This museum has some interesting exhibits and heavy Communist Party propaganda. Starting with the prehistory of Tibet, the multiple halls cover everything from weapons and musical instruments to folk handicrafts and fine ancient thangkas (Tibetan sacred art). A useful handheld audio self-touring device (¥10) is available if you bring your passport as a deposit.
The halls start logically with prehistory, highlighting the Neolithic sites around Chamdo and rock paintings at Rutok and Nam-tso, mixed in with a few oddities (5000-year-old grain, 4000-year-old musk-deer teeth…). The ‘Witness of History’ hall is full of boring seals and Chinese political commentary, but it’s worth seeking out the wall-sized mural from the Potala depicting the fifth Dalai Lama meeting Emperor Shunzhi, as well as the paper Treaty of Lhasa signed by Britain and Tibet in 1904.
The third hall features 21 thangkas of Drolma along with a central sand mandala, while the fourth room covers ethnography, with traditional costumes and yak-skin coracle boats.
The top-floor hall houses some beautiful Buddhist statuary highlighting artistic influences from India, Nepal and Kashmir. Look for the lovely 12th-century clay buddha head from Yiwang Monastery.
Opera masks and musical instruments come next, before an idiosyncratic collection of folk items donated by a Chinese Tibetologist. Before leaving, check out the overlooked basement displays, which have a few gems on the tea road between China and Tibet (but no English labels).