MUSEUMS IN BEIJING
According to Chinese government sources Beijing has 170 museums, second only to London.
Natural History Museum (near the west gate of the Temple of Heaven Park, Subway Line 5, Tiantan Dongmen Station) has a morbid collection of preserved dead bodes and pickled body parts, including a penis and a vagina and man with all his skin removed as well the kinds of things you would expect to see in a natural history museum: dinosaur bones, stuffed birds, a mineral collection. Website: bmnh.org
Museum of Ancient Architecture (near the Natural History Museum) is housed in the former Xiannong Temple. The Hall of Worship contains an interesting collection of objects, including a golden plough used by the Emperor. The Hall of Jupiter features a wonderfully ornate ceiling and wooden models of famous buildings in China, puzzle boxes and a model of what Beijing looked before the Communist took over in 1949. Getting There: This museum is a little out of the way and hard to get to by subway. Check Travel China Guide travelchinaguide.com
Chinese People’s Anti-Japanese Museum (west-southwest of Beijing, Subway Line 14, Dawayao Station) is located near the Marco Polo Bridge where a 1937 incident triggered a full-scale war between Japan and China. Opened in 2005, it contains displays picture of World War II Japanese Class-A war criminal next to a picture of the Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi and Chinese President Hu shaking hands. Dioramas of human experiments performed Japan’s infamous Unit 731 were removed.
Underground City (in the Qianmen District, west of the New World Department Store, Line 2, Qiamen Station) was originally built as an air-raid shelter in the 1960s and 70s. Divided into three sections for defensive purposes, it could hold all the people in its district and contained tunnel that led to other parts of the city, forming an underground network. The underground tunnels were part of a effort to protect the people of Beijing in the event of a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. Most of the other tunnels collapsed or had their entrances sealed. The Underground City is run by the PLA. Soldiers give guided visitors through the tunnels to an underground kitchen, an underground cinema and other rooms, depositing them at the end of the tour in a gift store filled with silk items, pressuring visitors to buy something.
China National Film Museum (outside Fifth Ring Road) bills itself as “the largest and most advanced film museum” in the world. Located in a massive glass and steel structure designed by the American architectural firm RTKL and plucked own in a farming area, it features a permanent exhibit on the history of Chinese film, animation, children’s movies, “dubbed” movies, news reels and documentaries. There are also 10 galleries that demonstrate the technology of the film making process; an IMAX theater, a digital cinema and three regular cinemas. The museum is funded by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. Getting There: This museum is a little out of the way and hard to get to by subway. Check Travel China Guide travelchinaguide.com
Beijing Folklore Museum (Line 2 or 6, Chaoyangmen Station. Exit A) is situated in Dongyue Temple, originally built in the 14th century. The Taoist Departments of Death shows the lurid and ghostly chambers that await evildoers after they die. The chambers feature detailed and memorable statues of monks, spirits and demons. Location: 141 Chaoyangmen Outer Street, Chaoyang, Tel: +861065510151 8:30 am - 4:30pm, closes Monday
Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall (Subway Line 2, Qianmen Station, Exit B) opened in 2004 and boasts a detailed scale model of Beijing, along with a geographical model showing the mountains, rivers and roads around the city. A two-hour audio tour will give you detailed information about different places. Location: 20 Qianmen East Street, Dongcheng Qu, TeL: +861067017074
Lu Xun Museum (Subway Line 2, Fuchengmen Station, Exit B, 300 meter walk) is devoted to the father of modern Chinese literature. Lu was trained as doctor and gave up his medical career he said to devote himself to curing social ills with his writing. He loved Jules Verne, and translated his stories into Chinese beginning in 1903 as part of an effort to help China develop an appreciation of Western sciences. He also promoted the use of vernacular Chinese in literature. Lu eventually gave up writing and took up politics. He was a strong supporter of the May Fourth Movement, a student-led anti-imperialist movement, and allied himself with the Communists around the time of his death in 1936. The museum is located in the writer’s former residence in Beijing. It displays manuscripts, photo throughout his life and a few personal possessions. Location: Gongmenkou 2nd Alley.
Palace Museum (within the Forbidden City) is both another name of the Forbidden City and a museum within the Forbidden City that displays some of the most impressive jewelry and art in all China. Among the treasures are silver and jade kitchen utensils, musical instruments, silk screen paintings, glazed tiles, imperial seals, paintings, calligraphy, lacquerware, porcelain, enamels, gold vessels, silverware and ancient jade articles and bronzes. Although the collection is impressive and vast the collection in National Palace Museum in Taiwan is much better. It has a better assemblage of quality pieces.
The Palace Museum objects are mostly in the buildings of the Six Eastern and Western Palaces and the Eastern Outer Palaces. Highlight include a gold dragon robe made of peacock feathers, pearls and coral beads and several gem-inlaid, gold towers that each weigh over 225 pounds. The Golden Pagoda of Hair was made under the orders of the Qianlong Emperor to preserve the hair lost through daily combing. Web Site: Palace Museum Official Site Official website: Palace Museum Official Site dpm.org Eastern Outer Palaces (in the northeast corner of the Forbidden City) were built for the Emperor Qianlong after he retired at the age of 85 after 63 years of ruling. They were built separate from the other parts of the Imperial Palace but had a similar design focused around three main halls. Today the buildings house a museum of jewelry and imperial clothing and other imperial treasures.
Among the items on display in the Hall of Imperial Supremacy (Haungji Hall) are one of Emperor Qianlong's robes, with 31 coiling, galloping dragons; a long gown worn by the Empress, and a 132-centimeter-high gold Buddhist pagoda, made with 85 kilograms of gold, 100 pearls and 300 gemstone of various kinds. Zhenfei Well is named after a 25-year-old concubine that drowned inside it after she was thrown inside by an eunuch under orders of Empress Dowager Cixi, angered by Zhenfei's support of the 1898 Reform Movement.
