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February 10, 2010

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Shanghai Museum mirrors history

THE Shanghai Museum is a leading repository of Chinese civilization, with a trove of 120,000 cultural relics covering 5,000 years of history and revealing the ingenuity and creativity of a nation.

Its collection of bronzes is considered one of the finest in the world.

The museum in the center of People's Square surrounds visitors with artifacts demonstrating ancient wisdom and philosophy. The exterior design of a round dome and the square base symbolize the ancient concept of a round heaven and a square earth.

Founded in December 1952, the museum was originally at 325 Nanjing Road W., site of the old Shanghai Horse Racing Club building. Now it is the Shanghai Art Museum.

Under Marshal Chen Yi, first mayor of Shanghai after the founding of New China in 1949, additional museum funds were allocated for purchases from antique dealers and private collectors. Thus, the museum was able to build up its bronze collection, which is known internationally.

The Shanghai Museum is divided into 11 galleries and three exhibition halls. The galleries include ancient bronzes, ceramics, paintings, calligraphy, sculpture, jade, coins, Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties furniture, seals and minority nationalities.

The gallery of bronzes exhibits about 440 relics, including wine vessels, food vessels, water containers, musical instruments and weapons. Some are distinctively shaped and beautifully decorated, bearing inscriptions.

The gallery of ancient calligraphy exhibits specimens of original writing by important figures. Chinese calligraphy dates back to the Shang Dynasty (16th-11th century BC) and matured in the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-221 BC).

Official script was popular in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), while cursive script, regular script and running hand emerged during the Wei (AD 220-265) and Jin (AD 265-420) periods. The latter three reached their peak in the Tang (AD 618-907) and Song dynasties (960-1279).

About 100 essential pieces of calligraphy are displayed.

Ancient ceramics include more than 500 pieces from Neolithic times to the end of the Qing Dynasty. Many are of the finest quality from famous kilns. Some are very rare and have never been exhibited elsewhere.

Ancient jades include more than 400 pieces. The pinnacle of jade art was in the Shang Dynasty. After the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220) technique declined. In the Tang and Song dynasties, jades were more common in daily than in imperial lives.

The minority arts and crafts gallery displays around 600 items, including clothing, jewelry, embroidery, textiles, metal ware and ceramics.

The gallery of ancient coins is said to be the largest and most complete exhibition of Chinese coins. It displays 7,000 pieces, including bronze, gold, silver, black copper and iron, as well as foreign coins that were widely circulated in China.

The gallery of ancient paints features around 140 masterpieces of various styles.

More than 500 seals are displayed, some going back to the Zhou Dynasty. They represent only a fraction of the 10,000 pieces owned by the museum.

Hours: Daily, 9am-5pm (No admission after 4pm)

Address: 201 People's Ave

Tel: 6372-3500

How to get there: Bus 574, 112, 123, 71, 934, 145, 46


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