Ancient cultures showcased in modern Shanghai Museum

It’s hard for Americans to comprehend old, as in 8,000 centuries ago, when our country hasn’t yet reached the three century mark.  If you can stretch your imagination back to really ancient times the Shanghai Museum provides a fascinating glimpse into China’s history.  It’s a history of cultural development that reached beyond China’s borders to influence world societies, making the museum the most notable cultural institution in the city and one of the best museums in China.

Established in 1952, the museum was relocated twice before finding a permanent home in 1996 south of the centrally located People’s Plaza.  Beautifully contemporary in style, the museum combines modern architecture with China’s traditional culture.  It features a round roof and square base, symbol of ancient Chinese philosophy that a round sky hangs above the square earth.

Each level of the four-story structure builds upon the others forming a unique alternating black and white geometric design from floor to ceiling. A brilliant light pattern inside resembles stars shining from floor to ceiling. New buildings that define the Shanghai skyline form a fitting backdrop for this modern structure.  Care and attention has been given to the grounds, which are beautifully landscaped with colorful flowers.

Shanghai Museum

Jade ornament

With a collection of over 120,000 pieces of cultural relics, the museum is especially famous for its precious collections of bronzes and features a detailed exhibit showing the complex process of creating bronze.  Considered an important symbol of the Chinese ancient civilization, bronze ware indicates the advanced culture China had achieved centuries ago.

Rare ceramics and many pieces from famous porcelain making kilns are displayed in the Gallery of Ancient Chinese Ceramics. Eleven galleries and three special exhibit halls feature prized paintings, sculpture, furniture, and calligraphy.  Pottery, costumes, coins, silk screens, and other valuable cultural artifacts chronicle civilizations dating back thousands of years.

Shanghai Museum

Da Ke Ding (food container)

Allow at least one and a half hours for a visit to the Shanghai Museum, longer  if you wish to sip tea in the tearoom or wander through the gift shop, library or garden.  Tickets are about $2.50 USD, or you can purchase an admission for about $7.50 that includes an electronic tour guide with number codes for exhibits that have a recorded explanation.  The museum is open daily.

Photos courtesy of Shanghai Museum and

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