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1.29 billion visitors a year, Chinese museums fulfill

GT staff reporters, 1.29 billion visitors a year, Chinese museums fulfill IMD’s goal of promoting research, public education, Global Times, 19 May 2024

Editor’s Note: 

May 18 is a special date because of the key word “museum.” Forty-seven years ago, the tradition of International Museum Day (IMD) was established, engaging museums around the world to opine on cultural-social themes like 2024’s “Museums for Education and Research.”  

China, a country boasting 6,833 officially recognized museums, has always been a passionate participant in the global museum discussion. Ever since May 18, 2009, a Chinese museum in the country will be appointed as the main venue hosting a series of events to celebrate IMD. For example, the Qin Han Museum of the Shaanxi History Museum was the 2024 host. 

With the aim of exploring how China fulfills IMD’s unchanging promise of offering the public open-source cultural knowledge, the Global Times will walk readers through the diverse museum events being held in the country as well as highlight how the country’s museums have achieved its “Education and Research” goal with its strategic combinations of “education+ red culture” and “technology + museum experience.” 

Photo: VCG

On Saturday, coinciding with IMD, the Qin Han Museum of the Shaanxi History Museum in Xi’an, Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, opened for the first time. The main venue for IMD events in China, the museum’s main maiden exhibition was major highlight of the day as 90 percent of its relics, including a gold beast statue from the Warring States Period (475BC-221BC), were revealed to the public for the first time.

Led by China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA), celebrations for IMD 2024 were introduced at the museum, including an international Qin-Han history forum, the reveal of Beijing as the next main venue for IMD 2025 events in China, as well as the release of a list of China’s newest batch of first-class national museums.

This new batch mainly consists of theme museums like the Exhibition Hall of Evidences of Crime Committed by Unit 731 of the Japanese Imperial Army in ­Heilongjiang Province. Bei Jiekai, a cultural resource management expert, told the Global Times that this list system shows “China’s abundant museum resources,” as well as its strategy to “develop niche exhibition institutions nationwide.”

Photo: VCG

In 2023, museums nationwide received more than 1.29 billion visitors. A total of 268 ­museums were registered over the past year. Meanwhile, at both big- and small-scale exhibition facilities, a total of more than 40,000 exhibitions and 380,000 educational activities were held across the country.

Li Qun, the head of the NCHA and deputy minister of culture and tourism, said that the future construction of museums in China will focus on “rich variety,” “diverse exhibitions” and providing the public with more “inclusive cultural resources.”  He also encouraged museums to enhance their ability to present research.

Events nationwide  

“Museums for Education and Research” is the main theme of IMD 2024, which underscores the pivotal role of cultural institutions in providing comprehensive educational experiences. Events inspired by this theme are being carried out in cities like Beijing and provinces such as Jiangsu, Sichuan and Henan.

At the Luoyang Museum in Henan Province, more than 100 artifacts were exhibited depicting how Chinese handicrafts played a major role in cultural exchanges during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). A majority of these relics were enamel and porcelain wares historically made in Guangdong Province and exported overseas.

The exhibition, which has been curated to tell the story of cultural exchanges along the ancient Maritime Silk Road, is the result of the Luoyang Museum’s research collaboration with the Dongguan Museum.

To better illustrate ancient China’s connection to the West for visitors, free lectures addressing Maritime Silk Road exchanges are being held to engage not only adults, but also child audiences who can experience history through paintings and interactive activities.

In Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, the Nanjing Yunjin Brocade Research Institute has launched an exhibition that commemorates the 15th anniversary of Chinese Yunjin brocade becoming a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage (ICH).

Jian Mingwei, the director of the institute, told the Global Times that besides research, ICH needs to be “creatively merged into people’s everyday lives through cross-over collaborations and cultural creative products.” He emphasized that “educating the public on the importance of ICH” is important to ensure these traditions are inherited.

‘Education + red culture’ 

Museum expert Li Liyang told the Global Times that conducive to China’s rich history, “red museums” are now a well-developed sector in the country that fulfills the mission of public patriotism education.

“Revolutionary sites and memorial halls on historical figures and events are becoming hot trends for cultural tourism in China. Many of these sites in provinces like Jiangxi, Sichuan and Shaanxi are crowded. They help the public to see China’s development through the presentation of historical facts,” Li emphasized.

On Saturday, museums in Sichuan Province and Chong­qing Municipality hosted over 300 activities, with a highlight being the Sichuan-Chongqing Red Resources Protection and Inheritance Alliance, which focuses on the legacy of the “Work-Study Movement in France” among other topics.

Tang Xihao, head of the Deng Xiaoping Former Residence Museum, told the Global Times that this year, which commemorates the 105th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement and the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France, the alliance aims to preserve the historical narrative of the movement, which has played a significant role in educational exchanges between the two nations.

As an important source of talent for the Diligent Work-Frugal Study Movement, the Sichuan-Chongqing region not only contributed to the dissemination of Marxism in China and the establishment of Communist Party of China (CPC) but also nurtured numerous outstanding leaders and revolutionary fighters, including Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yi and Nie Rongzhen.

According to Tang, the alliance, the first of its kind in China, is composed of 16 related museums, memorial halls, and revolutionary sites in the Sichuan-Chongqing region. It aims to facilitate exchange and cooperation, resource sharing, and the promotion of red resource protection.

Xu Xiaoqun, a deputy director of the Revolutionary Relics Department of the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Heritage Administration, told the Global Times that to revitalize revolutionary relics and tell the stories of the CPC, various regions are actively utilizing revolutionary relics to launch a series of “online plus offline” educational activities.

In Sichuan, these efforts include integrating youth research, cultural products promotion, and tourism leisure services.

Moreover, sites like the Zhao Yiman Memorial Hall in Sichuan’s Yibin city has been selected as a demonstration base for integrated development of promoting revolutionary culture and socialist advanced culture by the Ministry of Education and the National Culture Heritage Administration (NCHA).

In March 2024, the two sides jointly launched the construction of the national revolutionary relics collaborative research center. Twenty collaborative research institutions were selected to promote the integrated development of revolutionary relics and political education in primary, secondary and tertiary schools. Later on, more red tourism events were promoted across China.

In Beijing and Hebei, the regional cultural heritage bureaus jointly held the opening ceremony of revolutionary cultural relics theme tours in March to commemorate the 75th anniversary of The CPC Central Committee Journey from Xibaipo to Beijing exhibition. Seven important revolutionary sites along the route from Xibaipo to Beijing were connected, showcasing the achievements of the protection and utilization of red cultural relics.

Li Liangqi, director of the Cultural Relics Protection Department of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Cultural Heritage, told the Global Times connecting relic sites is important to facilitate a comprehensive understanding of revolutionary cultural history, promote revolutionary spirit and educate future generations.

Technology + museum experience

While taking the public back to China’s history, museum facilities nationwide, including red sites, are also looking ahead with the goal of taking the public to the “future” through innovative technology that can boost an institution’s display and research.

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See also: Chinese museums greet more young people as passion for traditional culture grows