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National Museum: Home of Modern Chinese Literature

The National Museum of Modern Chinese Literature opened to the public in late May this year.

The largest State-level literature museum in the world, it also serves as a library and archives with data for theoretical research and literature exchanges. It collects literary works, manuscripts, translations, letters, diaries and other data, as well criticism and stories carried on magazines and newspapers relating to modern Chinese writers.

Located in north Beijing, it is a garden-like building in traditional Chinese architectural style. Its name was written by President Jiang Zemin.

The museum has four exhibition halls, of 500 square meters each. The exhibition hall on the first floor reproduces the surroundings in which Lu Xun, Guo Moruo, Mao Dun, Ba Jin, Lao She, Cao Yu and Bing Xin, all literature masters of the 20th century, lived and worked. The one on the second floor displays the masterpieces of writers of modern and contemporary China. On the third floor are the personal libraries of 51 writers and the studies of 18 others. All the books and materials were arranged by the writers themselves. The huge shelves on the fourth floor contain more than 80,000 volumes.

The multi-function hall, covering 320 square meters, offers simultaneous interpretation in five languages. The stack room, 820 square meters, houses 110,000 copies of books on compact bookshelves, which are available via computer retrieval. The stack of manuscripts, covering 270 square meters, is the largest and the most authoritative of its kind in China, with nearly 11,000 copies of manuscripts.

According to Deputy Curator Shu Yi, son of the late writer and playwright Lao She, the new building of the museum was completely funded by the government budget. The first phase of construction costs 150 million yuan, and occupies 14,000 square meters. The second and third phases will occupy 16,000 square meters.

The second-phase construction will contain the individual libraries of 100 writers, like those in the British Library. The present museum, however, has only 55 study rooms. A separate reading room will be reserved for children.

The third-phase construction will focus on auxiliary facilities, including lounges for Chinese and overseas writers and celebrities, thus yielding some revenue for the museum.

"All materials related to literature in the 20th century are welcomed, including Chinese works and data from Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and overseas,'' said Shu Yi.

The museum will name an exhibition room after any writer who donates his or her collection in quantity. There are 55 such exhibition rooms.

Since the museum was founded in 1985, the staff have worked hard, collecting more than 300,000 items such as manuscripts, letters, photos, and audio and video tapes, as well as books, magazines and newspapers related to writers. Most of the exhibits in the new building were moved from the old museum at Wanshousi in western Beijing.

The establishment of the new museum has encouraged many veteran writers to send their manuscripts and books here, among which are those of Tang Tao.

The foundation of the new building was laid on November 25, 1996. The construction started in February 1998, and was completed in September 1999. It was expected to open in October 1999 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic, but the date was postponed owing to some necessary adjustments and improvements.

The museum began to receive visitors on May 23. Some 150 well-known writers, scholars and celebrities of all walks of life were present at the opening ceremony, and veteran artists such as Zheng Rong and Su Min recited poems and essays by Lu Xun, Guo Moruo, Cao Yu, Lao She, Hu Shi, Ai Qing and Bian Zhilin.

On the afternoon of May 23, a seminar titled "100 Years of Chinese Literature" was held, and 30 literature critics attended to discuss the role of 20th-century literature in the history of Chinese literature, and the influence of the May 4 Movement on Chinese literature in the past century.

In This Series

Literature Museum an Epilogue for Authors

Cultural Landmark



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