Shanghai Museum: China’s best museum

Posted On February 16, 2011 

Nestled in the heart of the city in the People’s Square and recognized as the China’s best museum, the Shanghai Museum is the home of the ancient Chinese art collections. It boasts 2 special exhibition halls, 11 state-of-the-art galleries, and a roomy cylindrical atrium on its four floors. Among these, the 11 galleries encompass the major Chinese art groups: Ancient Ceramics, Ancient Bronze, Ancient Sculpture, Ancient Jade, Ming and Qing Furniture, Paintings, Calligraphy, Seals, Coins, and Minority Nationalities.

Overall, the style as well as the presentation of the Shanghai Museum will flank you with the works of art illustrating the old wisdom and philosophy. To be more specific, the exterior outline of the dome as well as the square floors represents the ancient notion of the circular paradise and a square land respectively.

As compared to the other museums in China, this one is organized by theme, instead of dynasty. Even though the guests can find their own loved artifacts, the most impressive galleries are the Bronze as well as the Stone Sculpture on the first floor as well as the Painting Gallery on the third floor. Do not worry; for your convenience, escalators and elevators are there to take you on each floor besides the usual stairways.

Start your trip from the first floor where the old Chinese Bronze Gallery houses a splendid collection of over 350 bronzes that date back between the 18th and 3rd centuries B.C. Most of them were used by nobles and high class people only. The most striking items here are two wine vessels that have the design of animal masks (one in ox and other as a traditional pot) for the king of Wu (770-476 B.C. and the classical food vessel having three legs that belongs to the Western Zhou Dynasty (1100-771 B.C.). It is the latter one that has been the source of inspiration for the design of the Shanghai Museum edifice. Then, move to the Ancient Chinese Sculpture Gallery where you will encounter the carvings from the period between the Warring States and Ming Dynasty (475 BC to 1644 AD). Look here for a kneeling clay carving with a bamboo flute (25-200 AD) as well as a Buddhist stone image of Sakyamuni (550-577 AD).

Now, take a twist for the second floor where the Ceramics Gallery is the abode of the several tricolor figurines that date back to the glorious Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), nicely painted fired pots of the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644 AD), and furnaces. This gallery is for all China lovers.

The third floor is totally for those who love painting, Calligraphy, and seals. The Painting Gallery houses a myriad of old real art works on silk rolls such as the Buddhist rolls of the Song and Tang dynasties (960-1279 AD) and landscapes of the Ming Dynasty. Here, check out for the classical ink brush roll (1083-1135 AD) that belongs to the Song Dynasty labeled for its Willow, Crows, Wild Geese, and Reed. On the other hand, the Calligraphy Gallery reveals the diversity of artistic handwriting that was born many years ago in China along with the examples from the Tang Dynasty. In short, there are more than 10,000 fine rolls in the Shanghai Museum. The Seal Gallery will show you the sculpted stone chops used by the emperors with respect to the official documents.

On the fourth floor, you will love to see the magnificent Jade Gallery featuring the finely carved jewelry, ornaments, and jade wine vessels of which some belong to the early Liangzhu Culture (31st to 22nd BC.). To see the coins that were in use before the First Chinese Emperor (221 to 207 BC) as well as the Persian old coins bought from the Silk Road, you must head towards the Coins Gallery.

The Ming and Qing Furniture Gallery reflects the charm of the carved screens with jade of the Qing Dynasty, a folding wooden armchair, and a six-poster canopy bed. At the Minority Nationalities’ Art Gallery, you can spot wonderful costumes, dioramas, jewelry, and ceremonial formations from the isolated empires.

Lastly, when you come back on the ground floor, do explore the big gift shop that offers museum reproductions, gifts, postcards, and books. And yes, small shops are also seen on the floors.

Admission fee

Free, 5,000 free tickets daily with priority for older than 70 as well as the disabled


Required for a group (over 20) visit before two weeks in advance


9:00 am to 5:00 pm with the final entry at 4:00 pm

Duration of visit

1.5 hours

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