Saturday, January 16, 2010

Shanghai Museum

I'm sure I am not alone in thinking Chinese history to be a bit of a muddle. You often hear references to the various dynasties without dates attached, and it doesn't help the layman that it seems every historical movie set in China uses the Forbidden Palace as a set, no matter when the film takes place.

So I was really looking forward to a trip to the Shanghai Museum, and its vast collection of art and historical objects covering 5,000 years of Chinese history. We started in the statuary section, tracing Buddhist art from its inception through to the mid 1700s or so. It was great to see both how the Chinese styles changed and how those styles influenced Japan.

The coinage area was also quite fascinating, covering the evolution of money throughout Chinese history. I also really enjoyed the exhibit about the Silk Road, and the mixture of cultures and religions that made up the cities and communities lying between Europe and Asia.

Overall I came away from the Shanghai Museum highly impressed. While it lacks the imperialistic breadth of the Louvre or the British Museum it makes up for that by its excellent collections and focus, as well as its strong English Signage. Also, its easy to see much of the museum in one visit, and that certainly can't be said for the Louvre!


Mia said...

Chinese history is too vast for a single museum but the best collection is probably in the National Palace Museum in Taiwan. That rivals the Louvre any day. When Chiang Kaishek left China his people stole most of the country's art and treasures and took them to Taiwan. The collection is so large that they only show something like 1% at a time.

Travelingrant said...

Wow, that sounds like a good place to go. I've been pondering a visit to Taiwan anyway, I'll have to put that on my list.