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Top 13 Museums in China for Amazing History, Culture and Art

China, a land full of historic relics and artistic marvels, is a treasure trove of various museums that could cater to a wide range of tastes and interests. This article introduces top 13 museums in China, where a large number of national treasures can be appreciated, from majestic palaces to regal objects, from vivid pottery figures to artifacts of regional characteristics. Visitors will have an immersive exploration into the nation’s past and diverse aspects of Chinese culture.

1. The Palace Museum (Forbidden City), Beijing

Beijing Forbidden City
Forbidden City

Standing at the heart of Beijing, the Palace Museum in China, also known as the Forbidden City, is the best-preserved and largest ancient complex in the world. It was the home of 24 emperors during Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911). Tourists can stroll around the Outer Court to admire grand halls, and also have a glimpse of royal families’ life while touring around living quarters in the Inner Court. A wide range of antiques collected in the museum will unveil the luxury life of imperial families before your eyes.

Area: 720,000 square meters

Highlights:

  • In total, there are 8,707 imperial halls, palaces, and rooms in the Forbidden City, constructed strictly according to a symmetrical layout.
  • 3 major halls in the Outer Court (Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Central Harmony, and Hall of Preserved Harmony) are the most grandiose, fully showcasing features of imperial architecture, like crimson walls and pillars, golden roofs with cornices, marble stairs and rails, as well as glazed tiles.
  • Over 1,800,000 precious items owned by ancient royal families are displayed in the museum, such as regal articles, objects of old architectures, as well as paintings and calligraphy works created by ancient masters.

Opening Hours:

08:30-17:00 (April to October), last entry: 16:00;

08:30-16:30 (November to March), last entry: 15:30;

* The museum is closed on Mondays, except for statutory holidays.

Ticket Price:

Entrance Fee: CNY 60 (April to October); CNY 40 (November to March)

The Treasure Gallery: CNY 10

The Gallery of Clocks: CNY 10

Recommended Visiting Duration: 2 hours ~ one day

Location: No. 4, Jingshan Front Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing

2. Shaanxi History Museum, Xi’an

Exhibits in Shaanxi History Museum
Exhibits in Shaanxi History Museum

Situated in the ancient city of Xi’an, Shaanxi History Museum offers a captivating journey through China’s dynastic eras. Praised as the “treasury house of China”, the museum boasts more than 370,000 precious articles, among which pottery figures, bronze wares of Shang and Zhou Dynasties (1600-256BC), and murals excavated from tombs of Tang Dynasty (618-907) are of the highest value and showcase the superior handicrafts of the time.

Highlights:

  • The permanent exhibition –Ancient Civilization in Shaanxi – gives visitors a vivid demonstration of the historical process of the region from the Upper Paleolithic period to 1840, spanning over one million years.
  • 2 thematic exhibitions –Mural Paintings of the Tang Dynasty, Treasures of the Great Tang Dynasty – display around 600 murals unearthed from more than 20 Tang tombs, as well as a large number of gold and silver works, from which tourists can get insights into the social life of Tang Dynasty, especially life of the noble.

Opening Hours:

08:30-18:00 (March 15th to November 14th), last entry: 16:30;

09:00-17:30 (November 15th to March 14th), last entry: 16:00;

* The museum is closed on Mondays, except for statutory holidays.

Ticket Price: Free entry

Recommended Visiting Duration: 2~4 hours

Location: No. 91, Xiaozhai East Road, Yanta District, Xi’an, Shaanxi Province

3. Shanghai Museum, Shanghai

Exhibits in Shanghai Museum
Exhibits in Shanghai Museum

If you have great interest in Chinese arts, Shanghai Museum will be the right place for you. Nestled on People’s Square, Shanghai Museum is well-known as a comprehensive gallery covering almost all categories of ancient Chinese arts.

You will have an in-depth knowledge of ancient Chinese arts by viewing its expansive collections, from intricately painted porcelain to luxury furniture, from delicate calligraphy and paintings to handmade ornaments of ethnic minorities.

