Il National Museum of China is a monumental museum in Tiananmen Square a Beijing, opposite the Great Hall of the People, and includes what were once two distinct museums, the Museum of the Chinese Revolution and the Museum of Chinese History. During a trip to China it is a really important stage to understand more deeply the history and culture of this extraordinary people. So here it is What to see at the National Museum of China: tips, prices and how to get there.
- What to see and how to visit National Museum of China
- Ancient China (basement)
- The masterpieces of Modern Art (ground floor)
- The way of rebirth (first floor)
- Selected works of African Nature (first floor)
- Coins of Ancient China (second floor)
- Buddhist sculpture (second floor)
- Jades of Ancient China (second floor)
- The Song Dynasty stone carving art (third floor)
- Hours and prices
- User questions and comments
What to see and how to visit National Museum of China
The National Museum of China is arranged on several levels inside a gigantic building completed in 1959 to celebrate 10 years of the Communist government: it is 40.000 square meters, the facade alone is 313 meters long and in the center there are 11 square pillars. There were once two wings and two distinct museums: theNorth wing, dedicated to the Museum of the Chinese Revolution, andSouth wing, dedicated to the National Museum of Chinese History. In the center there is a pavilion that constitutes a public space aimed at connecting the two wings with the renovation of 2011. In this space there are today, in the basement, both a theater that a conference hall. The entrance for visitors is located on the Western Gate, where you can collect your ticket. On both sides of the central hall there are two reception areas that offer information on the visit and the exhibitions hosted, as well as two bookshops where you can buy books and souvenirs. In the north wing there is the Tea Room, where Chinese tea and some snacks are served. In the south wing there is one instead Cafeteria, more western, serving hot drinks and pastry.
The five levels of the museum are organized as follows:
- Basement: here is the exhibition on ancient China
- Ground floor: here are the masterpieces of Modern Art
- First floor: here is the exhibition "The Way of Rebirth", a collection of relics that represent the path to national prosperity and happiness undertaken by the Chinese people thanks to the choice of Marxism; there is also a room dedicated to selected works of African nature.
- Second floor: here there are three exhibitions, one dedicated to Ancient Chinese Coins, one to Buddhist sculpture and one to Ancient Chinese Jades.
- Third floor: here is the exhibition dedicated to the art of stone carving of the Song dynasty
Below we analyze in detail the individual exhibitions of the museum.
1 - Ancient China (basement)
Inside the basement, arranged over 10 galleries, the permanent exhibition on the Ancient China. It starts from tunnels N20 to N25, continues from S15 to S18, finally S20. There are about 2.520 artifacts on display, from prehistoric times to the late Quing dynasty in the twentieth century, testifying to the vitality and continuous evolution of Chinese civilization.
Below are the various eras represented:
- Prehistory (Spring and Autumn period and Warring States period)
- Qin and Han dynasties
- Period of the Three Kingdoms, the two Jin dynasties and the Southern and Northern Dynasties
- Sui, Tang and Five Dynasties period
- Liao, Song, Xixia, Jin and Yuan dynasties
- Ming and Qing dynasties
2 - The masterpieces of Modern Art (ground floor)
It is a permanent exhibition housed in the Central Hall, in an area of 2000 square meters, which includes a whole series of works of art by the so-called artists of the New China: sculptures and paintings completely inspired by the Communist Revolution. The collection has been created through the exhibitions that the National Museum has organized since 1959 to collect and preserve paintings relating to the period of the Revolution. A look at these paintings allows a comparison between past and present, which is not only artistic but also and above all historical.
Some paintings hosted:
- The foundation of the Republic by Dong Xiwen, a huge 4 meter long oil canvas representing the moment when Mao Zedong and his collaborators inaugurated the communist government on October 1, 1949.
- Mao Zedong at the December meeting by Jin Shangyi
- Crossing the Yellow River at night by Ai Zhongxin
- Mao Zedong on Mount Jinggang by Luo Gongliu
- Old man who removed the mountain by Xu Beihong (there are versions in both oil on canvas and ink painting, one of which served as a model for the 36-meter sculpture of the same name found in the Western Hall).
3 - The way of rebirth (first floor)
The permanent exhibition is housed inside the north wing of the first floor (from gallery N1 to N4) The way of rebirth. Starting from the Opium War of 1840, it represents the descent into the suffocating semi-feudal and semi-colonial society, the protest of the suffering populations of all social strata and the efforts of rebirth, in particular the struggles of the Communist Party for liberation and the independence of the various ethnic groups. Taken as a whole, this exhibition aims to visually represent, through sculptures, finds and paintings, the long path to national prosperity and happiness, firmly reaffirming and narrating the choice Marxism the work of the Chinese people, the economic reforms and openness to the outside in recent decades, with the desire to maintain a firm socialist identity. The aim of this exhibition is to provide future generations with inspiration to make their dreams come true.
4 - Selected works of African nature (first floor)
In room N8 on the first floor there are the Selected works of African sculpture. It is a collection of 520 works from Central and Sub-Saharan Africa, donated to the Museum by the collector Xie Yanshen; it includes vases, statues, head ornaments, everyday objects. The aim of the exhibition is to promote cultural exchanges between Africa and China, illustrating the industriousness and at the same time the aesthetic taste of these ancient populations.
