Diversity in History

On April 23, 2012, in Beijing, Historical Relics, Museums, by Jack Li

To escape the springtime heat and falling pollen (for hay fever sufferers) on your travel to Beijing, there is always the National Museum of China to try out. This building is directly opposite The Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square and houses some of the best artwork and historical relics the country has to offer. What’s more, admission is free but due to the significance of the place; ensure that you bring your passport in order to enter. Queues aren’t too much of an issue as there are plenty of security inspectors on hand. Be sure not to take food and drink into the museum (there is a café and food stalls inside) and avoid using flash on your camera in the exhibits where picture-taking is allowed. Tiananmen East on Line 1 is the nearest subway station and there are many Beijing hotels in relatively close proximity.

The museum formed in 2003 and is the product of two predecessor museums (the Museum of the Chinese Revolution and the National Museum of Chinese History). After which the museum closed for four years and reopened in 2011 with twenty-eight new exhibition halls. The scale of the building (191,900 square meters) means that you could spend a whole day there (or in any case, you could just go to the parts you’re interested in). These facts alone should, hopefully, be reason enough to go and experience the grandeur of the building and its vast collections.

The historical content found at the museum encompasses topics ranging from; prehistoric man in China (the ‘Peking Man’), Neolithic China and all the way through to the dynastic periods. Within this historical timeline, various themes are encountered which highlight the amazing diversity in China’s history. In particular, the prevalence of ceramics is a running theme throughout the historical exhibits. The designs and production of the pottery, for one, are a remarkable indication of the society’s progression down the ages. Even the usage of the numerous ceramic containers reflects the sharing culture in which China adopted thousands of years ago and has continued ever since.

Nevertheless, the exhibits convey an important message insofar as China’s history is multi-layered and colourful. Indeed, sections of the museum which can be highly recommended to view include reading about the country’s unification, international trade, ethnic groups and social reforms. These topics are all extremely thought-provoking and complement China’s historical diversity. Notes, maps and general information pertaining to the infamous Chinese explorer, Zheng He, are available to read. Amongst other things, Zheng He, was noted for sailing as far as Africa in the 15th century! Another particularly interesting aspect which one exhibit draws upon is the prominence gender; with both male and female figures represented (such as a display of figures of ancient female polo players).

To truly appreciate China, then reading about its history might be a good place to start, and the descriptions in the museum can provide a basic overview as they  are written in a concise manner in both Chinese and English. If anything, rather than reading, the majority of your time will most likely be spent by staring at some of the incredible artifacts such as depictions of emperors and jade-fashioned items or a couple of superb terracotta warriors (if you are not going to travel to Xi’an but are considering Beijing flights).




Jack Li

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