 

Opening Hours: 09:00-17:00 (last entry: 16:00)

* The museum is closed on Mondays, except for statutory holidays.

Ticket Price: Free entry

Recommended Visiting Duration: 2~3 hours

Location: No. 201, Renmin Avenue, Huangpu District, Shanghai

4. Nanjing Museum, Nanjing

Nanjing Museum
Nanjing Museum

Situated at the southern foot of the Purple Mountain, Nanjing Museum is the second largest museum in China, only after the Palace Museum in Beijing. Housing a wide variety of historical treasures and artworks, the museum takes visitors on a captivating journey through time to delve into the splendid past of Jiangsu Province and provides an access to exploring intangible cultural heritage originated in this region.

Highlights:

  • The museum presents the development process of ancient civilization in Jiangsu through over 430,000 precious items from the Upper Paleolithic period to modern times, including bronze vessels, gold and silver works, lacquer wares, silk fabrics and embroidery.
  • One should not miss the Intangible Cultural Heritage Gallery, which is a permanent exhibition introducing folk arts and skills that have been passed down for generations in Jiangsu, such as Suzhou Pingtan, Kunqu Opera, and Suzhou Embroidery. Celebrated inheritors are invited to demonstrate their craftmanship in the museum, offering visitors an immersive way to feel the charm of thesetraditional skills.

Opening Hours: 09:00-17:00 (last entry: 16:00)

* The museum is closed on Mondays (except for statutory holidays), Chinese New Year’s Eve, and Lunar New Year’s Day.

Ticket Price: Free entry

Recommended Visiting Duration: 3~4 hours

Location: No. 321, Zhongshan East Road, Xuanwu District, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province

5. National Museum of China, Beijing

Exhibits in The National Museum of China
Exhibits in The National Museum of China

As the premier museum of the country, the National Museum of China in Beijing offers an all-encompassing narrative of China’s multifaceted history, with more than 1,430,000 pieces of precious relics and ancient artifacts on display.

Visitors can have a better understanding of the country’s splendid past as well as the revolutionary journey from the 3 basic exhibitions. There are also thematic displays offering an in-depth exploration into different forms of arts, such as ancient porcelain, jade wares, calligraphy and paintings, as well as ancient coins.

Highlights:

  • “Ancient China” is a must-see exhibition, giving a comprehensive introduction of China’s social conditions in different historical periods according to changes of dynasties.
  • Tourists can witness a lot of national treasures in the museum, including Jade Dragon –“China’s No. 1 dragon” of the Neolithic period; “Hou Mu Wu” Bronze Ding – the heaviest bronze ware in ancient China; as well as Bronze Vessel with Ram-Head Sculptures, which represents the most excellent craft of Shang and Zhou dynasties.

Opening Hours: 09:00-17:00 (last entry: 16:00)

* The museum is closed on Mondays, except for statutory holidays.

Ticket Price: Free entry

Recommended Visiting Duration: 3~4 hours

Location: No. 16, East Chang’an Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing

6. Hubei Provincial Museum, Wuhan

Hubei Provincial Museum
Hubei Provincial Museum

Hubei used to be the location of Zeng State in the Warring States Period (476-221BC), which later became an important tributary of Chu State. The Provincial Museum of Hubei is like a storyteller representing the history and culture of the two states.

Highlights:

  • The museum is famous for being China’s largest gallery of ancient musical instruments, housing the 2,400-year-old Zenghouyi Chime Bells which is the most complete and imposing set in China, consisting of 65 bells in total.
  • Visitors can get to know the history and culture of Zeng and Chu States back to 2,200 years ago, and observe the renowned “Sword of Goujian”unearthed from a noble’s tomb of Chu.

Opening Hours: 09:00-17:00 (last entry: 16:00)

* The museum is closed on Mondays (except for statutory holidays), and Chinese New Year’s Eve.

