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The Shanghai Museum: 5,000 years of Chinese history

With more than 120,000 first-class artefacts of national importance, the Shanghai Museum is a top attraction. The unparalleled collection, representing 5,000 years of Chinese art history, includes everything from ritual bronzes and early paintings to porcelain from the Yuan dynasty and calligraphy art. There are so many items on display that it will take you at least a day to see only a small part of the collection.

With almost 40,000 square metres of exhibit space spread out over 11 rooms, this museum can be quite overwhelming. Travel through time as you admire art from various Chinese dynasties, from every corner of the country. The collection of bronzes and calligraphy are world renowned for their sophistication. If your time is limited, then focus your visit on just one of these exhibit rooms.

The Shanghai Museum at the People's Square
The Shanghai Museum at the People's Square


Top collections of bronzes, calligraphy and ceramics

The museum’s collections of bronze artefacts, calligraphy and ceramics are world-class. The bronzes – treasures from the Shang and Zhou dynasties – are approximately 3,500 years old. Household items, such as three-legged cauldrons, bowls and clocks are often decorated with animals. Calligraphy, an art form where Chinese characters are written with a brush, also dates back to the Shang dynasty. The oldest known calligraphy is engraved in bone. The collection of antique ceramics ranges from Stone Age pots and green-grey glazed vases to white porcelain statues from the Ming dynasty. Take a break at the museum’s tea house and visit the museum store to buy replicas of the beautiful collection pieces. Just keep in mind that the porcelain items are very fragile so pack them carefully for your flight home.

The museum in the early evening light

A comprehensive museum

Over the years, the Shanghai Museum has greatly expanded its collection. Since the museum first opened in 1952, it has already moved twice after running out of space. Construction of the current museum building at the People’s Square in the heart of the city began in 1993. Three years later the museum was inaugurated. To emphasize its comprehensive collection, the museum’s building consists of a square base with a round upper part. According to traditional Chinese philosophy, the square shape represents the earth and the circle symbolizes heaven.

Photo credits

  • The museum in the early evening light: Songquan Deng , 123rf