museum of China
National Museum of China - Part o…
(Mao)Moving to Fight in Shanbei
Western Han Vessel
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wabat wabat
160 reviews
A New Dawn – China sees Red Feb 11, 2017
When most people think of ancient history they think in terms of thousands of years ago. Not so in China where the National Museum of China has decreed that Ancient China ended in 1840 with the onset of the First Opium War. Thankfully, otherwise I and, I suspect, many of my readers would be deemed products of the dark ages or, at best, the middle ages, China moves directly from Ancient China to the Modern Age.

The First Opium War signaled the start of the decline of imperial and feudal China and the peoples' 109 year struggle for liberation and freedom, attained on 1 October 1949 when Mao Zedong announced the creation of the People’s Republic of China and the Central People’s Government, with himself as its head, from the balcony of Tiananmen (the gate), ironically the spot from which imperial edicts had been delivered for hundreds of years.

Whether or not Mao, in his speech of that day, proclaimed that “the Chinese people have stood up” is a matter of some debate. If he didn’t say it then he certainly said it on various other occasions. The now liberated people, under the guidance of the Chinese Communist Party, had stood up to Japanese invaders, meddling western influences and the ‘Kuomintang’, the anti-communist, capitalist ‘Chinese Nationalist Party.

The National Museum on China has on display three very important exhibits (pictures 1 -3 attached) related to that momentous day, momentous not only for China but also for the rest of the world.

Picture 1 – Renowned revolutionary artist and Party member, Dong Xiwen’s, 1953 painting – ‘The Founding Ceremony’ – which depicts, in a joyous ‘new year’ style with red carpet, lanterns and flags, Mao Zedong, watched by close Party members, announcing the creation of the People’s Republic of China four years earlier.

My mentioning of the Party faithful watching on is deliberate because in 1964 Dong Xiwen released an updated version of the picture – identical to the initial release except that now (picture 4 attached) Gao Gang was removed and the second potted pink chrysanthemum enlarged. Gao Gang, head of the State Planning Commission of China, a senior politburo position, had been purged from the party records after committing suicide in 1954 following a failed leadership challenge against Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai which, to his surprise, Mao did not support. In actual fact, over the years, three new versions of the painting were released, two to remove certain persons and, once the Cultural Revolution had ended, a final version which basically restored the original.

Also of note in my attached picture 1 is the actual microphone used by Mao Zedong during his speech.

Picture 2 – The five starred flag raised by Mao Zedong, at the press of a button, during the Proclamation of the People’s Republic of China on 1 October 1949 while 54 guns, representing the 54 ethnic groups in China, volleyed 28 times each to mark the culmination of 28 years of ‘brave struggle’ since the formation of the Communist Party of China in 1921. Three hundred thousand soldiers and civilians had assembled in Tiananmen Square to witness this momentous event which was celebrated well into the night not only here in Beijing but right across China.

Today visitors can view the flag being raised in Tiananmen Square at sunrise every day of the year.

The flag, selected from over 3000 designs, was designed by Zeng Liangsong. The red colour stands for the revolution while the gold colour of the stars signify the dawn of a new era over the land. The five stars grouped together symbolise the unity of the Chinese people under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

Picture 3 - The Seal of the Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China. This original 9 cm square seal is cut with characters in Song script reading ‘Seal of the Central People’s Government of The People’s Republic of China’ while its metal surround is engraved with the lines, ‘Seal No. 1, 1 November 1949, The Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China’.

Picture 4 – Spot the difference between this and Picture 1 – see comment above.

Picture 5 – Photograph of Mao proclaiming the foundation of the People’s Republic of China on 1 October 1949. Photo credit – Chinese Government – Hong Kong

As indicated above the painting, flag and seal can be seen in the National Museum of China. For practical details such as opening hours etc please visit my separate review on the National Museum of China.
'The Founding Ceremony'
Original 1949 Chinese Flag
First Seal of the 1949 Chinese Go…
'The Founding Ceremony' - Version…
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30 reviews
Million years of art and history under one roof Aug 05, 2011
On one of our last free days in Beijing, my mom and I decided to visit the Beijing National Museum of China. Growing up in Beijing, my mom has been there before. However, for about four years, from 2007 until December 2010, the museum was being renovated. The museum reopened in March of 2011. Since my mom hasn't been back there for years, we thought we would check out the changes.

The renovations were to expand the museum to add more state-of-the-art exhibition and expand space. The museum now covers close to 200,000 square meters, has 48 galleries, and more than 1.2 million pieces for its collections.

The day was really sunny and hot, yet there were many people in the TianAnMen area. We had just finished viewing Mao's Memorial, which we had to wait in line for hours, so we were glad when the line to the museum wasn't too long. Still, we had to wait for about half an hour before we could get in. It was free admission, and the guards at the gate were handing out tickets, I guess to limit the number of people going in at once, and to allow them to punch holes in the tickets depending on which special exhibits they viewed.

Upon entering, we saw a big stone mural in the hallway, of workers (more specifically, laborers), with the words in Chinese on a banner underneath: Celebrating the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Community Party of China. Under that was three doors, all leading to an exhibit about works of art related to Mao and other Communist leaders.

The museum was huge. It had multiple levels, each with at least three or four exhibits, categorized by time periods within Chinese history. One of the first exhibits we entered was Tang Dynasty, which contained multiple statues and sculptures of Bodhisattva's made with different materials. There were also other things from each dynasty, including weapons, and commonly used cups, bowls, and utensils. There were exhibits just by material, such as porcelain art, bronze, and jade. The museum also had several exhibits just for painting, including calligraphy and watercolors.

The museum didn't just contain exhibits from within Chinese history. One popular exhibit was called Louis Vuitton Voyages, which was only available for a short period of three months. The exhibit detailed LV's history with China for over a century. However, that was a special limited time exhibit that cost money to get in, and we weren't sure we wanted to see it, so we ultimately decided against it. Another popular one was called "Ancestors of the Incas: Ancient Peru from the 1st to 7th centuries AD". Yet another one contained Aboriginal artwork, with Australian Indigenous paintings.

We were mainly just curious about the place, and how big it is. We went to just about every exhibit, but didn't spend too much time on a lot of them. I imagine it would be more exciting to people interested in ancient Chinese art and history, or have more knowledge about it. We were definitely impressed with the fact that there's so many items in collections, for all different dynasties within Chinese history.
LV Voyage
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
wabat says:
Great review.
Posted on: Feb 11, 2017

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