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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Masterpieces of the National Museum of China

National Museum of China

Masterpieces of the National Museum of China

The National Museum of China covers Chinese history from the Yuanmou Man of 1.7 million years ago to the end of the Qing Dynasty, the last imperial dynasty in Chinese history. It has a collection of over 1 million objects with many rare artefacts not to be found in museums anywhere else in the world.

Among the many historical and cultural objects in The National Museum of China, the following are highlights:

    • The Jade Burial Suit is a ceremonial suit made of pieces of jade in which royal members in Han dynasty China were buried. This Jade shroud was for Liu Xiu, King of Zhongshan. The pieces of jade are mostly rectangular or square and joined using gold wire threaded through small holes drilled near the corners of each piece. The type of wire used was dependent on the status of the person buried. The jade burial suits of emperors used gold thread; princes, princesses, dukes, and marquises, silver thread; sons or daughters of those given silver thread, copper thread; and lesser aristocrats, silk thread, with all others being forbidden to be buried in jade burial suits.

    • “The Portraits of Periodical Offering” is an official historical print with the portraits of ambassadors to the imperial court of China lined up to pay tribute with gifts. The Chinese phrase roughly translated to “duty offering pictorial”. The description of each ambassador is set at the back of the figures. Throughout Chinese history, kingdoms and tribes conquered by Chinese forces were required to send ambassadors to the imperial court of China. This print with descriptions was used to record the expression of these ambassadors and to show the cultural aspects of the ethnic group represented in the drawing. These historical descriptions became the equivalent of documents of diplomatic relations with each country. The illustrations were reproduced in woodblock printing and distributed among the bureaucracy in albums.

  • Houmuwu Ding
    • “The Houmuwu Ding” is a massive bronze sacrificial vessel from 3,000 years ago. The term “Ding” refers to a sacrificial vessel, and this one is a common type of Chinese ritual bronzes of the ancient Chinese Shang dynasty. It is the largest piece of bronze work found anywhere in the ancient world. This Ding’s named is based on the inscription in the bronze interior wall, which reads Hòumǔwù, meaning “Queen Mother Wu”.

Ancient Chinese Proverbs

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“While you are bargaining, conceal your coin.”

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“Watch over workers at their labours, not their meals.”

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“If Heaven made someone, the earth can find some use for them.”

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“A good teacher. . . better than a barrowful of books.”

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“I heard” is good; “I saw” is better.

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“Dogs have no prejudice against the poor.”

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“No horse can wear two saddles.”

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“No guests at home, no hosts abroad.”

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“We can study until old age. . . and still not finish.”

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“Many a good face under a ragged hat.”

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“Teachers open the door; you enter by yourself.”
– Chinese proverbs

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Photo Credit: By Daniel Case (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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