Published: 10:31, January 21, 2024 | Updated: 09:49, January 22, 2024
Ancient art's new life
By Wang Xin

The public can learn about Chinese history this year through Shanghai Museum's forthcoming satellite venue and special exhibitions, Wang Xin reports.

The statue of Tutankhamun from Egypt's 18th Dynasty. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Shanghai Museum is revving up for an eventful year, with the forthcoming opening of its new eastern campus in Pudong New Area, and 18 high-profile special exhibitions it will stage at home and abroad.

Its massive collection of over a million items related to ancient Chinese art is considered the most comprehensive in the world.

The statue of Amenhotep IV from Egypt's 18th Dynasty. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Spanning about 46,000 square meters and featuring a display area of 33,600 square meters, the new Shanghai Museum East will have 20 galleries, interactive spaces as well as shopping and dining options.

" (It) will put on the most comprehensive display of ancient Chinese art. We will also highlight the characteristics of Jiangnan and Shanghai cultures with exhibitions," says Chu Xiaobo, director of Shanghai Museum.

"We expect the new venue will become a critical cultural window for the world to learn more about China."

The gold mask uncovered in 2021 at the Sanxingdui archaeological site, which is located in Guanghan, Sichuan province. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Bronze shines bright

A section of the new campus showcasing ancient Chinese bronze works will open on Feb 2.

The gallery will feature over 500 pieces of bronze ware that illustrate the development and evolution of the medium over 3,600 years, from the late Xia Dynasty (c. 21st century-16th century BC) to the middle of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The new wing will host a special exhibition about the 3,000-year-old Sanxingdui culture that runs until May 20. It will be the largest and most high-profile showcase of Sanxingdui artifacts outside of Sichuan province, where the ancient culture's archaeological site is located. Some of the 363 artifacts on show were restored by Shanghai Museum and will be on show for the first time.

A mummy portrait from Egypt's Ptolemaic period. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Shanghai Museum East will also host a digital art exhibition themed on Sanxingdui to offer immersive and interactive experiences to learn about the archaeological excavation cabins used at the Sanxingdui site.

Chu points out that the construction of Shanghai Museum East, which started in September 2017, will be sped up so that it will be fully completed by 2024. The new wing is expected to open to the public in three phases, with the first being the ancient Chinese bronze gallery.

The second will be open before the end of June. The launch of the final phase, which involves the opening of the painting and calligraphy galleries, is expected to take place by the end of November.

The bronze statue uncovered in 2021 at the Sanxingdui site. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

North comes next

In addition to its People's Square and East venues, Shanghai Museum will also build a new North campus in the coming years.

"After completion, the East venue will mainly focus on showcasing the history of ancient Chinese art. The People's Square venue will take advantage of our collection of international cultural relics, and enhance ties with global art and cultural heritage institutions to introduce more exhibits about overseas civilizations. It will be a platform to showcase diverse global cultures and promote international cultural exchanges," says Chu.

He adds that the northern venue in Yangpu district, which is expected to be completed during the 15th Five-Year Plan (2026-30), will have a special focus on ancient ships and archaeology.

The newly unearthed painted wooden coffin in Egypt's Saqqara archaeological site. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

"We hope and believe that tourists from all over the world will learn more about traditional Chinese culture when they come to Shanghai and visit our eastern venue," says Chu.

Fang Shizhong, director of the Shanghai Administration of Culture and Tourism, points out that the expansion of Shanghai Museum offers citizens better cultural services. The move is also in line with efforts to improve the city's cultural influence globally.

"Shanghai has taken the lead in the country to create a modern public cultural services system. We have seen a growing demand for high-quality, diverse and personalized services," Fang is quoted as saying by Shanghai Observer.

An aerial view of the Shanghai Museum East, the new wing of the Shanghai Museum, which is located in the city's Pudong New Area. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Exhibition extravaganza

Shanghai Museum will hold 14 special exhibitions at its People's Square and eastern venues, and another four in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and Hungary, Italy and Japan this year.

An exhibition at the People's Square venue from July 19 will showcase ancient Egyptian artifacts. Co-organized by Shanghai Museum and Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, the exhibition will be the largest-ever display of Egyptian artifacts outside the North African country.


It'll showcase 800 objects that document the development of ancient Egyptian civilization and showcase the latest archaeological findings from Egypt's Saqqara archaeological site.

"Over 95 percent of the artifacts will be arriving in Asia for the first time, and almost all of them are being shown in China for the first time," says Chu.

The highest-profile exhibits include the statues of Amenhotep IV and Tutankhamen from Egypt's 18th Dynasty (c. 16th-13th century BC), a mummy portrait from the Ptolemaic period (305-30 BC) and a wooden coffin recently unearthed in Saqqara.

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