Vast and energy-sapping, China's showpiece museum is housed in an immense 1950s Soviet-style building on the eastern side of Tian'anmen Sq, and claims to be the world's largest by display space. Dozens of galleries present a party-line portrayal of Chinese civilisation – you could lose hours in the Ancient China exhibition alone, with its priceless ceramics, calligraphy, jade and bronze pieces from prehistoric China through to the late Qing dynasty. Passport required.
Treasure hunters should seek out the 2000-year-old jade burial suit in the basement exhibition, made for King Liu Xiu of the Western Han dynasty, and the life-sized bronze acupuncture statue dating from the 15th century. A 2000-year-old rhino-shaped bronze zūn (wine vessel) is another stand-out treasure. The Bronze Art and Buddhist Sculpture galleries are also worth a browse.
The ground floor has an area dedicated to socialist-realism art featuring the epic Birth of New China ink painting, depicting Mao Zedong addressing the nation to proclaim the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
The building, a socialist-realist block, was one of Mao’s Ten Great Buildings, and was erected in 1959 to celebrate a decade of the PRC. Enlarged since, it’s now considerably greater: 65,000 sq metres of exhibition space, hosting regular visiting exhibitions from major museums around the globe alongside its own collections.