World ? Asia ? China

China: The Best Museums

  • Hong Kong Museum of History (Hong Kong): A life-size diorama of a Neolithic settlement, replicas of fishing boats and traditional houses, ethnic clothing, displays of colorful festivals, and whole streets of old shop frontages with their interiors removed piece by piece and rebuilt here, make this the most entertaining museum in China.

  • Shanxi Lishi Bowuguan (Xi'an): If you can visit only one museum in China, this should be it. An unrivaled collection of treasures, many demonstrating Xi'an's international contacts via the Silk Routes, is more professionally displayed here than almost anywhere else in the mainland.

  • Sanxing Dui Bowuguan (Chengdu): An attractive and well-laid-out museum housing items from a group of sacrificial pits, this is one of the most significant finds in 20th-century China.

  • Shanghai Bowuguan (Shanghai): In terms of display and English labeling, this ultramodern museum (lights fade as you approach cabinets), loaded with stunning antiquities, is China's most modern and inviting.

  • Nanjing Datusha Jinianguan (Nanjing): The deaths of over 300,000 Chinese, killed over the course of 6 weeks during the 1937 Japanese invasion of Nanjing, are commemorated here. Photographs and artifacts documenting the Japanese onslaught, the atrocities suffered, and the aftermath, are sobering, grisly, and shockingly effective.

  • Wang Anting Xiaoxiao Zhanlanguan (Chengdu): Located in a narrow lane west of the main town square, this small, one-of-a-kind museum contains tens of thousands of Mao pins, Cultural Revolution memorabilia, and vintage photographs. The museum occupies the living room of its devoted proprietor.

  • Quanzhou Taiwan Friendship Museum (Quanzhou): Although the Minnan design of this building is impressive, the real reason that I recommend it is to see how ridiculous (and increasingly frightening and dangerous) propaganda concerning Taiwan has become in the last few years. To paraphrase Rich Hall, in showpieces like this, China is somewhat like a beauty contestant, absolutely gorgeous until it opens its mouth.

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