National Museum of China

Top choice museum in Forbidden City & Dōngchéng Central

Běijīng’s premier museum is housed in an immense 1950s Soviet-style building on the eastern side of Tiān’ānmén Sq, and claims to be the largest in the world by display space. You could easily spend a couple of hours in the outstanding Ancient China exhibition alone, with priceless artefacts displayed in modern, low-lit exhibition halls, including ceramics, calligraphy, jade and bronze pieces dating from prehistoric China through to the late Qing dynasty. You'll need your passport to gain entry.

Treasure hunters should seek out the 2000-year-old jade burial suit in the basement exhibition, made for the Western Han dynasty king Liu Xiu, 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 Ancient Chinese Money exhibition on the top floor, and the Bronze Art and Buddhist Sculpture galleries, one floor below, are also worth a browse.

The ground floor has a number of Salvador Dalí sculptures, and a room 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 museum, which is vast and energy-sapping, also has a ground-floor cafe (sandwiches from ¥20) and a teahouse. There's a refreshing ban on selfie sticks.


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