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Arts and Culture, Cultural Institutions

Nanjing Museum, Shanghai Library, Shanghai Museum, Chinese Revolution, century writer

China’s major cultural institutions are in its largest cities. Every provincial capital has a museum and a library, as well as sites of historical or cultural importance.

Beijing is home to China’s largest museum, the Palace Museum. Housed in the Forbidden City, the former residence of the imperial family and court, the museum contains part of the vast imperial collection of artworks. It also mounts exhibitions of important archaeological discoveries from elsewhere in China. Also in Beijing are the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, the Museum of Chinese History, the China Art Gallery, and the Museum of Natural History. Beijing’s Museum of the Chinese Revolution contains collections relating to modern Chinese history, and the Capital Museum houses historical relics including stoneware, bronzes, and calligraphy.

Shanghai also plays a leading cultural role in China. The city is home to the Shanghai Museum, which contains one of China’s most important historic art collections; the Museum of Natural Sciences; and the museum of the Tomb of Lu Xun (Lu Xun was a 20th-century writer). Numerous buildings in Shanghai are preserved as historic sites. Among them is the site of the First National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.

China’s many provincial museums contain important archaeological materials discovered since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949. The Nanjing Museum in Jiangsu Province and the Shaanxi Provincial Museum in Xi’an are particularly renowned for their collections of archaeological treasures. Most major archaeological sites have museums attached to them. One of the most important sites is the tomb of Chinese emperor Qin Shihuangdi, located just outside Xi’an in Shaanxi Province. Excavations of the tomb have yielded a terra-cotta army of more than 6,000 life-size figures, buried with the emperor upon his death in 210 bc.

Archaeological sites and important historic buildings are protected by government regulations, although illegal excavation of China’s cultural heritage has remained a problem. China’s museums and other cultural institutions are very important to the country’s developing tourism industry. Economic reforms in China since the 1970s have made it more necessary for these institutions to raise funds to support their own activities. Many have done so by organizing exhibitions of their treasures outside of China; these exhibitions have brought China’s artistic and cultural heritage to an international audience.

Important libraries in China include Beijing Library, containing China’s largest collection of ancient and modern books, and the Shanghai Library. The First Historical Archives of China, in Beijing, houses historical records from China’s imperial dynasties.



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