Ticket Price: Free entry

Recommended Visiting Duration: 3~4 hours

Location: No. 160, Donghu Road, Wuchang District, Wuhan, Hubei Province

7. Henan Museum, Zhengzhou

Henan Museum Bronze Ware
Bronze Art in Henan Museum

Henan is where the Central Plains Culture originated. It is a main component of Chinese culture, and thus makes Henan widely recognized as a cradle of Chinese civilization. Henan Museum provides the best way to learn the development of Central Plains Culture according to changes of dynasties.

The collection of Henan Museum spans a wide range of topics, from oracle bones to delicate lacquerware, from bronze wares to intricate silk textiles, and covers a lot of valuable antiques such as the distinctive Fu Hao Owl-Shaped Vessel, and Iron Sword with Jade Handle which is praised as “China’s No.1 Sword” cast 2,800 years ago.

 

Opening Hours: 09:00-17:00 (last entry: 16:00)

* The museum is closed on Mondays, except for statutory holidays.

Ticket Price: Free entry

Recommended Visiting Duration: 2~4 hours

Location: No. 8, Nongye Road, Jinshui District, Zhengzhou, Henan Province

8. Taipei Palace Museum, Taipei (Taiwan)

Taipei National Palace Museum
Taipei National Palace Museum

at Palace Museum in Taipei”. Taipei National Palace Museum is well-known as a treasure trove housing over 650,000 pieces of imperial legacy and national treasures transferred from major museums in Beijing in 1900s, including scripts of Wang Xizhi, Cauldron of Duke Mao, as well as vivid Jadeite Cabbage and the naturally-formed Meat-Shaped Stone.

 

Opening Hours:

08:30-18:30 (Sunday – Thursday), last entry: 16:30;

08:30-21:00 (Friday and Saturday), last entry: 16:00;

Ticket Price: TWD 350

Recommended Visiting Duration: 3~4 hours

Location: No. 221, 2nd Zhishan Road, Shilin District, Taipei, Taiwan

9. Zhejiang Provincial Museum, Hangzhou

Zhejiang Provincial Museum
Zhejiang Provincial Museum

Nestled in the picturesque city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Provincial Museum in China pays homage to the province’s splendid civilizations and artistic achievements. Zhejiang is the home to Neolithic civilizations of Hemudu and Liangzhu. You can get to know people’s primitive beliefs with the help of artifacts like ivory carvings and jade ceremonial objects. You will also feast your eyes with delicate antique porcelain wares produced at local Yue Kiln and Longquan Kiln, both of which were famous porcelain sites in ancient China.

 

Opening Hours: 09:00-17:00 (last entry: 16:30)

* The museum is closed on Mondays, except for statutory holidays.

Ticket Price: Free entry

Recommended Visiting Duration: 2~3 hours

Location: No. 25, Gushan Road, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province

10. Hunan Museum, Changsha

Changsha Hunan Provincial Museum
Hunan Museum

important archaeological achievements of the 20th century. Hunan Museum offers visitors a great opportunity to enjoy diverse artifacts unearthed from the tombs and get insights into the lifestyle and funeral concepts 2,200 years ago.

Highlights:

  • Ma Wangdui Han Dynasty Tombs is where the family of a prime minister of Western Han Dynasty (202BC –8AD) were buried. The exhibition displays over 3,000 pieces of precious relics unearthed from the tombs, including the diaphanous Plain Unlined Silk Gauze Gown, delicate silk paintings, and well-preserved lacquer coffins.
  • Visitors can learn about the living conditions and distinctive lifestyle of the region in different periods by viewing the Exhibition of Hunanese.

Opening Hours: 09:00-17:00 (last entry: 16:00)

* The museum is closed on Mondays, except for statutory holidays.

Ticket Price: Free entry

Recommended Visiting Duration: 3~4 hours

Location: No. 50, Dongfeng Road, Kaifu District, Changsha, Hunan Province

11. China Art Museum, Shanghai

China Art Meseum

China Art Museum is located in the former China Pavilion of Shanghai World Expo. Here, visitors can appreciate more than 1,400 great paintings of Shanghai school which perfectly combines techniques of traditional Chinese ink painting with strong contrast of colors.

