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New series on the treasures of China

SHANGHAI Museum in People's Square is a treasure trove of history, attracting thousands of visitors every day.

Founded in 1952, the museum has built an enormous collection of more than 120,000 antiques and rare artworks - from ancient bronzes, ceramics, calligraphy, paintings and sculptures to furniture, jade and ivory carvings, seals, coins and minority arts.

The museum was relocated to its current building in 1996 and its unique architecture resembles ding ?? a bronze tripod used 2,000 years ago as a ritual object. Its circular roof and square base echo the ancient Chinese belief that the sky is round and the earth is square.

The landmark building has a floor space of 39,200 square meters on five floors and one underground level. A glass dome allows sunlight into the atrium in the center of the building, giving the interior a natural and airy feel. The decor reflects a combination of traditional Chinese art and modern structure. The hall banisters are fashioned like coiling dragons with golden heads derived from a Shang Dynasty (c. 16th century-11th century BC) bronze motif.

The museum has 11 permanent galleries for exhibitions of items such as bronzes, ceramics, calligraphy and paintings, sculptures and furniture. All the exhibits are masterpieces selected from the vault of priceless items but they represent just one tenth of the museum's total collection.

Shanghai Museum is especially well-known for its collection of bronze pieces. The 1,200-square-meter bronze gallery displays about 400 rare vessels, weapons, tools, mirrors and drums dating from the Xia Dynasty (c. 21st century-16th century BC) to the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220).

Starting from next week, Now and Then will highlight showpieces in the museum through the story of objects in a new column called "Gems of Shanghai Museum" to aid readers' understanding and provide insight into ancient Chinese civilization.


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