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Chinese Museum & Library

Introduction to Museums and the Protection of Cultural Relics

China, home to one of the world's most ancient civilizations, abounds in cultural relics, from ancient tombs and mausoleums, ancient architecture, grottoes and stone carvings to revolutionary sites and memorials to valuable ancient art works, handicrafts, historical documents, and books. During a period lasting more than a hundred years before 1949, a large number of precious cultural relics were stolen and taken out of the country. Much ancient architecture was damaged or even destroyed by the forces of nature and man, and many ancient tombs and mausoleums near Luoyang and Xi'an were looted. After 1949, China promulgated the "Order Prohibiting the Export of Valuable Cultural Relics" and issued a series of directives and measures toward collecting revolutionary cultural relics, protecting ancient architecture and archeological excavations. Departments in charge of the administration and protection of cultural relics were set up at the central and local levels. At the end of 1982, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress published the "Law on the Protection of Cultural Artifacts, Sites and Art Objects." The law contains clear-cut provisions on the designation of historical sites and monuments for protection, on punishments for damage to cultural relics, the export of artifacts and art objects, and archeological excavation.


Important artifacts, sites and art objects are protected at different major administrative levels according to their value, e.g. historical monuments and cultural relics under protection at the state level, those under protection at the provincial or equivalent level, and those under protection at the county (or city) level. Cities of historical or revolutionary importance are designated historic cities by the state. Currently, China has more than 500 historical monuments and cultural relics under state protection, including the Tiananmen Gate in Beijing; Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, Gansu; the Badaling section of the Great Wall in Beijing; the Potala Palace in Lhasa; the "Peking Man" archeological site at Zhoukoudian in Beijing; Qufu, the former capital city of the ancient state of Lu in Shandong; the Yellow Emperor's mausoleum at Huangling in Shaanxi; and Emperor Qin Shi Huang's mausoleum in Lintong, Shaanxi. More than 5,000 treasures are protected at the provincial or equivalent level and more than 10,000 historical monuments and cultural relics are protected at the county or equivalent level. In addition 99 cities have been designated historic cities.


China's profusion of historical monuments and cultural relics has stimulated the development of its museums. By the end of 1995, China had increased its museums from 21 in 1949 to 1,194. Some of China's museums are particularly famous. The Palace Museum, located in the heart of Beijing, is the largest and oldest national museum in China. It specializes in the preservation, study and exhibition of the Ming and Qing imperial palace and the palace treasures and other traditional arts and crafts collected therein. The Museum of Chinese History, located in Beijing, on the east side of Tiananmen Square, provides a general survey of Chinese history from ancient to modern times. The museum collects and preserves historical materials, holds exhibitions and engages in research. The Museum of Qin Shi Huang's Buried Legions, on the east side of the Qin emperor's mausoleum in Lintong County, Shaanxi, is the largest display of ancient military arts in China. More than 1,000 lifelike terracotta figurines of warriors and horses, each with its own individualized features and vivid expression, remain today as evidence of the skills of ancient artisans. The Hemudu Archeological Site Museum, located in Hemudu Town, Yuyao County, in Zhejiang offers a vast array of highly prized Neolithic artifacts, including ivory carvings, lacquerware and pottery. The museum building itself is in the shape of a bird with outspread wings, in an echo of the Hemudu culture's worship of an avian totem, a celebration of South China's prehistoric civilization of 7,000 years ago.


Libraries in China can be categorized according to their administrative superiors, such as university or college libraries, scientific research institution libraries and those attached to government institutions, trade unions, factories, secondary or primary schools, or other organizations. In 1995, China had 2,615 public libraries housing 330 million volumes. These include national libraries, libraries at the provincial or equivalent level, and libraries at the prefectural or equivalent level and those at the county level.

Beijing Library (or the National Library of China) opened to the public in 1912 as the successor to the Metropolitan Library founded late in the Qing Dynasty. Completed at the end of the l980s, the newly constructed National Library of China is located to the north of the Purple Bamboo Park in western Beijing. The huge complex, the second largest library in the world after the Library of Congress in the United States, occupies 142,000 square meters. Acquisitions, for the most part, come from donations by local governments, purchases, individual contributions, state allocations or through international book exchanges. The library's collection consists of more than 19 million books, including ancient books and records in more than 20 national minority languages and hundreds of thousands of rare editions. In addition to Chinese publications it collects foreign publications in 115 languages, principally English, Russian, Japanese, and German.

