China's National Museum reopens after renovation

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China's National Museum, lying to the east of Tian'anmen Square in central Beijing, reopened Tuesday after nearly four years of renovations.

As part of the renovations, the museum has been expanded to 191,900 square meters with 49 exhibition rooms, reportedly making it the largest museum in the world.

The museum now holds a collection of more than 1 million pieces of cultural relics, according to the museum's official website.

One of the museum's most valuable collections is Si Muwu bronze quadrate vessel, 1.33 meters high and about 833 kg in weight, dating back to about 3,500 years ago.

From Tuesday to March 16, the museum is only open to visitors in groups but from March 17 both group and individual visitors can enter.

A maximum of 3,000 visitors will be allowed in each day, including 2,000 visitors in groups and 1,000 individuals, said a statement on the website.

Group visitors will need to book in advance while individuals can get tickets at the entrance, the statement said.

The museum will host two regular exhibitions, one featuring ancient China and the other, titled the Road of Rejuvenation, about Chinese history since the Opium War in 1840, said Huang Chen, a publicity official with the museum.

Admission for the two exhibitions is likely to be free, he said.

The museum has planned to host several special exhibitions on Chinese ancient art, such as bronze, porcelain, jade articles, Buddhist statues, furniture of Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911), ink painting and calligraphy, he said.

"The museum will hold various functions. And, besides holding exhibitions, we will conduct archeological researchs, provide education services for the public and carry out cultural exchanges with other museums," Huang said.

The new museum has a theater with 800 seats, a conference hall with 300 seats and a studio with an area of 600 square meters.

In the conference hall, visitors can watch digital films or documentaries, Huang said.

The museum also has a large space for visitors to experience history and traditional arts through interactive programs.

The museum's renovations started in March 2007 and finished at the end of last year. The entire project cost 2.5 billion yuan (about 367 million U.S. dollars).

Liu Yunshan, head of the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), hailed the renovations as a "symbolic project" in China's initiative to improve public cultural service at Tuesday's ceremony marking the conclusion of the project and the reopening of the exhibition Road of Rejuvenation.

"The renovation project is significant for promoting publicity and education of the socialist core value system, conserving cultural heritage,enhancing cultural exchanges with other countries, and boosting development of Chinese culture," he said.

The Road of Rejuvenation, illustrating the ups and downs of China on the road of national revival since 1840, put on display more than 1,280 pieces of valuable relics and about 870 pictures.

Li Changchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, was also present at the ceremony.

In its latest move to improve public cultural service, Chinese government announced earlier this year that visitors will not have to pay to enter the country's public art galleries and libraries in two years.

By the end of 2011, there will be no charge for Chinese citizens to enter public art galleries at state and provincial levels. By the end of 2012, all public art galleries will be free for citizens.

The move comes after the nation offered free access of its museums and memorial halls to the public in 2008.

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