The Cultural Palace of Nationalities
Cultural Palace of National Minorities (west end Changan Avenue, four kilometers west of the Forbidden City, Subway Line 1 to Xidan Station) is housed in a building built in 1959 and has about 50,000 objects and cultural relics from China’s 56 minorities and ethnic groups, including manuscripts, costumes, art and crafts from minorities in Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Ningxia, Yunnan and Guizhou. There are also historical objects from peoples who once lived in Chinese including Xiongnu, Dangxiang, Qidan and Dian peoples. Among the more impressive objects are traditional clothes; religious artifacts relating to every kind of religion in China; scriptures, documents, laws, treaties and books from Tibet; musical instruments dating to the Tang dynasty; armor from the Yuan dynasty; items from the Western Xia; and weapons from the Qing dynasty.
Opened in October 1959 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, the Cultural Palace of Nationalities is located on the north side of the West Chang'an Avenue. It's a high-rise featuring the unique elements of traditional Chinese architecture. The 67-meter, 13-story main building is surrounded by side wings on the east and west. Inside, there are five exhibition halls covering 3,400 square meters. It has an abundant collection of more than 50,000 exquisite ethnic cultural relics, including costumes, coins and currency, musical instruments, handicrafts and religious articles, fully demonstrating the colorful culture of different ethnic groups.
Location: No. 49 Fuxingmennei Street, an extension of Chang'an Avenue. Open Hours: 9:00am-4:00pm; Admission: Free (Valid identification required) Getting There: Take Bus No. 7, 10, 15, 37, 37 Qu, 88, 90 Nei, 90 Wai, 205 to the Cultural Palace of Minorities
Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution
Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution (on Changan Avenue, 10 kilometers west of the Forbidden City, Subway Line 1 to the Military Museum Station, or Line 9 to Junshi Bowuguan Station, Exit A) is housed in a beat up Stalinist building with two large wings and big star on top. On display are MIG fighters, tanks, missiles, machine guns, a large statue of Mao, a passenger jet used to carry high-level Communist officials, an American spy plane with Nationalist Chinese markings shot down by the Chinese in the 1950s and ancient weapons such as crossbows and spears and ingenuous devises that incorporated fireworks to shoot a multitude of large arrow at one time. .
The Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution is listed as one of the Top Ten military museums in the world. The museum is the only large-scaled comprehensive military museum in China, covering an area of over 93,000 square meters. It consists of two four-story wings and a seven-story main building topped with the emblem of the Chinese People's Liberation Army. The museum houses more than 120,000 military antiques covering ancient, modern and contemporary times, displaying the military history of the country in a vivid and hollistic way
Many exhibits are focused on great military campaigns. On one floor is an exhibit on the Korean War, which explains how a Chinese victory in the conflict led to a decline of American power. Another exhibit explains how students “massacred” innocent soldiers at Tiananmen Square in 1989. In another rooms there is an amusement center with a large number of shooting games and gifts given to Chinese military men, including a gold machine gun from Lebanon. The museum is usually open but it doesn’t have many English signs.
Yuyuantan Park (behind the Military Museum) is large park with a large lake with paddle boats, There are not many trees. In the southwest corner is the China Millennium Monument. Not far away is the needle-like TV Tower, which has been built on a Ming-era sacrificial site. For about $8 you can ride up to a platform at a height of 400 meters.
Open Hours: April 1-November 1: 8:30-17:30; November 2-March 31: 8:30-5:00pm; Admission: Free Getting There: Take Subway Line 1 to the Military Museum Station, or take Bus No. 1, 21, 68, 308, 320, 337, 617, 728 or 802 to the Military Museum Stop.
National Museum of China: Largest Museum in the World
National Museum of China (east side of Tiananmen Square, Subway Line 1, Tiananmen East Station; Subway Line 2, Qianmen Station) was founded in 2003 after a merger of the former National Museum of Chinese History and the National Museum of Chinese Revolution, both of which were founded in 1959. Covering nearly 200,000 square meters, it is the largest museum in the world. After three years reconstruction, new National Museum opened in March 2011. The current museum nearly triples the size of the complex from 65,000 square meters to almost 200,000 square meters, and the number of exhibition rooms increase to 49. It has four floors above ground and two floors underground, housing an 800-seat theater, a 300-seat academic lecture hall and a 600 square-meter studio
National Museum of China (NMC) is a comprehensive and integrated national museum under the administration of the Ministry of Culture of China. It mainly focuses on a wide range of themes both on history and art. It is dedicated to its collections, exhibitions, research, archeology, public education and cultural communication. Ian Johnson wrote in the New York Times, “The museum is less the product of extensive research, discovery or creativity than the most prominent symbol of the Communist Party’s efforts to control the narrative of history and suppress alternative points of view, even those that exist within the governing elite. It is also an example of how China finds it difficult to create cultural institutions that prove equal to its economic achievements." [Source: Ian Johnson, New York Times, April 4, 2011]
Admission: Admission is free but you need to show your passport, otherwise they will not let you in. Group visitors may need to book in advance while individuals can get tickets at the entrance for free; Open Hours: 8:30am – 4:30pm (Last Entry at 15:00) for March 1 – June 30; 8:00am – 6:00pm (Last Entry at 17:00) for July 1 – August 31; 8:30am – 4:30pm (Last Entry at 15:00) for September 1 – October 31; 9:00am – 4:00pm (Last Entry at 15:00) for November 1 – February 29 Location: 16, East Chang’an Street, Dongcheng district, Beijing 100006, China, 0086-10-6511 6400 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Getting There: Subway Line 1, Tiananmen East Station; Subway Line 2, Qianmen Station; Bus No. 1, 2, 10, 20, 37, 52, 59, 82, 99, 120, 126, 728 to Tian'anmen East Stop; No. 5, 17, 20, 22, 48, 59, 66, 69, 71, 82, 120, 126, 301, 626, 646, 690, 692 to Qianmen Stop. Website: chnmuseum.cn
Collections and Facilities at the National Museum of China
National Museum of China holds a collection of 1.2 million pieces of cultural relics in forty-eight galleries. There are two permanent exhibitions: Ancient China and The Road of Rejuvenation, and more than a dozen categories of display related to thematic exhibitions and international exchange exhibits. The museum also hosts special exhibitions on Chinese ancient art, such as bronze, porcelain, jade articles, Buddhist statues, furniture of Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911), ink painting and calligraphy. One of the museum's most valuable collections is Si Muwu bronze quadrate vessel, 1.33 meters high and about 833 kilograms in weight, dating back to about 3,500 years ago.
