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China on Display


Text by Li Shuya

The origins of China’s national museum can be traced back 100 years, when the Preparatory Office of the National Museum of History was established. However, after an extensive renovation, its newest incarnation, the National Museum of China (NMC), has been open for less than two years. Currently, Lu Zhangshen serves as curator of NMC. Over the seven years he has acted in this position, Lu has witnessed tremendous progress, despite frequent disputes and arguments about the direction to take the institution. Not long ago, China Pictorial (CP) found an opportunity to sit down with Curator Lu.

CP: This year marks the centennial of China’s national museum, but the new NMC has been open to the public for just over one year. What are your feelings about the museum both old and new?

Lu: The NMC welcomed its 100th anniversary on July 9, 2012. Over the past century, the museum’s development was closely connected to the nation’s revival. On July 9, 1912, Cai Yuanpei, then minister of education, proposed establishing the Preparatory Office of the National Museum of History. Cultural relics donated by Lu Xun, an eminent scholar and writer, became many of the museum’s earliest collections. Upon Lu’s suggestion, the museum first opened at Guozijian (Imperial Academy) in Beijing. Six years later, it was relocated to Duanmen Gate of the Forbidden City.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the National Museum of Chinese History and National Museum of Chinese Revolution were built on the east side of Tian’anmen Square. Premier Zhou Enlai consulted famous architect Liang Sicheng when designing construction plans for Tian’anmen Square. Liang suggested to follow the principle of “ancestral temple on the left and altar of land and grain on the right” from the Zhou Rites. With this in mind, the Great Hall of the People on the right of Tian’anmen Square symbolizes the “altar of land and grain,” while the museum opposite it represents the “ancestral temple” of the nation.

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