Shaanxi Historical Museum

Written by Ruru Zhou Updated Sep. 1, 2021

This large, modern State museum is situated at the western side of the "Wild Goose Pagoda" in Xi’an City. The exhibits on the ground and first floors are grouped into the Basic Exhibition Hall, the Theme Exhibition Hall and East Exhibition Hall. As well as the chronological dynastic displays including the Han, Wei, Jin, North and South, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, the pre-historical and bronze period exhibits, together with terra cotta figures and murals from tombs of the Tang Dynasty, are highly recommended.

The Shaanxi Historical Museum, a large-scale modern State-class museum, is situated at the western side of the "Wild Goose Pagoda" in Xian City. It covers an area of about 70,000 square meters, the architectural area of which is approximately 55,000 square meters.

Xi’an was the imperial capital in ancient time, and more than 13 (the number is the largest in China, even bigger than Beijing) feudal dynasties built their capitals here including Zhou, Qin, Han, and Tang etc. Therefore to some extent the history demonstrated in the museum can be viewed a condensed history of the whole Chinese nation. The architecture of the museum is a great integration of traditional Chinese imperial palace and garden featured by imposing mansions, elegant pavilions and snaking corridors. In the meantime local architectural factors and modern design inspiration have also been incorporated into the building of the important museum. The exhibition hall houses more than 113,000 pieces of antiques unearthed in Shaanxi, one of the most important cradles of the 5,000 years old Chinese civilization. The seven categories of collection that include prehistory, Zhou, Qin, Han, the south North Dynasty of Weijing, Shui and Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing systematically demonstrate a panorama of the history of Shaanxi from 1.15 million years ago until the outbreak of the Opium War in 1840 AD.

To enhance international cultural exchange, the museum has already built a multifunctional auditorium that offers simultaneous interpretation in six languages as well as a museum library with a collection of over 300, 000 books. Shaanxi Historical Museum is also the first online museum in China. In other words, visitors now can tour the great museum at any time and anywhere simply by clicking their website at Pictures and relevant descriptions of all the important exhibits are available online. Visual tours and physical visits are obviously mutually complementary.

Attractions of the Museum

Welcoming Stone Lions

With a huge color photo of the Yellow River at the back, two huge stone lions, duplicate of the stone lions of the Shun Mausoleum of Tang Dynasty, stand in front of the central hall to receive the tourists from both home and abroad.

Fundamental Exhibition Hall

Taking the historical course as a clue and displaying typical antiques of different ages, the Fundamental Hall strives to illustrate the ancient social and civilization development of Shaanxi in a lively way. The 4, 600 square meters hall is divided into three exhibition rooms and seven categories, namely, prehistory period, Zhou, Qin, Han, the South and North Dynasty of Weijing, Shui and Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing. Among the 2,000 pieces of the exhibits, some especially capture our attention. Good examples are the ancient pained potteries that demonstrate the life scenes and artistic pursuit of our prehistory ancestors; the bronze utensils of Zhou Dynasty that witnessed the rise of the Zhou people in central China more than 4, 000 years ago; the bronze swords, terra cotta warriors of Qin that saw the first unification of China by Emperor Qinshihuang and the Three Colored Glazed Potteries, gold and silver wares of Tang that exhibit the glory and prosperity of the Tang Empire. Many pictures, models of historical relics and diagrams are displayed at the same time to provide the viewers a panorama of the ancient history from the prehistory time period to 1840. Xi’an was the capital city of such dynasties as Zhou, Qin, West Han, Shui and tang, therefore the exhibits associated with these dynasties are the most comprehensive and worthwhile to see.

Theme Exhibition Hall

In the west wing of the museum, the Exhibition of Shaanxi Rare Bronze Wares and the Exhibition of Shaanxi Elite Pottery Tomb Figures are the first two exhibitions with a particular theme that ever takes place in this museum. More than 600 pieces of valuable antique that are rarely seen elsewhere are on display, among which, 260 are bronze wares. After attending the bronze ware exhibitions, viewers will obtain a general idea regarding the production process of such bronze wares in the ancient time as well as their special classifications, functions and craftsmanship. Besides the inscriptions on the bronze vessels, their impact upon the development of Chinese calligraphy and seal carving are also addressed. The whole exhibition gives us an impression of historical depth and thickness. 341 pieces of pottery tomb figures are displayed in the tomb figure exhibition in the order of five different time period – Qin and Han, the South and North Dynasty of Weijing, Shui and Tang, Song, Yuan and Ming.

