Welcome all to the historical Shaanxi History Museum and we are in the city of Xian, considered by many one of the birthplaces of Chinese culture and capital of 13 dynasties including the Zhou, Han and Tang dynasties. The Shaanxi History Museum is also known as “the pearl of ancient dynasties and house of Chinese treasures."
It was the first modern museum built in China and houses over 370,000 relics and treasures right from prehistoric times to about 1840 AD. Everyone got their passports so you can avail of the free tickets? Right then, let’s begin!
Preface Hall – Exhibition Hall for the Mural Paintings of the Tang Dynasty (2 hours)
The museum is based on Tang dynasty architecture – a 2-storied central hall and 4 worship halls around it. So this is how we’ll go:
Preface Hall -- No.1 Exhibition Hall -- No.2 Exhibition Hall -- No.3 Exhibition Hall --Temporary Exhibition Hall -- Exhibition Hall for the Mural Paintings from the Tang Dynasty
This is the best route to take while visiting the museum because it ensures that we see Chinese history unfolding in proper order as the halls are laid out chronologically.
Let’s start the tour with the central hall also known as the Preface Hall. The colour scheme is the same as the rest of the museum – black, white and gray. Here we see a replica of a stone lion from the Shunling Tomb of the Tang Dynasty. Next you see a large picture of a loess plateau and the Yellow River. Behind this picture are the permanent exhibition halls which we shall tour in order. Onward!
No.1 Exhibition Hall
We are on the first floor and looking at the beginnings of Chinese history. Here we have relics and artefacts from Prehistoric times (150,000 years ago – 21st century BC), Zhou Dynasty (1046-771 BC) and Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). While the Prehistoric times exhibit shows the flowering of different cultures, the Zhou and Qin exhibits chronicle the birth and rise of these two dynasties.
No.2 Exhibition Hall
We have now moved up to the second floor and are in the next exhibition hall. Here we find a history of China from the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) to the Northern and Southern dynasties (386-589 AD). The Han dynasty exhibit showcases the architecture of the times and the cultural exchanges of that dynasty with other kingdoms and empires. The predominant themes for the Northern and Southern dynasties are war and cultural integration.
No.3 Exhibition Hall
Moving on, we are now in the third exhibition hall. This hall is mostly dedicated to the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD) – often considered the zenith of Chinese culture and the Shaanxi province. You can see relics in gold and silver, pottery, statuary and relics from the Silk Road.
There are examples of Yaozhou porcelain as well. This porcelain came from the Yaozhou Kiln, a five-kilometre long kiln, which was one of the four major kilns in northern China. It lasted from the Tang dynasty to the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368).
Temporary Exhibition Hall
We are now in what is known as the temporary exhibition hall. As the name suggests, the themes here vary. Various exhibitions from China and abroad are showcased here at different times. Considering the high regard in which it is held, it is no surprise to see murals belonging to the Tang dynasty on display here as well.
Exhibition Hall for Murals from the Tang Dynasty
We are now under the east exhibition wing and underground. The hall covers an area of 1000 square metres. Here we can see murals, taken from over 20 tombs, which depict the life and times of the nobility during the Tang period. Polo matches, ceremonies, people such as envoys and maids of honour are common themes here.
Be careful, all the murals are kept in vacuums to preserve them. As an additional means of restricting damage caused by visitors and the humidity they bring along with them, the hall is only open on certain days and there is an entrance fee of 300 Yuan.
This concludes the tour. Impressed? Good. Just remember – don’t come here on a Monday because the museum is closed on that day.