China’s first comprehensive museum dedicated to archeology opened to the public on Thursday in Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province.
The Shaanxi Archeology Museum was first proposed in 2009. After several years of preparation, construction began in 2019 and was completed in December. The building has a total area of 36,000 square meters.
From the stone relics of the ruins of the prehistoric city of Shimao around 4,000 years ago to the numerous artifacts of the mausoleums of emperors at the zenith of the Chinese imperial period, more than 5,200 cultural relics have been discovered over the past 60 years during archaeological excavations in Shaanxi province. now have a place of exhibition.
Shaanxi is home to many famous archaeological finds, such as the 2,200-year-old Terracotta Warriors in the Mausoleum of Qinshihuang, China’s first emperor, in Xi’an.
As the capital of the Western Han (206 BC to 24 AD) and Tang (618-907) dynasties, the two social and cultural pinnacles of Chinese imperial history, Xi’an and its neighboring region have provided crucial reference points for studies of urban construction. , funerary customs, social structures and the formation of central dynasties in antiquity.
The new museum’s exhibits come from discoveries made by the Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology, one of China’s most prestigious archaeological study institutes. Over 200,000 cultural relics have been collected by the academy.
Unearthed relics have been the main source of exhibits in Chinese museums, and themed museums have been established for many key archaeological sites, such as the Qinshihuang Mausoleum. However, a facility like the new museum, covering a larger region and relying on the inventories of an archaeological institute, is unprecedented in China.
“Through the relics and heritage sites, people can see the clear lineage of Chinese archaeology,” said Sun Zhouyong, director of the museum and director of the Shaanxi Academy.
Visitors can see some of the most recent major discoveries that have sparked wide public debate. For example, there is the unprecedented discovery of an ancient work by iconic Tang Dynasty calligraphy master Yan Zhenqing, which was a woman’s epigraph engraved on his tombstone on the outskirts of Xi’ year.
After years of dispute, the location of the mausoleum of Liu Heng, the third Western Han emperor, who became historically famous as a diligent ruler, has finally been confirmed after the discovery of abundant grave goods.
Sun added that the new site aims to not only demonstrate the beauty of cultural relics, but also offer detailed information about where they were excavated. Some exhibits may be unattractive to the eye, but they contain key clues for academic breakthroughs.
“With this museum, we can eventually share our findings on cultural heritage with the public,” Sun said. “And it’s also a place where the public can come and understand the daily life of archaeologists and multidisciplinary research methods.”
For this reason, broken artifacts like ceramic shards and earthen architectural foundations are also featured in the museum. Several archaeological sites have been moved to the new museum as “whole packages”.
For example, finds of a luxurious burial pit with bronze burial horses and chariots, first discovered in 2014, in the tomb of a 2,800-year-old aristocrat, were carefully moved from the Baoji site. of Shaanxi for detailed research in a laboratory. This was also done for a Mongolian-style tomb with exquisite wall paintings from the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) which was first discovered in 1998.
A gallery in the museum presents the conservation of cultural relics to the public.
“An archaeological museum is a new museum format in China,” said Zhou Kuiying, deputy director of the Shaanxi Provincial Administration of Cultural Heritage. “It is a chain that connects archaeological excavations, studies, preservation of remains and public education.”
The museum will welcome up to 1,500 visitors a day until the end of July. Online reservations are required and admission is free. It is closed on Wednesdays.