Ian Johnson wrote in the New York Times, “Although the museum now has a broader focus than before...its centerpieces are two permanent exhibitions on Chinese history, one on its ancient past and one looking at the past 150 years. The old complex was two museums: the Museum of History and the Museum of the Revolution. The National Museum of Chinese History contained 320,000 objects and had more than two acres of display space. The collections were arranged into four categories to fit the Marxist concept of history and social development — primitive groups, slavery, feudalism and capitalism-imperialism — and included items related to Peking Man, snail shells, bone whistles carves jades from Neolthic cultures, Shang-era oracle bones, bronzes and jades, Zhou bronze ritual vessels and works from later dynasties. [Source: Ian Johnson, New York Times, April 4, 2011]
The Museum of the Revolution had five sections: 1) the founding of the Chinese Communist Party; 2) the first civil war (1919-21); 3) the second civil war (1927-37), 4) resistance against Japan (1937-45); and 5) the third civil war (1945-49). There was an entire floor devoted to the Long March. Tourists could trace the route with colored lights on a huge map. There were also many pictures of Japanese torturing Chinese. Some of this stuff is found in the new museum. Noticeably missing are exhibits on the horrors and injustices of the Chinese Communist Party on things like the Great Leap Forward, the Great Famine and the Anti-Rightist Campaign. There is only a single photo and three lines of text on the Cultural Revolution. The focus instead is on more glorious moments: the 1949 communist victory and the last 30 years of reform.
According the Global Times: With a total collection of more than 1.05 million pieces, Lü said that the museum would try effortlessly to offer audiences a panorama of art that ranges from ancient to contemporary Chinese and world art. There are two permanent displays: 1) "Ancient China," divided into eight sections and covering 10 exhibition halls, showing about 3,000 pieces of rare articles from ancient China to Qing Dynasty (1644-1911); and 2) "Road to Revival," which enjoyed a trial run in 2009 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. With numerous works including sculpture, oil painting and Chinese painting on display, the permanent exhibition covers nine exhibition halls and displays the struggles and efforts Chinese people went through after the first Opium War in 1840. [Source: Wu Ziru, Global Times, March 1, 2011]
"Aside from these two gigantic permanent shows, there are also a series of feature exhibitions on show, including Chinese ancient bronze, Buddhist art, porcelain and Chinese paintings, and calligraphy, together offering audiences a near-complete range of Sino art genres....International cooperation will be another highlight at the museum, with the first step a joint exhibition with three major German museums, the Berlin National Museum, the Dresden National Art Collection Museum and the Bavarian State Picture Galleries.
Facilities at the museum are now world-class, applying the most advanced temperature equipment to preserve rare exhibits, according to Lü. "Each piece of work at the museum is of such high value, advanced facilities are a requisite to show them," Lü said, adding that the expected influx of visitors was another reason to upgrade. While the various artworks provide academic audiences with the necessary gravitas they require, the museum also aims to be a leisure destination, offering refreshments and meeting the modern need for fast food, said Lü.
There will be teahouses and coffee shops, and for collectors, shops offering everything from the exquisite to cheap souvenirs related to the museum, Lü introduced. "Parents can take their children to exhibitions, watch movies and plays, and have a taste of both culture and leisure while raising awareness for arts appreciation."
History of the National Museum of China
Ian Johnson wrote in the New York Times, “The National Museum has its roots in the Communist Party’s desire for a legacy. In his memoirs, Wang Yeqiu, who would become the museum’s director, recalls joining Communist troops as they entered Beijing in 1949 and making straight for a prison to secure a scaffold used in 1927 to hang one of the party’s founding members. The scaffold became the first item in the museum’s collection. But its opening in 1959 was marred by a problem that would haunt it to the present — politics. Prime Minister Zhou Enlai visited the proposed exhibition and said it did not emphasize the “red line”: the line of thought of Mao, the country’s supreme leader. [Source: Ian Johnson, New York Times, April 4, 2011]
Over the next decades, the museum spent more time closed than open. It formally opened in 1961, then closed at the onset of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, reopening in 1979 and then going through a series of closings and openings as leaders strove for an interpretation of the past they could accept. The exhibition on contemporary history closed for good in 2001 as officials began to see the museum as an anachronism that did not promote a modern image to the outside world. That year, Beijing won its bid to host the 2008 Olympics, and officials were worried that the national capital would not be a worthy host. A year earlier, a British research institute rated Beijing a third-tier city on a par with Warsaw and Bangkok. The report was widely discussed in China, with officials noting that Beijing had no noteworthy museums or galleries.
What Beijing needed, officials decided, was a world-class museum in time for the Olympics. In the past, the site on Tiananmen Square actually housed two institutions: the Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of the Chinese Revolution. In 2003, the two were combined and renamed the National Museum of China, excising the Communist-sounding nomenclature. The name change also allowed for shows that did not directly touch on Chinese history, although history was to remain its focus. Culture and Control
Officials created an international architectural competition won by the large German firm Gerkan, Marg and Partner. The Germans called for a huge atrium, in which Chinese history could be exhibited overlooking important sites of the country’s past and present. Construction was to begin in 2005.
But senior officials rejected the plan, setting off years of meetings and redesigns, according to an official in the Ministry of Culture who asked to remain anonymous because of the issue’s delicacy. China’s cabinet, the State Council, weighed in, saying the new, arching roof would destroy the building’s original design. Other critics said the atrium was too grandiose, while the museum’s new director, himself an architect, wanted more floor space, according to participants in the meetings. The opening date was pushed back to Oct. 1, 2009, the 60th anniversary of Communist rule. All told, there were seven major revisions. In the end, they kept a grand entrance hall — 850 feet long and 100 feet high — linking the two old wings. But most of the original open area was now filled with a giant new building.