Shaanxi Historical Museum houses 115,000 pieces of antiques, among which, 41,000 have been registered and the rest have not been sorted out and filed. A major part of the collections were from the previous Shaanxi Provincial Museum and are typically classified as the eight categories as below:

Bronze ware

More than 3,900 pieces of bronze wares from the Shang Dynasty to Qin and Han Dynasties have been registered. Among these ancient wares one sees ceremonial utensils, music instruments, weapons, vehicles, harness and other tools and life utensils. The most valuable are the ancient cooking vessels (Duoyou Ding and Shixian Ding for instance) produced in Shang Dynasty. The inscriptions on these vessels are of very high historical value. Some important wares noted for their unique shape are the Phoenix Post Vessel and Bull Vessel of the Zhou Dynasty, the Bird Kettle of the Warring States Period and the Colored Painted Goose and Fish Lantern etc.

The Tang Dynasty Tomb Murals Hall

The Tang Dynasty Tomb Murals Hall is an underground hall located under the east exhibition area of Shaanxi History Museum, with an exhibition area of about 3,800 square meters (40,903 square feet). It collects over 400 tomb murals of the Tang Dynasty (618–907) which were unearthed from 25 tombs of the Tang Dynasty in Central Shaanxi area from 1952 to 1989, with the mural content of hunting, life and the friendly exchanges between the Tang Dynasty and its neighboring countries, reflecting many aspects of lives of the Tang Dynasty. The murals are preserved in vacuo and the hall keeps constant temperature in order to preserve the murals in good condition.

The Tang Dynasty Tomb Murals Hall will open to public formally from June 20, 2011. Due to the rarity and uniqueness of the tomb murals, as well as the great cost of its construction, the hall will charge 300 Yuan per person when it opens.

Ceramic tomb figures of different time period

More than 2, 000 pieces of tomb figures in the collections of the museum have been registered which belong to dynasties including Qin (221-206 B C), Han, Bei, Shui, Tang, Ming and Qing (1644-1912 A D) etc. The ceramic and multiple colored glazed potteries are made in the images of civil and military officials, servants, guards, maids, foreign businessmen from the middle Asia, Gods, horses and camels among others.

Porcelain wares

More than 5, 000 pieces have been registered as collections of the museum, some of which date back to the prehistoric civilization, many more are the green porcelain wares of West Zhou Dynasty, glazed ceramics of Han, three colored glazed ceramics of Tang, ancient glass, colored glazed, green ceramics of Rao kiln of Song Dynasty and suchlike. Exhibits here are ordinary family utensils, stationery and tomb utensils.

Building materials

The 1,000 registered materials that belong to the historical periods from Zhou until Qing, include ceramic tiles, bricks, stones and metal constructions components.

Bronze mirrors of Han and Tang Dynasties

Some of the registered 800 bronze mirrors carry elegant patterns, designs and poetic lines of auspicious implications.

Gold, silver and jade wares

Among the 2, 000 registered items most notable and rarest are the jade ceremonial utensils of West Zhou, the gold woodpeckers unearthed from the Qinggong Tomb of Spring and Autumn Period, the jade queen of West Han, the gold and silver bamboo smoke stove, the beast head agate cup unearthed in the He Family Village of Xi’an in 1970, the eight arris gold cup and the gold walking dragon.

Ancient coins

Over 10, 000 registered valuable ancient coins have been displayed and other 50, 000 pieces of coins that weight 7, 000 kilograms have not been sorted out and exhibited yet. One can easily see rare species that can not seen elsewhere such as the seashell coins of West Zhou, the knife coin of the Warring States Period, Half a Tael of Qin, gold and silver coins of West Han, Tang and some other countries as well as the coins in circulation during the reign of emperor Wang Mang.

Aside from the eight major categories mentioned above, the wide range of Chinese painting and calligraphies, ancient books, Buddhist inscriptions, fabrics, bone wares, wood wares, lacquer work, metal wares, stone wares and seals will also make the museum a worthwhile place to visit.


No. 91 East Xiaozai Road, Big Wild Goose Pagoda District(Yanta District), Xi'an

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