Besides, China Art Museum displays the renowned ancient painting – Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival – in a completely new way. Multi-media technology is applied to present the prosperous street views dynamically on a giant screen. With the rendering of background sounds, you will feel like being in the midst of the painting.

 

Opening Hours: 10:00-18:00 (last entry: 17:00)

* The museum is closed on Mondays, except for statutory holidays.

Ticket Price: Free entry

Recommended Visiting Duration: 1~3 hours

Location: No. 205, Shangnan Road, Pudong New Area, Shanghai

12. China Railway Museum, Beijing

China Railway Museum consists of 3 wings, namely Zhengyang Gate Museum, East suburbs Museum and Zhan Tianyou Memorial, presenting the development of China’s Railway system of the past 140 years.

Highlights:

  • Visitors can have a general idea of China’s Railway development at Zhengyang Gate Museum with the help of a large numberof historic materials, pictures, and physical exhibits.
  • At East Suburbs Museum, 125 locomotives made in different periods are displayed, including China’s first locomotive – 0 Steam Locomotive, as well as steam locomotives named after national leaders like Mao Zedong and Zhu De.
  • The memorial presents the life stories of Zhan Tianyou, the “Father of China’s Railway”, through more than 2,000 precious objects, including historic photos, engineering drawings, and manuscripts.

 

Opening Hours:

Zhengyang Gate Museum: 09:00-17:00 (last entry: 16:00, closed on Mondays)

Eastern Suburbs Museum:

09:00-16:00 (Tuesday – Friday), last entry: 15:30;

09:00-16:30 (Saturday and Sunday), last entry: 16:00;

Zhan Tianyou Memorial: 09:00-16:30 (last entry: 16:00)

* The museum is closed on Mondays, except for statutory holidays.

Ticket Price: CNY 20

Recommended Visiting Duration: 3~4 hours

Location:

Zhengyang Gate Museum: No. 2, Qianmen Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing

Eastern Suburbs Museum: No. 1, Jiuxianqiao North Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing

Zhan Tianyou Memorial: Located at the north side of Badaling Great Wall in Yanqing District

13. Museum of Terracotta Warriors and Horses, Xian

Terracotta Warriors and Horses in Xian
The Life size Terracotta Warriors and Horses

Praised as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”, the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum was originally the solemn guard for the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor in China’s history. It is also one of the best museums in China. Visitors will admire a large collection of life-sized terracotta warriors unearthed from the 3 pits inside, and also learn about the legends of Qin Shi Huang as well as the splendid past of Qin Dynasty (221-207BC).

Highlights:

  • The museum enables tourists to have a general idea of the military commander and multiple troops of Qin Dynasty, which were made up of infantry, cavalry, chariots and crossbowmen.
  • Visitors can appreciateover 8,000 pottery soldiers and horses made over 2,200 years ago, each with different expressions and gestures. These life-sized figures showcase the highest level of craftmanship of the Qin Dynasty.

 

Opening Hours:

08:30-18:30 (March 16th to November 15th), last entry: 17:00;

08:30-18:00 (November 16th to March 15th), last entry: 16:30;

Ticket Price: CNY 120

Recommended Visiting Duration: 2~3 hours

Location: Qinling North Road, Lintong District, Xi’an, Shaanxi Province

Discover More Museums in China

Visiting a museum is the best way to get to know the past and distinctive customs of a place. Aside from the museums mentioned above, there are still a lot of famous museums in China for you to immerse in diverse charms of the country. For example:

  1. If interested in ethnic minorities, Chinese National Museum of Ethnology in Beijing and Yunnan Provincial Museum are nice choices for you to explore customs of different nationalities;
  2. For foodies, they may consider putting Sichuan Cuisines Museum in Chengdu or Chinese Royal Gastronomy Museum in Beijing on the to-do list of the China tours;
  3. Visitors who are fond of Chinese architecture can go to Beijing Ancient Architecture Museum for an in-depth exploration;

Popular China tour packages to the top museums in China:

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