Museum sights in China
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This IM Pei—designed museum is a soothing contrast of water, bamboo and straight lines in a stunning geometric interpretation of a Sūzhōu garden. Inside is a fascinating array of jade, ceramics, wooden carvings, textiles and other displays, all with good English captions. Look out for the Boxwood statue of Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin), dating from the republican period. An in-depth look at the scholars and their lifestyle of the period is particular fascinating (containers for crickets? A mahogany birdcage with a dainty porcelain water cup? Did these guys actually do any study?). Draconian entry rules apply: flip-flops wearers get turned away. Come early as there are limited…
Down a warren of narrow lanes, the small Kūnqǔ Opera Museum is dedicated to kūnqǔ, the opera style of the region. The beautiful old theatre houses a stage, old musical instruments, costumes and photos of famous performers. It also puts on occasional performances of kūnqǔ. and shūoshū (storytelling).
Also not to be missed, this museum began life as a humble dye shop in the late 18th century before its tremendous success as a business saw it transform into China's first draft bank (1823), eventually expanding to 57 branches nationwide. The museum has nearly 100 rooms, including offices, living quarters and a kitchen, as well as several old cheques.