Renovation of the National Museum of China and Making It the Biggest Museum in the World
The extensive $379 million, four-year renovation finished in 2011 was overseen by the Hamburg architects von Gerkan, Marg and Partners.. The new incarnation of the museum is the world's largest museum under one roof, with a floor space of 192,000 square meters, and more than 1.05 million national treasures in its permanent collection. The new museum encompasses the former Museum of the Chinese Revolution and Museum of Chinese History, which had been housed in two wings of a building on Tiananmen Square. Those two institutions opened in October 1959 to commemorate 10 years of Communist rule. The new design brought the wings into an integral whole with a 260-meter-long central forum. Light Chinese granite, black cherrywood and perforated bronze doors now brighten and define the museum’s interior.
After it reopened the Global Times reported: "The new museum is constructed on the foundations of two previous museums, the Museum of Chinese History (MMC) and the Museum of the Chinese Revolution. It has now nearly tripled in size, from 65,000 to almost 200,000 square meters. As the most prestigious museum in China, the NMC aims to offer the best place for audiences to enjoy various arts from both China and the world, according to Lü Zhangshen, director of the NMC.
Ian Johnson wrote in the New York Times, “At the elaborately renovated National Museum of China in Tiananmen Square, visitors interested in the recent history of the world’s fastest rising power can gaze at the cowboy hat that Deng Xiaoping once wore when he visited the United States, or admire the bullhorn that President Hu Jintao used to exhort people to overcome hardship after the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. But if their interests run to the Cultural Revolution that tore the country apart from 1966 to 1976 and resulted in millions of deaths, they will have to search a back corner of the two-million-square-foot museum, which will complete its opening this month, for a single photograph and three lines of text that are the only reference to that era. One tradition has remained firmly in place: China will not confront its own history.
One of the primary goals of the managers of the National Museum of China was to make it the world’s largest museum. “I got a call asking how many square meters is the Louvre,” Martin Roth, director of Dresden’s state museums and an informal consultant to the museum for a decade, told the New York Times. “Then 10 minutes later another call asking how many square meters is the British Museum. I said, “You guys are sitting with the architects and are figuring out how to be the biggest, right?” They laughed and said yes.” “We feel we had a lot to show and need the space,” Mr. Tian said. “It’s not about being the biggest, but China does have 5,000 years of culture so it’s not inappropriate to be the biggest.” The biggest — taking up a quarter of the entire exhibition space — is “Ancient China,” a mammoth survey of thousands of years of history. [Source: Ian Johnson, New York Times, April 4, 2011]
Ian Johnson wrote in the New York Times, “The difficulty in coming up with an innovative interpretation of China’s recent past suggests that the staff may have trouble filling the vast galleries with the variety and quality of exhibits characteristic of a world-class museum. The opening exhibition on the European Enlightenment, for example, will run for 12 months — an unusually long period of time that surprised the three German museums that organized it. “It’s highly unusual, but the Chinese wanted it,” said Michael Eissenhauer, director of the State Museums of Berlin. To meet the request, German curators will have to find substitutes for up to a third of the objects, some of which were promised years ago for other exhibitions or which are too fragile to be exposed to light for 12 months."
National Art Museum of China
National Art Museum of China (east side of Tiananmen Square, opposite the Great Hall of the People Subway Line 5 and Line 6,, Dongsi Station, walk 300 meters west) is one of China's most prestigious art museum. It contains both ancient and contemporary Chinese artworks as well as some Western artworks. Although it houses some imperial Chinese art, it is focused mainly on modern and contemporary Chinese artistic works. There are 21 exhibition halls on three stories of this four-story building. There specific exhibitions for traditional Chinese painting, oil painting, print, sculpture, Chinese New Year picture, traditional picture story, caricature, watercolor painting, lacquer, porcelain, and costumes. In 1989, police closed down experimental exhibitions here after a performance artist fired two bullets through a pair of mannequins in phone boxes. In the late 1990, it began allowing experimental exhibition.
National Art Museum of China has 17 exhibition halls with an exhibition area of 8,300 square meters. Also known as the Art Gallery of China, The main building is itself a traditional architecture with ancient Chinese attics and roofed with yellow glazed tiles and surrounded by corridors and pavilions. This place is huge, so be prepared to walk a lot. There is a café and restaurant with a buffet.
National Art Museum of China is a state museum of modern fine arts. One of the ten major structures erected in Beijing in the late 1950s, the museum’s design and plan was approved by the former Premier Zhou Enlai. In 1963, Mao Zedong penned the name of the gallery that is painted on the board fixed to the lintel of the gallery entrance.
The gallery boasts more than 60000 pieces of art works by modern and folk artists. These include Chinese watercolor and ink-and-wash paintings, oil paintings,block prints, picture posters, cartoons, gouaches, illustrations from literary works, lacquer paintings, and many others representing the artistic style of different schools and times from the end of the 19th century until today. The gallery has attached great importance to the collection of foreign art works in recent years. Among the 117 paintings donated by Mr. and Mrs. Ludwig of Germany are 4 Picasso’s works. There are a few old paintings and calligraphy works.
Location: 1 Wusi St, Dongcheng, Beijing, China, Tel: 010-64001476 Hours Open: 9:00am.-5:00pm (No Entry after 4:00pm), open all year, not closed on Monday. Website: namoc.org Admission is free but A maximum of 4000 free tickets is be issued at the museum each day. Each visitor can collect one free ticket of the day with valid ID (Passport).
