China museums

Tracing the Tracks of History

Changsha Mawangdui Han Tomb Cultural Relics Exhibition Hall









National Museum of China

National Museum of China

The main gate of the National Museum of China.

The National Museum of China is located on the east side of Tian'an Men Square in Beijing. It is the largest comprehensive history museum in China. Through display of both material and non-material collections and exhibits, it narrates the history created by the ancestors of the Chinese people.

The National Museum is built on the twin foundations of the former China History Museum and the former China Revolutionary Museum in 2003. The new museum is currently undergoing expansion. It has extremely rich collections and the excellence of its exhibits and depth of its research are second to none.

A seismograph model

A seismograph model

China Ancient History Section

The National Museum holds the country's most important historical objects. Through China's History Exhibition, these are shown to visitors from both inside and outside China, to display the long history and shining civilization of the Chinese people. At the same time, the museum undertakes education projects, archaeological excavations and scientific research.

The earliest items on display here are the teeth of Yuanmou Man from Yunnan Province, dating back some 1,700,000 years. The most recent are historical artifacts from Xinhai Revolution of 1911.

The Early Society Exhibition starts with ancient inhabitants (around 1,700,000 years ago to 10,000 years ago), then clan society (around 10,000 years ago to 5,000 years ago) and the dawn of civilization (around 5000 to 4000 years ago). In :he ancient inhabitants' section you can see China's earliest 'sapiens' called Yuanmou Man, the slightly later Lantian Man, Beijing Man, Jinniushan Man, and also Shandingdong Man. The last had already entered the homo sapiens period. These ancestors wrote the first page in the chapter of China's history. Stone tools that they created, the seeds they collected, bones of the animals that they hunted are all documented in the exhibition cases. The bone-made needle and the teeth and shells that the Shandingdong Man used for jewelry indicate that by his time, mankind had already begun to sew clothing and have an awareness of aesthetics.

From around 10,000 years ago, mankind began to polish stone tools, make ceramics, weave cloth, and engage in other handicrafts production. The distribution of clans also began to be more widespread. In the exhibit, rice kernels from some 5,000 years ago, bone implements of some 7,000 years ago, and the model of a matriarchal village unearthed in Shaanxi Province from some 6,000 years ago can be seen. From around 5,000 years ago, agricultural techniques were well advanced and besides being able to provide for his own basic needs, man was able to produce a certain surplus. This led to a system of private ownership and the development of classes. At this time, special handicraft industries appeared, also the rudiments of writing, cultural arts and religion. In the exhibits, one can see important ritual implements of the period made from stone and jade.

Ading with the shape of the big broad-mouthed receptacle of the Western Zhou dynasty A Four-sheep zun of the Shang dynasty.
Ading with the shape of the big broad-mouthed receptacle of the Western Zhou dynasty unearthed in Mei County,Shaanxi Province
A Four-sheep zun of the Shang dynasty.

The slave society was mankind's first class society in history. This period is divided in the exhibition into Xia, Shang, Western Zhou, and Spring and Autumn periods and one that covers all tribes from Xia to Spring and Autumn.

The Xia Dynasty was the first kingdom in Chinese history. Its center of ruling power was the northern part of what is today Henan and the southern part of Shanxi provinces. The Bronze jue excavated from Yanshi in Henan, and the ceramic cup and so on indicate that agriculture was a primary economic activity in the Xia period, while the manufacture of bronzes was already quite developed.

The Shang period was a glorious time of Chinese bronze development. Craftsmen were able to cast very complex shapes and to create highly refined and beautiful inscriptions and ornamentation. The heaviest bronze piece discovered to date is on exhibit here; called the'Simuwu Ding,' which weighs 832.84 kilograms. A four-ram 'zun and other representative Shang dynasty bronzes are on display. In addition to bronzes, the manufacture of ceramics, lacquer-making, weaving, jade carving and so on also achieved a certain level of accomplishment. The early?porcelain zun excavated at Zhengzhou in Henan is one of the earliest pieces of porcelain found in China to date. Another notable achievement of the Shang dynasty is the ancient script known as jiaguwen, or ancient writing on the shoulder?blade bones of oxen and the front plates of tortoises. This writing began the construction of the basic shapes that later developed into 'Han characters.

Chinese bronze-making technology flourished during the Western Zhou period, following the Shang. In terms of political organization, China followed a system of divided feudal authority, and a severe system of rites and also punishments was instituted. The ceremonies or rites were used to moderate relations within the ruling class, the system of punishments was used to control and oppress commoners and slaves. Items on display give evidence of these things.

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