Museums thrive in China, gaining an increasing number of visitors

By Zou Yating, People’s Daily Overseas Edition


China was among the fastest growing countries when it comes to the museum industry over the past five years, during which a museum sprouted there every other day.


As of the last year, the number of museums registered in the country reached 5,535, up 18 percent from 2015, marking the completion of a public cultural service system that is equitable and beneficial for all. Around 89.1 percent of the museums open to public for free, up from 85.5 percent.


More museums are reaching the grassroots level. Seventy-six percent of China’s county-level cities and districts have built museums, and the museums’ facilities were on constant improvement.


Fourth-grader Chen Wentao from Wuzhong district, Suzhou, east China’s Jiangsu province, recently learnt quite a lot of history and stories of the eminent figures in an educational activity held in Wuzhong Museum. The two-hour event was attended by nearly 300 primary students, who experienced the charm of the traditional culture of the Wu State (about 1100-473 B.C.) in eastern China through a series of interactive activities, such as treasure hunting, commemorative coins making, jigsaw puzzle and relevant classes.


Aiming to build itself into a high-standard and distinctive cultural complex, the Wuzhong Museum opened the last June. It has launched thematic educational activities, courses on traditional handicraft, and academic lectures, so as to offer splendid cultural experiences for citizens.


Wen Qing from north China’s Hebei province loves to visit historical and cultural sites, as well as museums. He told the People’s Daily that many high-standard museums sprang up in China in recent years.


“I have visited the Shanxi Bronze Museum in Shanxi province and Erlitou Relic Museum in Henan province in north China, and both of them are pretty good. There are also museums in Dingzhou and Zhengding county in my hometown Hebei,” he said.


The man has visited the Shanxi Bronze Museum four times since it opened in July 2019. Apart from the large size of fine collections and outstanding exhibition environment, the high-quality special exhibitions are also a highlight of the museum that Wen finds particular appealing.


In September 2020, Wen joined an exhibition of bronzeware unearthed from the tombs of the marquises in the ancient Zeng State in central China’s Hubei province held in the Shanxi Bronze Museum. “The Zeng State and Shanxi’s Jin State (1033-376 B.C.) were both vassal states in the early Western Zhou Dynasty (1046-771 B.C.). When treasures of the two states were exhibited together, I must be there,” Wen said.


Universities have also been playing an increasingly important role in China’s museum construction over the recent years. Many of the newly established museums are on campus.


Some of them rose to fame on the internet once they opened to public, and the big names include the Tsinghua University Art Museum in Beijing and the Zhejiang University Museum of Art and Archaeology.


The Tsinghua University Art Museum has held 67 exhibitions, 24 of which were designed to promote international cultural exchanges, since its opening in September 2016. It is launching attractive and important exhibitions every year.


“As an art platform that is open to students and the faculty of Tsinghua University, as well as the whole society, the Tsinghua University Art Museum has carried out a lot of public educational activities that had academic and artistic value and were also enlightening, such as academic lectures, workshops, and interactive activities,” said Du Pengfei, executive deputy curator of the museum.


“We have also created 63 digital exhibition halls to offer always-online exhibitions. These exhibition halls can bring immersive experiences to online visitors,” Du added.


According to statistics, museums across China held a total of 28,600 exhibitions and 334,600 educational activities, and received nearly 1.23 billion visits in 2019, an uptick of 43 percent, 67 percent and 75 percent, respectively from those in 2015.


More than 20 percent of the visitors were minors. Meanwhile, 203 museums nationwide have been recognized as educational research and practice bases for elementary and middle school students by China’s Ministry of Education. A long-term mechanism that enables these students to use museums for research and study has taken shape.


Today, museums have become an important public cultural and educational platform in China. More and more Chinese citizens are attracted by museums where they can enjoy the country’s rich historical heritage and splendid culture.