Off-Beat Museums in Beijing
Offbeat Museums found in the Beijing include: 1) Daxing Watermelon Museum (in the Watermelon Research Institute among Beijing's major watermelon plantations in Daxing, where visitors can learn about the cultivation of different types of watermelons and enjoy comics, statues and paintings related to watermelon; 2) Beijing Tap Water Museum (the original site of the Beijing City Water Supply Company), focuses on Beijing's water history in the past 100 years and shows how water is purified; 3) Red Star Erguotou Museum (situated factory that's still produces famous, strong throat-burning Erguotou liquor), where visitors can learn about Erguotou's brewing process and it extensive history and even sample some. [Source: Jiang Wanjuan, China Daily, May 18, 2015]
4) China Honey Bee Museum (west side of the Botanical Garden), with around 600 bee specimens and bee fossils and information in Chinese on how bees make honey; 5) Ancient Bell Museum (in Dazhong Temple, (Subway Line 13, Dazhongsi (Big Bell Temple) Station), which contains a giant Buddhist bell from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.), which is 5.6 meters high and weights 46.6 tons, and over 700 bells of various types made of bronze, iron and jade, from both China and overseas; 6) China Hat and Culture Museum (conveniently located on Qianmen Dajie in central Beijing), devoted to the history Chinese hats, with over 5,000 kinds of headwear; and the China Goldfish Museum (Tongzhou district), the first of its kind in China, highlighting the history and scientific information on goldfish. In the museum, visitors will see different types of goldfishes and understand the origin and the morphological changes that have occurred among them.
Beijing Eunuch Cultural Museum (Moshikou Avenue, Shijingshan District, Subway Line 1, Pingguoyuan subway station, then take a taxi) was opened in 1999 outside of Beijing next to small graveyard for eunuchs with stone guardians and a tomb of Tian Yi, a powerful Ming-dynasty eunuch in charge of the royal seal. The world's only eunuch museum, it primary function is to maintain eep records related to eunuchs and keep their memories alive. Statues in the Eunuch Culture Museum show how a castration operation was done in the past. The museum also contains paintings of eunuchs, a photo collection about the life of 20th century eunuchs and items such as the curved knives used in castrations. The cemetery faces south and consists of the Virtue Display Hall, the Longevity Section, and the Convent of Compassion. Encircled by a stone wall, the cemetery was built in 1605 and occupies 6,000 square meter. There are four other tombs in addition to the one of Tian Yi. The tombs have fine stone carvings. Location: No.80 Moshikou Avenue, Shijingshan District, Tel: 010-88724148 Opening Time: 9:00am - 4:00pm. Admission: 8Yuan Getting There: Bus No.331,336,396,959,746,337,354
China Red Sandalwood Museum (Subway Batong Line, Gaobeidian Station, walk 400 meters, or Subway Line 1, Sihuidong Station, walk one kilometer) .features ancient architecture and red sandalwood furniture. Located in a grouping of architecture from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) periods, it covers 9,569 square meters (11,444 square yards), and is the first and largest private museum in China devoted red sandalwood artwork. The museum was built with a private investment of US$30 million and is the largest privately owned museum in China. It features artworks and models of ancient architecture, including traditional Chinese courtyards and almost a thousand pieces of furniture, art and other objects of different types made of red sandalwood, a rare Chinese wood. The museum shop sells sandalwood souvenirs, Location: Jianguo Road, Chaoyang Qu
Beijing Police Museum (Subway Line 2, Qianmen Station, Exit B, 800 meter walk) has been described as fascinating and entertaining. It has a collection that includes tools and weapons that date back to the Han Dynasty and recounts the history of forensics in China. You can also see crime-scene photos of violent crimes and old- torture devices. Interactive displays allow you to experience a simulated car chase and a taser shooting. Location: in former Legation Quarter at Dongjiaomin Alley, Dongcheng Qu, Tel: +861085225001
Sock Culture Museum opened in 2013 in a 3,200-squaremeter spaces and boasts a collection of over 1,000 items, including exhibits on domestic sock culture, history, literature, machinery and of course, real socks. Additionally, exhibition halls focus on different aspects of socks, such as in the History Hall, Technology Hall, Experience Hall and Future Hall. Modern display methods utilizing digital interactive media are on hand, which educate visitors on the history of socks, and how they're made, along with appropriate fashion etiquette and color-matching schemes.
Cuo Yongping Private Shadow Play Art Museum is a small 250-square-meter museum created out of three apartments by Cui Yongping and his wife, who devoted their lives to keeping Chinese shadow puppetry alive and collecting old puppets and props. About a third of their collection of puppets, settings, scripts, tools, instruments and old photos is on display. Among the most valuable pieces are 1,000 Ming-era silhouette items and a leather setting valued at over $100,000. Weekly puppet shows are held in a theater that seats about 50 people. Location: Unit 4, building 16, Majuqiao Jinqiao garden, Tongzhou District. May be closed or no longer exist.
Quirky Knick-Knack Museums in Beijing
Louise Watt of Associated Press wrote: “Dozens of private museums that dot the capital's backstreets and its suburbs. Their collections feature the grand and mundane — from items salvaged from the garbage to a limousine in which Mao Zedong once rode. Entering these private museums is to peel off a largely forgotten layer of Beijing's recent history. [Source: Louise Watt, Associated Press, April 3, 2016]
“While state-run museums seek mainly to legitimize the ruling Communist Party through its own highly selective interpretation of history, the capital's private museums are born from their founders' hobbies and obsessions, along with a sense of duty to keep alive a little bit of history others might dismiss as trivial.
“As China grows richer, wealthy citizens, banks and private businesses have invested in Chinese art and started museums to display their wealth or patriotism. Others, such as Luo Wenyou, opened their collections after their pastimes evolved into callings....Private collections like Luo's offer a welcome alternative to state museums that seek to draw the visitor into a narrative about the greatness of China and the necessity of the Communist Party's leadership, said Philip Tinari, director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. "You don't really find publicly supported pockets of weirdness," Tinari said.
Wang's Beijing Old Items Exhibition in the heart of old Beijing. “Stuffed into a tiny room off an alleyway are items that Wang Jinming readily admits were put out with the garbage: Paper string, a needle holder, a metal pancake maker built for thrusting into a fire. "These objects all look quite old and shabby," he said. "But they record real history." "If you throw it on the street, people would say 'What's this?' and maybe think it's useless and throw it away," said Wang, gesturing around the room packed with hundreds of household items and street objects dating from the 1900s to the 1970s. "But we think it's culture."
