Sunday, April 30, 2006

british collection in a chinese museum

Robina and I visited the brand-new Capital Museum in Beijing to catch the visiting collection from British Museum.
the exhibition of "Treasures of the World's Cultures" brought together authentic treasures and replicas from Egytian, Greek, Roman, Indian and Chinese civilisations.
we could appreciate the concept of "plenty of space" when we see buildings like the Capital Museum. We Singaporeans look everywhere and see wide open spaces. The museum is built around a central skylight. even the multi-media auditorium is designed like an ancient Chinese bronze urn.
The British Museum collection was small but very exciting. they brought in replicas of the famous "Sutton Hoo" helmet (above) and the Rosetta Stone. very few Chinese porcelains and other "good stuff" but the British Museum will be bringing in another visiting exhibit concentrating on Chinese artifacts (probably "liberated" during the colonial imperialist invasions during the 19th century).
apart from the temporary exhibit, we checked out the permanent exhibit on Beijing's history on level 2. there are more on level 3 to 5 but we came quite late in the afternoon and it was closing time soon.

here's the skull of Peking Man (top left corner), replica only. original specimen either looted by the Japanese during the war, depending on which conspiracy theory you subscribe to; or in some US government warehouse next to the ark of the covenant. remember the last scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark"?
although there were tons of space to display the tons of excellent artifacts, Robina and I were disappointed with the poor design of the exhibition halls. The designers appeared to cramp as many specimens into the display cases as they can. we feel that visitors would be better served by more info on the artifacts.We liked this excellent wooden model, probably hand carved, of Beijing during the Qing dynasty. It complemented the beautiful painting of Beijing street scenes behind the model.
there's probably some political message behind this commemorative art work commissioned by Qing Emperor Kang Xi to celebrate the "recovery" of Taiwan; manchu version of the "coffee table book".


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