The Beijing Capital Museum


Review: The museum features some 150 Buddhist works of art ranging from the 5th through the 20th centuries. Most of them are gilt bronze sculptures emitting golden luster under muted lamps and a somber background. The museum hosts a special exhibition of Buddha figurines from Tibetan and Mongolian regions and many of them were made under imperial edicts.


Selected Works of Ancient Buddhist Statues


Buddhism is a cultural phenomenon, and Buddhist imagery is an important component of Buddhist culture. After its introduction into China, as it merged and evolved within various Chinese ethnic cultures over a period of more than 2,000 years, Buddhist imagery gradually lost its Indian flavor. A new artistic form that characterized Chinese culture emerged and became an important part of the Chinese traditional culture.


Sui and Tang period (581-907 AD): During the Sui and Tang dynasties, as the country unified and became more prosperous, Buddhist imagery entered its golden age of development, resulting in the perfect amalgamation of Indian and Chinese culture and art.


Song, Liao, Jin and Yuan period (907-1368 AD): During this period, Buddhist imagery began to develop a more realistic style that paid greater attention to depicting both the inner feelings and the exterior features of represented objects. Great numbers of fresh, natural, vivid and expressive master-works emerged.


Ming and Qing period (1368-1911 AD) During the Ming and Qing periods, Buddhist artistic style tended towards secularization and stereotype. Various figures were commonly depicted as superficial and vulgar, lacking in spiritual strength, although stateliness and kindness remained.


Chinese Tibetan Buddhist Image Creation Art


Chinese Tibetan Buddhism is a Buddhist sect resulting from the merging of the Esoteri sect of India Buddhism with Chinese Mongolian and Tibetan traditional cultures. Tibetan Buddhist imagery emerged in the early seventh century. It was a unique art form that developed using foreign cultural percepts. The original art came from India and Nepal and merged with the traditional aesthetic conceptions and carving techniques of the Mongolians and Tibetans.


Tubo Dynasty period (7th -9th centuries AD): During this period, Tibetan Buddhist imagery came under strong exterior influences. Multifaceted art forms from India, Nepal, Swat, Kashmir, Yutian and the Central Plains coexisted and merged with each other in Tibet. Meanwhile, the Tibetan people began to create Buddhist images that embodied the aesthetic temperament and interests of the Tibetans.


Tubo Disintegration period (9th-13th centuries AD): During this period, outside influences still dominated Tibetan Buddhist imagery but uniquely Tibetan artistic elements were coming into being. At this point regional Buddhist imagery was born.


Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 AD): During the Yuan dynasty, Tibetan Buddhist art was primarily influenced by Nepali and Central Plains art. New combinations of Nepali-Tibetan, Sino-Tibetan and Sino-Nepali-Tibetan arts emerged.


Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD): The Ming dynasty exhibited the most prosperous stage of Tibetan Buddhist imagery. Based on exterior artistic forms from India and Nepal, Tibetan artists went further and incorporated cultural and aesthetic elements from their own culture, creating the artistic pattern that we today identify as clearly characteristic of the Tibetan people. This period marks the final formation of Tibetan Buddhist imagery and religious art.


Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD): During the Tibetan Buddhist artistic period, new vogues for realism and archaism materialized. Meanwhile, under the influence of regional traditional aesthetic concepts and working techniques, other varied artistic styles also came into being, including the central Tibetan, Beijing, Inner Mongolian and Mongolian styles.




The refurbished Capital Museum, which re-opened in December 2005, is now located at 16 Fuxingmenwai Road in west Beijing.


With a floor area of more than 60,000 square meters, the Capital Museum is second only to the National Museum of China in terms of size. To see all the exhibitions in the new museum, it would take at least four or five hours.


Regular exhibitions include "Ancient Capital Beijing -- History and Culture", "Ancient Capital Beijing -- Urban Construction" and "Old Stories of Beijing -- Exhibition of Old Beijing Folk Customs", "Ancient Capital Beijing -- History and Culture" and "Ancient Capital Beijing -- Urban Construction". These exhibits illustrate the splendid and glorious Beijing culture, which has constantly evolved and gradually formed over time.


Exhibitions of fine artistic collections include Exhibitions of ancient Chinaware, ancient Beijing bronze art, Calligraphy, Paintings, Jade Ware, Ancient Buddha Statues and Gadgets of Studies. The seven exhibitions of fine artistic collections and “Old Stories of Beijing -- Exhibition of Old Beijing Folk Custom” serve as supplements and expansion into contemporary Beijing culture.


There are 5,622 items on display, almost 10 times the number of exhibits displayed at the old venue housed in the Confucius Temple on Guozijian Road.


Visiting info:


Opening hours: 09:00-17:00

Address: 16 Fuxingmenwai Dajie, Xicheng District, Beijing

Information: 8610-6337 0491 or 8610-6337 0492

Price: 30 yuan (US$4)



( by Wang Zhiyong November 10, 2007)