“Wang delights in telling visitors to guess what the objects are in their hands. They might include a popsicle holder used by street vendors or a bucket-shaped iron heated by charcoal. All form part of the collection that Wang and two co-founders began in the 1980s after asking foreign visitors why they were so interested in buying old everyday items. "They said, 'To collect.' Now if you go to someone's home you probably can't find such things," Wang said. Picking up a doughnut-shaped metal bell, Wang explained that before Beijing had many hospitals, itinerant doctors used to roam the streets. "When you heard this sound, the doctor was walking in the street, available, ringing the bell," he said.
“Liu Chen, 27, first visited the museum after reading about it on social media and has returned several times with friends. "It's not like big state-owned museums. You don't need to buy a ticket to enter some sort of grand hall and stroll through different chambers," he said. "Here many of the old objects displayed might have been the kind of things used by Mr. Wang himself when he was a kid, so you can feel his enthusiasm, which is the key thing that distinguishes it from other museums."
Luo Wenyou’s Car Collection is a good example of a collection resulting from a pastimes evolved into a calling. “In 1998, when he already owned about 70 old cars, Luo took part in an 800-kilometer (500-mile) rally from the northeastern city of Dalian to Beijing, his iconic Red Flag sedan the only Chinese car in the event. Having learned about vintage car associations and museums outside China, and inspired by shouts of "long live Red Flag" as he pulled up to Tiananmen Square, Luo decided he was honor-bound to preserve the legacy of China's early motoring history. "I had a karting track, a transport company and a garage. After the rally I sold them off cheaply in order to immediately start a vintage car association and later found the museum, to fill the gap," said Luo. "I felt this was my personal duty." His museum opened in 2009 and he now boasts more than 200 vintage Chinese and foreign cars.
“Some of Luo's cars have stories from China's recent history. They include a car Mao refused to ride in until the brand's Romanized name on the hood was replaced with Chinese characters and a car found in an overgrown patch of grass that had been assigned to former President Liu Shaoqi. The latter vehicle still had broken windows from when Liu was pursued by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution after falling out of favor with Mao.
“Luo lives at the site with his wife so he can open up outside normal hours for visitors traveling from afar. "Even if just one person comes we will open, even though the entrance fee won't cover the electricity," he said.
Guanfu Museum (in Beijing's eastern suburb of Zhangwanfen) is filled “with antiques bought cheaply in the late 1970s and 80s from Beijing residents eager for cash to buy refrigerators, TVs and washing machines. Ma Weidu opened China's first private museum in 1996, “"I could buy 10 average pieces of art for 65 yuan ($10)," said Ma. In those early days, his most valuable acquisition was a bowl made in an imperial kiln during the reign of the Qing dynasty emperor Qianlong about 250 years ago, Ma said. Purchased for just 6 yuan (less than $1) at the time, it could be worth as much as 600,000 yuan ($92,000) if sold today, he said. Ma became a TV personality, hosting programs teaching antique hunters how to discern between real treasures and fakes. Ever keen to attract more visitors, Ma, a cat lover, named 20 felines as assistant curators. "A lot of people who come to the museum ... are more interested in cats than culture," said Ma. "But some may come here because of the cats and in doing so learn something about antiques."
There is a permanent exhibition is on cloisonne, enamel wares, golden or bronze figural, bronze, lacquer, jade, classical furniture and hand stone inlaid wares from the Song to Qing Dynasty (1644–1911). One traveler wrote for China.org: “The transcendent sound of ancient musical instruments and comfortable carefree illustration of Mr. Yao take me back into the ancient times. The exhibition on Chinese porcelain includes about 140 elegant pieces from 10th to 18th century (Tang to Qing Dynasty (1644–1911)). Each one is a masterpiece that combines artisan intelligence and hard-work, while the porcelain vase with floral panels made in Qianlong era of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) attracts much attention.
“The furniture department comprises four parts according to differing structural timber which are mahogany, Zitan wood, Huanghuali wood and Jichi wood, each of which are valuable woods representing high social status. According to Yao, in the early Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), using the valuable wood furniture had come into vogue in the society. In traditionally arranged rooms and studies, I can smell the flavor of classic furniture as well as gain the concept of the arrangement of each room. The furniture tells of rich Chinese tradition and history. For example, it may seem to be an ordinary setting to place two vases on each end of the table, but Yao tells us the meaning is a blessing for safety, in Chinese, 'Ping Ping An An'. 'Ping' and 'An' together have the same syllables in Chinese as 'safety'. Each piece of furniture has a unique story behind, making the intelligence and fine technique of ancient artists more admirable.
“A room arranged with furnishings modelled on traditional Chinese family style: the study of Huanghuali furniture. The four chairs placed around the table show the status of people sitting on them. The highest ranking person sits on the chair behind the table, and the lowest ranking person sits on the stools in front of the table. In the doors and windows department, I surprisingly found that all rooms are separated, not by walls, but by partition doors and rails which well demonstrate the pattern and rules of traditional room setting during the late Ming and Qing dynasties. I never knew that the design of the wood windows also had deep meanings related to Chinese Fengshui. The most impressive one has to be the partition doors with episodes from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and antique motif, in which the marvellous technical carving has gained world-wide acknowledgement. In the oil painting hall, famous contemporary Chinese artists showcase their works, including oil painting and sculpture. Prestigious artist Chen Yifei's painting Violin, Cello, and Chen Danqing's Inamorato are also among the exhibits.”
Guanfu Museum has also opened branches in two other cities. One in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, was opened in 2001, and another in Xiamen, Fujian province, in 2005; Admission: 50 Yuan per person; Website: guanfumuseum.org Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm; Tel: 010-64338887-0 Fax: 010-64362329; Getting There: Take Beijing subway line 2, get off from entry C, then take bus 688 or 909, get down at Zhang Wanfen, and Guanfu Museum is just 100 meters backwords from the bus stop.