5 - Coins of Ancient China (second floor)
Through more than 1700 objects, this permanent exhibition housed in the S11 gallery on the second floor aims to illustrate the long history, culture, art and calligraphy of numismatics in China. Exhibited in this area are the very first instruments of commercial exchange, the first forms of payment: the shells, the knife-shaped coins, the round ones, those with the hole in the center dating back to two thousand years ago, and then the more modern coins of the late Qing dynasty, in bronze and silver.The first coins spread in China during the Zhou dynasty western and spread during the eastern Zhou dynasty, which was already known in the basement. It was Emperor Qin Shihuang of the Qin dynasty who unified the monetary system as early as 200 BC
6 - Buddhist sculpture (second floor)
Il Buddhism was born in India in the sixth century BC and underwent a subsequent great expansion in China. Knowing it through the sculptures means giving a chronological continuity to the transformations that have occurred in the contact between the Chinese population and the Buddhist religion. Indeed, after the spread of this cult in China, Buddhist sculpture has incorporated traditional Chinese elements, which have progressively merged into a real indigenous style. In this area the materials and techniques that have shaped Chinese Buddhist sculpture are on display: it is interesting to observe how they vary from area to area and from period to period. There are the stone carvings of the Qinzhou, the sculptures Bodhisattva, which combines Indian and Chinese styles, as well as bronze figures of Tibetan origin during the Ming dynasty. These works illustrate the evolution of the art of Chinese Buddhist sculpture and promote the understanding of Buddhist philosophy as the realization of a perfect union between religious devotion and aesthetic sense.
7 - Ancient Chinese Jades (second floor)
In room S13 on the second floor is the collection of precious Jades. In ancient dynasties, jade symbolized the quintessence of heaven and earth. More than 80.000 objects composed of this material became part of the Museum's collection in 2010, some are real treasures decorated with a truly elegant hand and sophisticated design. In the period of the Qin and Han dynasties, jade gradually lost its character as a sacred stone, to become more of a lucky charm, an expression of joy.
8 - The art of stone carving of the Song dynasty (third floor)
One of the most important permanent exhibitions of the National Museum of China is housed within the public space on the third floor, which, through the exhibition of truly unique artistic finds, tells step by step the evolution of society, culture, economy and traditional costumes in the period of the two dynasties Song, from about 960 to 1279 AD. The 30 exhibits housed, found inside a tomb in the province of Sichuan, have earned a space of their own due to the originality of the sculptural technique: the figures are carved in relief on stone with a wealth of truly unusual details, al order to give the scenes a strong realism. The main subjects include table scenes, depictions of warriors, deities, female figures through which it is possible to reconstruct the life of the deceased. The female figures, in particular, are very fascinating: some are represented in the act of combing their hair, some at the table, some while playing a musical instrument, all this allows us to understand the liveliness of social life during the Song dynasties.
Hours and prices
- Tuesday to Sunday, 09:00 to 17:00 (entrance closes at 16:30).
- Closing days: every Monday and the eve of the Chinese New Year
- Best time to avoid queues: avoid taking public transport during rush hour, but try to arrive by 10:00 to avoid crowds.
- Free, simply present your passport at the Western Gate.
Useful tips for visiting the attraction
- Get up early: the ideal would be to reach the entrance by 10:00, however try to avoid taking public transport at peak times, so until 09:00 in the morning;
- Minimum time: we advise you to consider a minimum of 3 hours for the visit. The ideal would be to be able to dedicate a day.
- Photography: you can take pictures inside the Museum, the important thing is not to use the flash and the tripod (no, even the selfie stick is not allowed!)
Where is it and how to get there
- On foot: the National Museum Of China is located in Tiananmen Square and, given the size of the city, it is not recommended to walk. (Get directions)
- By busBuses 600 - 9-52 arrive at the Tienanmen East stop, 1 meters from the Museum entrance. Bus 800 stops at the Qianmen stop (in front of Mao Zedong Mausoleum), about 673 meters from the entrance to the Museum. All runs are very frequent, at most every five minutes. The ticket, which can be purchased on board, starts from 2 RMB (about € 0,26) but varies according to the route. It is important to remember to validate the ticket both on ascent and descent! You can also buy a rechargeable called Smart Card, the deposit of which costs 20 RMB (€ 2,64) which are then refunded. Please note: stops are announced in English on only a few bus lines
- By metro: at the Qianmen stop, 800 meters from the entrance to the Museum, you can get there by metro line 2, there are runs every 4 minutes. At the Tienanmen East stop, 600 meters from the entrance to the Museum, you can reach the metro line 1. All runs are very frequent, every 3 minutes. You can always use the Smart Card for tickets, otherwise tickets cost 3 to 9 RMB (€ 0,40 to € 1,20) depending on the route. Tickets can be purchased at the automatic machines of the various stations.
Historical notes and curiosities: what to know in brief
The Museum dedicated to Chinese Revolution, once inside the North Wing, it was inaugurated in 1960, under the rule of Mao. The National Museum of Chinese history, once inside the South Wing, it opened in 1959 and the two remained separate for many decades. Finally, the 2011 renovation aimed at giving greater continuity to the spaces of the Museum, amalgamating the two wings and the collections not only from an architectural but also an ideological point of view, as if to give a unique course to the history of China and to repair in some way the rift that was felt with the transition to communism. Of course, despite the broad scope of the current structure, the renovation wanted to preserve the Chinese architectural tradition, that is, the tripartite form of the structure which is still visible, for example, in the shape of the congress hall.
Due to its centrality, on Tiananmen Square, and its imposing size, the facade of the museum has often been used since the 1997s for the display of clocks that mark the countdowns of important occasions. The first countdown was installed for Hong Kong's passage to China in 2008, and, last in chronological order, for the Beijing Olympics.