The Beijing Palace Museum is the largest and best preserved ancient architectural complex in China.



China had imperial and private collections of cultural relics in each dynasty, but the first museum worthy of the name in China was set up by foreigners in the mid-19th century. The first museum established by the Chinese themselves was the Nantong Museum, which was set up by industrialist Zhang Jian in 1905. In 1912, preparations were made for the construction of the History Museum, the first national museum after the founding of the Republic of China, in the former Imperial College (the highest educational administration in the previous feudal China) in Beijing. In 1949, there were no more than 21 museums in China. 

In October 1949, the Ministry of Culture established the State Administration of Cultural Relics, which was in charge of the work of museums nationwide, and drew up a series of decrees, guiding principles and policies concerning both cultural relics and the setting up of museums. By 1999, there were 1,371 museums nationwide run by cultural relics administrative departments alone. If those run by other departments are included, the total number of China’s museums will be well over 1,800. There are museums specializing in social history, arts, minerals, local customs, and science and technology. A large number of museums well known at home and abroad, such as the Palace Museum, the Museum of Chinese History, the China Aviation Museum, the China Geological Museum, the China Coin Museum, the China Printing Museum, the Shanghai Museum, the Nanjing Museum, the Shaanxi History Museum, the Henan Museum, the Liaoning Provincial Museum, the Gansu Provincial Museum, and the Yunnan Museum of National Minorities, as well as more than 300 memorial museums reflecting the glorious revolutionary traditions of the Chinese people, including the Museum of the Chinese Revolution, the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution, the China Opium War Museum, the Wuchang Memorial Hall for the Revolution of 1911, the Memorial Hall of the Site of the Huangpu Military Academy, the Memorial Hall of the Site of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the Jinggang Mountains Revolutionary Museum, the Yan’an Revolutionary Memorial Museum, the Memorial Hall of the War of Resistance Against Japan, the Former Residence of Sun Yat-sen, the Birthplace of Mao Zedong and the Former Residence of Deng Xiaoping are noted for their rich collections of cultural relics, exhibitions, social educational roles, active academic atmosphere, substantial research achievements and increasingly advanced modern scientific administration. Attention is now being paid to the design and construction of new museums to promote the coordinated development of quantity, quality, type and distribution of museums.



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Last updated: 2000-07-13.