Art in the Beijing Area
Poly Art Museum (Subway line 2, Dongsishitiao Station) was set up to display traditional national culture and art and rescue and protect Chinese cultural relics lost abroad. The museum mainly consists of two parts: exhibitions of bronze and stone carvings. Most of the exhibits have been retrieved from abroad. The “Bronze Art Exhibition” houses over 100 pieces (groups), including some excellent ancient bronze pieces. The “Stone Carvings Exhibition” displays over 40 stone carvings from the fifth to eighth century, a peak period of China ‘s Buddhist art. Location: 9th floor New Poly Plaza, 1 Chaoyangmen Bei Dajie Dongcheng District, Tel: 6500 8117 Hours Open: Monday-Saturday 9:30am - 4:30pm, closed on state holiday. Admission: 20RMB
Art Museum of China Central Academy of Fine Arts (formerly CAFA Gallery) is now located in the campus of CAFA (No.8, Huajiadi Nan Street, Chaoyang District, Beijing). The museum occupies 14,777 square meters with the total exhibition and display are of over 6,000 square meters. The second floor is designed for permanent gallery. The third and fourth floors are thematic exhibition gallerys with open space for contemporary art exhibition and large art and culture show. Hours Open: 9:30am - 4:30pm (Tuesday-Sunday)m Admission: 15 yuan, Tel :86-10-64771575 Website: museum.cafa.com
Songzhuang (30 kilometers west of Beijing) is a trendy suburb in eastern Beijing that attracts the nouveau rich and artists with money and is the home of Beijing oldest surviving artists colony. According to Archdaily.com: “Songzhuang is the most famous and biggest artist community in China. The first artists moved here including Yue Minjun and Fang Lijun,in the early 1990’s, having been driven out of another community near the Old Summer Palace in Beijing’s north-west. For more than 10 years these artists were virtual outcasts with much of their work politically inspired, lived and worked under the watchful eye of communist authorities. With the booming of Chinese art market, Songzhuang is undergoing a dramatic expansion of artist population which has reached to 4000 in year 2008.
Xiaopu Village (in Songzhuang Art District, Tongzhou) is an artist colony with about 200 artists and a popular weekened street market. According to The Beijinger: It is easy to get to using public transportation. Here you'll find a large area of galleries, cafes, restaurants, art supplies shops and boutiques. Most Saturday afternoons from April to October inclusive, the market is held on the street outside Chuzou Cafe, with around 25 local vendors selling all kinds of products ranging from handmade soap to vintage bric-a-brac. Getting There: Take Subway Line 6 to Dongxiayuan, then take a cab to Chuzou Coffee Shop. Starting time: 11:00am (spring and autumn); 4:00pm (summer)
Cutting edge art can also be seen at the Courtyard Gallery near eastern moat of the Forbidden City; the Red Gate Gallery in historic the Dongbianmen,Watchtower;Imagine Gallery at Feijiacun Donglu and Laiguangying Donglu; and China Arts and Archives Warehouse (CAAW), opposite the Nangao police station.
Han Meilin Art Museum
Beijing Han Meilin Art Museum (Batong Subway Line, Linheli station) is the largest personal art museums in China and exclusively dedicated to Han, whose works range from painting, calligraphy, sculpture and installation. Han Meilin is a famous Chinese artist, most recognized today for his creation of the Fuwa dolls for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Throughout his career, he has published painting albums as Meilin’s Paintings, Art Works of Han Meilin, Mountain Flowers in Full Bloom, Still on the Earth, 100-chicken Paintings, Painting Collection of Han Meilin and Selection of Arts and Crafts Works of Han Meilin and more.Han Meilin Art Museum (Beijing, China). The art of master artist Han Meilin is wonderfully varied and reflects the range of monumental changes in China over the past 50 years. He has also launched an art scholarship fund to help talented students who are not able to continue their studies. The first stage of the fund, 2 million yuan ($32,000), will be given to students in Tsinghua University.
Location: No. 68 Jiukeshu East Road, Liyuan Town, Tongzhou District. Admission: Free. Hours Open: 9:00am - 5:00pm Tuesday-Sunday, Closed on Mondays Website: hanmeilin.com/museum.
Capital Museum (Fuxingmenwai Street, the western extension of the Chang'an Avenue, Subway Line 1, Muxidi Station) is an art museum that opened in 1981 and moved into its present building in 2006. Being China's second largest museum, dwarfed only by the National Museum, Capital Museum, it has five floors and took four years to build at a cost of 1.23 billion yuan (about 187 million U.S. dollars). With an area of more than 60,000 square meters, the museum consists of Central Ritual Hall, Exhibition Hall, Multifunction Hall, Cultural Heritages Storehouse and Digital Movie Hall. There are more than 5,622 culture relics on display.
The Capital Museum It houses a large collection of ancient porcelain, bronze, calligraphy, painting, jade, sculpture, and Buddhist statues from imperial China as well as other Asian cultures The museum contains over 200,000 cultural relics in its collection. Only a small fraction of the collection is exhibited, and a significant percentage of the museum's art collection comprises artifacts unearthed in Beijing. Part of the museum's collections were formerly housed in the Confucius Temple on Guozijian Road in Beijing. [Source: Wikipedia]
Capital Museum covers more than 63,000 square meters and integrates ancient and modern architectural elements. Large amounts of bronze, timber and stone are used to highlight the old elements. The protruding wall of the elliptical Bronze Exibition Hall that can be seen from outside the museum and contains important historical relics. There are more than 5,622 culture relics on display, which mainly include the museum's collections from past years and historical relics unearthed in Beijing
The Capital Museum's massive roof and the gradient at the entrance square is the work of architects Jean-Marie Duthilleul and Cui Kai. It was influenced by ancient Chinese architecture,[ and the stone-made exterior wall was meant to symbolize the city walls and towers of ancient China. A piece of danbi (a massive stone carved with images of dragon, phoenix and imperial artifacts) is embedded on the ground in front of the north gate of the museum. A decorative archway from the Ming Dynasty, set in the reception hall, shows the "central axis" feature that is commonly seen in Chinese architecture. The Bronze Exhibition Hall, which has an oval-shape, was meant to symbolize the unearthing of ancient relics by its slanting design which extends from the ground to the exterior of the museum.
