Suzhou Museum

Written by ivana Updated Sep. 28, 2023

The Suzhou Museum, located on Dongbei Street in Gusu District, Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province, was established on New Year's Day in 1960. The museum is divided into two parts: the Eastern Old Museum, situated on the former site of the mansion of the loyal king of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, and the Western New Museum, designed in cooperation with the Pritzker Prize laureate, American-Chinese architect I.M. Pei and his architectural firm. The new museum was opened to the public in 2006.

The Suzhou Museum covers an exhibition area of 2,200 square meters. It houses over 15,000 collections, including more than 40,000 important Chinese cultural relics. Most of the collections consist of ancient paintings, ceramics, artifacts, excavated and revolutionary relics. There are also over 70,000 books and documents, and more than 20,000 rubbings of inscriptions on tablets. Among the collections, paintings include works by famous artists from the Song dynasty to the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Suzhou Museum Facts

Architecture Design

Suzhou Museum Suzhou Museum, Suzhou

Suzhou Museum combines the architectural style of the Suzhou traditional gardens and a more modern vision. It brings together the beauty of nature, light, geometry, and art.

Built according to the tenets of traditional Chinese architecture, Suzhou Museum faces south and is divided into three parts: the central area, east area, and west area. The central area constitutes the core of the museum and includes the entrance, main hall, and garden.

The west area is the main exhibition area and comprises four basic exhibition halls. In this area, you will find ancient cultural relics like scrolls of calligraphy, paintings, bronze ware, textiles, and Suzhou embroidery.

The eastern part has a modern art gallery, educational facilities, a tea house, and an office. Travelers can relax with a cup of tea or coffee there. This area connects with Prince Zhong's Mansion (the museum exit).

Architectural Features

The Suzhou Museum combines the traditional Suzhou architectural style by interspersing the museum between courtyards to harmonize it with its surrounding environment. The new museum's courtyard, smaller exhibition areas, and administrative areas' courtyards break away from the traditional scenic garden design approach in their landscaping design.

Although the white plaster walls will become the primary hue of the new museum, integrating the building with Suzhou's traditional urban texture, the ubiquitous grey small green tile roofs and window frames will be replaced by grey granite aiming for better uniformity of color and texture.

The inspiration for the museum roof design originates from Suzhou's traditional sloping roof landscape - flying eaves with intricate architectural details. However, the new roof has been reinterpreted and has evolved into a new geometric effect. The glass roof will complement the stone roof, allowing natural light to enter the activity area and museum's exhibition areas, providing guidance for visitors and creating a relaxed and uplifting environment.

Suzhou Museum Collections

The museum display area extends over 2,200 sq m (23,680 sq ft) and houses more than 40,000 exhibits. The main collections include relics, paintings and calligraphy, porcelain, handicrafts, and seals.

Numerous collections of calligraphy and paintings dating from the Song dynasty (CE 960–1279) to the Ming (CE 1368–1644) and Qing (CE 1644–1911) dynasties capture the advancement of the culture, history, and art of Suzhou and the Yangtze River Delta. Some of the collections feature excavated cultural relics from Suzhou city. Curious museum visitors will enjoy marveling at the beautiful designs of these well-preserved artifacts.

Basic Exhibitions

Suzhou Museum offers visitors the opportunity to learn the history and culture of Wu (Chinese:吴, the short name of Suzhou). The four permanent exhibition halls — Wu Treasures, Wu Pagoda Relics, Wu Elegance, and Wu Paintings and Calligraphy — are in the west area.  

The first three halls are on the ground floor while the last one is on the second floor. Wu Treasures presents history from 10,000 years ago and houses the remains that reveal the local culture, economy, and life in the ancient past of this stunning city. Wu Pagoda Relics contains Buddhist relics found in the Tiger Hill Pagoda (formerly Yunyan Temple) Hill and Ruiguang Temple Pagoda, both of which are regarded as iconic symbols of Suzhou. The other two exhibition halls display examples of local art, crafts, paintings, and calligraphy.

Besides the basic four exhibitions, there is a Special Exhibition Gallery, a Modern Art Gallery, and a Folk Exhibition Gallery for visitors to expand their knowledge of Suzhou. The Special Exhibition Gallery is located underground in the west area, while the Modern Art Gallery, which houses temporary exhibitions, is located in the east area. The Folk Exhibition Gallery has three halls showcasing seasonal customs, auspicious folk practices, and child-rearing conventions.

Prince Zhong's Mansion

Prince Zhong's mansion (Zhong Wang Fu), next to the New Museum, is the most complete historical complex of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom that has been preserved till now in China. The present layout of the mansion was put in place by the Zhong Prince Li Xiucheng of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom between 1860 and 1863. The mansion is a prism through which you can witness life at that time: marvel at the historical architecture, colorful paintings in the Suzhou style, ancient trees, and elegant old furniture and learn about the history of this period in Chinese history.

Suzhou Museum Prince Zhong's Mansion

Prince Zhong's Mansion

How to Get to Suzhou Museum

Suzhou Museum Tour Routes

Start with the three basic exhibitions on the ground floor of the west area: Wu Treasures, Wu Pagoda Relics, and Wu Elegance.

Then go upstairs to see the Wu Paintings and Calligraphy exhibition.

When you return to the first floor, take a few moments to relax by the great garden with the pond.

Finally, walk to the east area to enjoy the modern gallery and take a rest. You are now ready to depart the new museum to visit Prince Zhong's mansion.

Suzhou Museum Travel Tips

1. Suzhou Museum is close to the Humble Administrator's Garden and the Lion Grove Garden, so it is highly recommended that you explore them together to get the most out of your Suzhou trip.

2. As Suzhou Museum is a popular tourist spot, visitors are required to queue at the entrance. We suggest you make an online reservation prior to your trip so as to avoid wasting time in queues. You can book your place on the museum's website or on WeChat. Or you could take your chances and arrive early, before 10 a.m.

3. It is mandatory for visitors to undergo a security check at the office on the left of the entrance before entering the museum.

Plan your Suzhou Trip with China Travel

If you would like a detailed tour of Suzhou, let us know, and we will plan a trip customized to your preferences. Our experienced English-speaking guides will escort you to the museum and tell you about the history and stories of this charming city.

Please feel free to share your tour ideas with us. We look forward to serving you.

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