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Old Beijing on Show at New Museum

Beijing's hutong, Peking opera and local folk culture are just some aspects of the capital's life on show at the new Beijing Museum, which re-opens next Friday.

The museum, which focuses on life in Beijing in bygone days, has moved to a purpose-built building in the western part of the city.

The 1.23-billion-yuan (US$147 million) new venue is expected to receive 2,000 visitors daily. Tickets will be 20 yuan (US$2.5) each.

"The new mu(brb)seum has a larger space," said Guo Xiaoling, director of the Beijing Museum. "We can show more relics to the public."

With an area of more than 60,000 square meters, Beijing 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," said Cui Xue'an, a consultant at the museum, in an interview with China Daily.

The museum will have 5,622 items on display. The figure is almost 10 times the number of exhibits displayed at the old venue.

The old museum was located in the Confucius Temple in Guozijian Street.

Four years ago, Beijing municipal government started the construction of the new venue in order to put more of the museum's 200,000 relics on show.

"With the larger space and new facilities, we can update our exhibitions and have multi-themed exhibits targeting different visitors," Cui said.

The museum will initially have 13 themed exhibitions, presenting a complete picture of the city's history, architecture and folk culture.

In the folk culture section, old Beijing life has been recreated by building two hutong and a business street based on the capital's ancient alleyways.

To make it more convenient for foreign visitors, there will be information in English and Japanese.

"Other languages will be added in the future," Cui said.

The larger venue will need more staff. The museum is poised to expand its staff from 120 to 700. It has also launched a volunteer program to attract more local residents to act as guides.

It is still unclear when the museum will open officially, said Cui.

Residents in Beijing gave a warm welcome to the new museum. The ticket hotline has been busy since it opened on Friday.

"So far, we've received more than 13,00 calls," said Li Bona, who works in the ticket office. "People want to come here as soon as it opens."

The museum opens from 9 am to 4 pm. The booking telephone number is 6337-0491 or 6337-0492.

(China Daily December 12, 2005)

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