Although the Capital Museum doesn’t receive the attention or the number of visitors received at Palace Museum in the Forbidden City or the National Museum of China, it is still a leading cultural institutions in Chinese. It has held hundreds of exhibitions on things related to history, cultural relics, revolutionary heroes, folk customs and held different types of exhibitions on Japan, America, Singapore, Malaysia and several other countries.
Location: No.16, Fuxingmenwai Street, the western extension of the Chang'an Avenue, Xicheng District; Open Hours: 9:00 to 5:00pm (Closed on Monday); Admission: free (reservations needed) Reservation: By phone via +86-010-6339 3339 between 9:00am-5:00pm or by online at http://www.capitalmuseum.org.cn/zjsb/pwfw.htm (Chinese), Tel: +86-010-6337 0491; +86-010-63370492, 0082-10-63370491 Getting There: Subway Line 1 to Muxidi Station. Bus No. 1, 4, 37, 52 to Gonghuidalou; No. 26, 319, 650, 708, 717, 727, 937 to Baiyunlu;
Beijing Dabaotai Museum of Western Han Tombs
Beijing Dabaotai Museum of Western Han Tombs (15 kilometers southwest of Beijing's city center, Subway Fangshan Line, Station) is a museum constructed on the site of a unique 2000-year-old imperial tomb standing, the underground palace of Liu Jian, the Western Han (206 B.C.-A.D.24) Prince of Guangyang (73-45 B.C).
The restored coffin chamber for sightseeing has an entrance carved longitudinally on one side of the underground palace, sheltered by the earth mound and trees and retaining its solemnity and great antiquity. The spacious underground palace is unique in structure, built according to the standards prescribed for “a Son of Heaven” (an emperor) of the Han Dynasty, which include a coffin made of Chinese catalpa (Catalpa ovata) timber to be buried in an coffin chamber with cypress logs piled up against the walls and ranged on top to covering the ceiling. The museum has a collection of mote than 1000 items of funerary objects from the tomb and some unearthed relics from one of the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) ruins.
On exhibition are the restored coffin chamber, cultural relics, a show of emperor tombs of different dynasties, and others. Tourists could imitate some archaeological research work or take part in activities that have something to do with the Han Dynasty civilization. Location: Southern Guogongzhuang, Fengtai District, Beijing, P.R.C
Science Museums in Beijing
Natural History Museum (near the west gate of the Temple of Heaven Park, Subway Line 5, Tiantan Dongmen Station) has a morbid collection of preserved dead bodes and pickled body parts, including a penis and a vagina and man with all his skin removed as well the kinds of things you would expect to see in a natural history museum: dinosaur bones, stuffed birds, a mineral collection. Website: bmnh.org China Science and Technology Museum ( Line 8 or Line 15 to Olympic Park Station, Exit G) was established in 1988, China’s only state-level science and technology museum, it opened a new exhibition building in 2009. There are five permanent exhibition halls and a number of short-term exhibits, along with laboratories, classrooms and lecture halls. It is a very interactive, kid-friendly place. Location: Beichen East Road, Ao Yun Cun, Chaoyang Qu, Tel: +861059041000, a near the Olympic Village.
Paleozoological Museum of China (Subway Line 4, Dongwuyuan (Beijing Zoo) Station, Exit D ) features a large collection of fossils and dinosaur-related stuff. One of the largest museums of its kind in Asia, has an engaging collection of fossils and prehistoric life forms and human remains. One part of the museum is open to visitors while the other is used by researchers. The museum also explores the origin of humans and contains information on the Peking Man. Location: 142 Xizhimen Outer Street, Dong Wu Yuan, Xicheng Qu, Tel: +861088369280
Beijing Zoo (Subway Line 4, Beijing Zoo Station) boasts giant pandas and 600 animals from 500 other species. The pandas are the stars of the zoo. They are spoiled and given a comfortable enclosure. The other animals suffer in their relatively small spaces. The zoo covers an area of approximately 124 acres. Beijing Zoo has also been the home of the Beijing Aquarium since 1999.
Built in 1906 and opened to the public in 1908, The Beijing Zoo is the oldest zoo in China. Animals from China include Manchurian Tigers, brown bears, golden snub nosed monkeys from Sichuan and red pandas from China as well as hippopotami, zebras, giraffes, chimpanzees, lions and antelopes from Africa, parrots from South America, birds and polar bears from the Arctic, bison from Europe and apes from Asia.
Beijing Zoo offers a park like setting with a traditional Chinese garden style. It was founded on the site of an Imperial Manor from the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644). Later plant and animals were cultivated and grown here during the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911). Location: 137 Xiwai Street, Xicheng District, Tel: +86 10 6839 0274 Website: beijingzoo.com
Blue Zoo Beijing (near the Workers Stadium, Subway Line 6, Dongdaqiao Station, Exit A, walk 700 meters, or Subway Line 2, Chaoyangmen Station, walk 1.1 kilometers) is the first salt water aquarium in Beijing and features the longest underwater acrylic tunnel in Asia. There are more than 10,000 ocean creatures, including sharks, stingrays, seahorses and starfish. The new Beijing Aquarium (just north of the Beijing Zoo) also has a lot of sea creatures.
Image Sources: 1) CNTO (China National Tourist Organization; 2) Nolls China Web site; 3) Perrochon photo site; 4) Beifan.com; 5) tourist and government offices linked with the place shown; 6) Mongabey.com; 7) University of Washington, Purdue University, Ohio State University; 8) UNESCO; 9) Wikipedia; 10) Beijing Olympics; 12) architecture firms who designed the buildings shown
Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization), UNESCO, Rough Guide for Beijing, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in May 2020