Interested in arts and culture in Beijing? Quite a few things for you to see. My absolute favorite is the 798 area, but if you prefer the more organized museums and wondering around large structures with exhibition halls, then Beijing offers a number of large scale museums, arguably the best in China. In my last visit to Beijing, I made it my business to visit two of those museums to get a sense of the local museum culture. Though I honestly can’t say that those did much for me, they do offer visitors a variety of the local arts and crafts and might prove interesting to those who are more knowledgeable about such matter than I am.
We’ll start with the National Art Museum of China near the Wang Fu Jing area…
Here’s a bit from the official website :
The National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) is a national museum dedicated to the collection, research and exhibitions of modern and contemporary artistic works in China. In June 1963, Chairman Mao Zedong inscribed the Chinese-language title board of the museum, which demonstrated its position as a national art museum and the nature of its establishment. The main building features the styles of ancient Chinese attics and ethnic architecture, which is roofed with yellow glazed tiles and surrounded by corridors and pavilions.
The building covers an area of more than 18,000 square meters with 17 exhibition halls from the first floor to the fifth. The museum boasts an exhibition area of 8,300 square meters and a length of 2,110 meters. Nine halls on the first floor cover an area of 5,100 square meters and a length of 1,400 meters; five halls on the third floor have an area of 2,000 square meters and a length of 429 meters, and three halls on the fifth floor cover an area of 1,200 square meters and a length of 235 meters. A modern storeroom founded in 1995 covers an area of 4,100 square meters.
The museum houses more than 100,000 pieces of various collections, most of which are creations around the establishment of new China. Some collections are masterpieces from the late Ming Dynasty, the Qing Dynasty and the early Republic of China. Most collections are modern and contemporary works, including masterpieces of renowned contemporary Chinese artists, award-winning works from major art exhibitions, and various folk works. Included are such painters as Ren Bonian, Wu Changshuo, Huang Binhong, Qi Baishi, Xu Beihong, Jiang Zhaohe, Situ Qiao, Li Keran, Wu Zuoren, Ye Qianyu, Luo Gongliu and Wu Guanzhong. The museum also collects hundreds of foreign artistic works. German collectors Mr. and Mrs. Peter Ludwig donated 117 pieces of foreign works in 1999, including four oil paintings by Picasso.
Though there’s lots to see, here are a few of the art works that I found somewhat intriguing…
I’d say that’s more contemporary, but – definitely – there are lots of more classical and traditional art pieces in there, if that’s your thing.
Not too far away in the Wang Fu Jing area is this lovely European cathedral – St. Joseph’s Church with over a hundred years in the current location, but dating back to the mid 17th century. I bet you didn’t know Christianity made it to China that early. I certainly didn’t.
Moving on to the National Museum of China near the Tiananmen Square, classified as one of the largest museums in the world. Yes yes.
Here’s a bit from the Travel China Guide :
The National Museum of China sits to the east of Tiananmen Square and south of East Chang’an Street, opposite to the Great Hall of the People. Finished at the same time, The National Museum of China and The Great Hall of the People were both among the "Ten Great Constructions" completed for the 10th birthday of the PRC.
The National Museum is devoted to display of treasured collections in form of various thematic exhibitions, such as the Arts of bronze, porcelain, jade, Chinese calligraphy and paintings, Buddhist statues, Ming & Qing furniture, coins, etc in ancient China; to display feature culture relics, significant archeological discoveries and ethnic culture and folk customs in the form of exchanges and cooperation with local museums; to display different civilizations and artistic creations in the world in the form of loan and exchange exhibitions. There are temporary exhibition halls to display modern art.
The National Museum of China houses the most cherished and topmost level cultural relics of the whole nation, which can be seen in history schoolbook. The oldest exhibit is the teeth of Yuanmou Man 1.7 million years ago.
Teeth from 1.7 million years ago, there’s not much that can beat that.
More ? you got it…
To be completely honest, I didn’t stay long. The size of this building is overwhelming, and museums like these tend to blur my senses and numb my soul. I feel far more comfortable in the nearby Hutongs than next to historical artifacts with national propaganda writings in half-broken English. But I do applaud the effort. If I were a local, I would be… proud?
If you’re already in the area, not too far away is the…
Yep, Tiananmen Square, with the cute and handsome Mao overlooking the uprising center of the world. Everything has so much potential. Yeah, even the Beijing museums.