China's most famous university library is the Beijing University Library with its collection in excess of 4.5 million volumes. The libraries of Zhongshan University, Nanjing University, Chinese People's University and Beijing Teachers University each has upwards of two million copies. Libraries in scientific research institutions are organized in terms of their specialized discipline. The Chinese Academy of Sciences Library in Beijing has a collection of over six million volumes and has become the national center for scientific information. The All-China Federation of Trade Unions Library and trade union libraries of provinces, centrally administered municipalities and autonomous regions have fairly substantial book collections.


Cultural Exchange with Foreign Countries

Cultural exchanges with other countries are an integral part of China's relations with the world. On the eve of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, a theatrical troupe was sent abroad. Since this modest beginning, the nation's activities in the sphere of cultural exchange have developed rapidly. In 1951 China signed its first agreements with other countries to promote cultural cooperation and plan for specific cultural exchanges. Since the introduction of the policy of reform and opening to the outside world in 1979, cultural exchange has been stepped up enabling China's activities in this sphere to rise to a new height. As of 1995, China had signed agreements with 133 countries affirming cultural cooperation, and had close cultural relations with more than 160 countries and regions. The phrase "cultural exchange" describes communication in a variety of fields including culture, arts, education, sports, science, public health, journalism, publishing, and archeology, religion, broadcasting as well as exchanges of books between museums and involving young people. Chinese troupes performing Peking opera; acrobatics, song and dance, traditional music and local operas and exhibitions of artifacts, paintings, sculpture and arts and crafts have been greeted with great enthusiasm by friends all over the world. Peking opera in particular seems to fascinate many audiences with its brilliant blending of singing, dancing, acrobatics and music. China's movies, acrobatics, singing and dance have all won prizes in international competitions. Artists from abroad have likewise frequently performed and exhibited to appreciative audience in China. China's stages have been graced by the works of world-famous composers played by celebrated symphonies from all round the world, as well as classical and modern dance, theater, ballet and folk music. Moreover, the Chinese people can now enjoy many critically acclaimed foreign films. Art exhibitions have also been well received. In 1995 alone, the Chinese government sent 13 cultural delegations and teams of cultural officials to visit over 20 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. Meanwhile, cultural delegations and teams of cultural officials visited China from 20-some countries. Outstanding achievements have been made in multi lateral cultural exchanges. In the same year China sent nearly 200 people in 30 groups to take part in international art competitions, including acrobatics, ballet, singing and music performances. They won six gold, three silver, five bronze and 12 special medals. Non-governmental cultural exchanges are very active; non-governmental cultural exchange items account for 93 percent and 91 percent respectively of Chinese performances and exhibitions abroad, and over 90 percent of visiting art performances and exhibitions.

As China opens wider and wider toward the outside world, cultural exchanges with other countries will certainly increase in number and variety. In recent years, potpourris of international folk art activities are to be found all over China, attracting thousands of foreigners and artists. These include, to name a few, the first, second and third international folk art festivals in 1990, 1992 and 1994, respectively, and the annual Weifang International Kite Festival, '94 Sichuan International Folk Art Festival, '94 Shenyang International Yangge Festival, Second Shanghai International Film Festival and the Second Chinese Quyi Festival held in 1995. Activities such as these can only help to promote understanding and friendship between the Chinese and the rest of people sharing the earth.


Please view the list of famous Chinese Museum below
1. The Palace Museum
2. Beijing Museum of Natural History
3. Beijing Planetarium
4. Chengdu Panda Museum
5. WeiFang Kite Museum
6. The Museum of the Hemudu Site
7. National Museum of History
8. National Museum of Natural Science
9. Shanghai Museum
10. Nanjing Museum
11. Law Uk Folk Museum
12. The Capital Museum
13. The mausoleum of the second Nanyue King
14. The Museum of the Terracotta Army
15. Shaanxi History Museum
16. Yunnan Minorities Museum
17. The China Tea Museum
18. The National Museum of China
19. China Lantern Museum
20. Zigong Dinosaur Museum


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