National Museum of China

Today I took a few of visitors to newly renovated National Museum of China in Tiananmen.  The museum, running 300-meter-long along the eastern side of the Square, used to house the Museum of Chinese Revolution and the National Museum of Chinese History.

 After a decade, it was finally opened this April.  It’s free.  Despite of the rain, the queue snaked long.  Stepping into the massive hall, it felt like inside a modern airport.  The government spent $400 million to make it the state-of-art museum and the largest in the world.  My visitors, one French and two English, were interested in contemporary China.  So I took them to the exhibition “The Road of Rejuvenation” about history from the Opium War in 1984 to present day.

 The early part talks about the miserable condition China was in and the suffering at the hands of the imperialists.  The exhibition emphasizes so much on the glorious achievement of the Chinese Communist Party, with little mention of the mistakes it made.  Cultural Revolution is reduced to one photo, showing the Red Guards gathering at Tiananmen to be reviewed by Chairman Mao.  The next picture shows the Chinese leaders standing on top of Tiananmen Gate, smiling – the ‘Gang of Four’ has been overthrown and the night was over.

 There was hardly any mention of 1989.  There’s interactive stuff about the train to Tibet and the cowboy hat Deng Xiaopeng wore when he visited US.

 It’s not a museum but propaganda.

 In the visitor’s book, next to the uplifting messages such as ‘Glory to China’ and ‘Wish my motherland stay strong forever’, one of my friend wrote: “What happened between 1966 to 1976?’

 

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5 thoughts on “National Museum of China

  1. I was with Lijia at the Museum (I am the “French”) and besides the omission of cultural revolution and of the 1989 events, there no mention of the great Chinese famine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Chinese_Famine, It is very logical.
    What I found very bizarre is the nationalist insistence on the foreign fault on chinese early problem that end up lowering the faults of the empire and feudal system.
    Another big omission is the own chinese colonialist behavior in Tibet, Xinjiang. My conclusion is that the museum is more about nationalist propaganda than communist propaganda.

  2. Interesting description, and one that corresponds to other accounts I’ve heard. I guess the most you can say is that it’s amusing to look at what is — and isn’t — there. When I take my students there next week, I’ll let you know what I thought.

  3. I enjoyed this description. My son was also visiting that day with Lijia and told me how fascinating he found it. I just read that there has been no public celebration of Sun Yat Sen’s revolution just 100 years ago. Does that figure in the museum?

  4. I took my students to the museum two weeks ago on a Saturday. We arrived at the museum at 3:00, and I assumed they would have a couple of hours to see the museum. We then discovered that the museum would be cleared at 4:00 because of a Bulgari fashion show. First Louis Vuitton, now this. What in the hell is going on here? Is this a history museum or a rental fashion venue???

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