The new Shanghai Museum is located near Renmin Square (the Peoples Square) and holds an amazing collection of historical and artistic objects. The museum is relatively new, opening to the public at the end of 1995. It was probably the most modern building I saw in China, with floor space of 120,000 m and a collection of 123,00 pieces (and yes, I could wax lyrical just about the toilets!).
The museum is on 4 levels and the galleries lead off from a central atrium. The displays are divided into different categories, including bronzeware, chinaware, sculpture, coins, furniture, seals, jade, arts and crafts from ethnic minorities, and calligraphy. We found it impossible to see everything in one day.
Student could get a reduced entry price, so it was rather unfortunate that I had lost my student card that morning (!!). However, in one of those ‘flash bulb’ moments, I rummaged around and found a photocopy of the letter I used for my visa inviting me - as a student - to China. They accepted it!
We decided to split up and meet at around 2 for lunch. We had found out that you could leave the museum for lunch and then come back in later on. This was just as well as the prices in both the museum’s teashop and restaurant were rather expensive.
I wandered into the stoneware section on the bottom floor, while the other disappeared into other directions. For the next few hours I didn’t see any of my traveling companions and I did quite enjoy the time by myself. In each section the display is designed to show the evolution of art in China. As long as you start in the right place, you can follow the developments through of whichever craft you’re actually looking at. Unfortunately I didn’t realise this until halfway through the jade section (I don’t think it really mattered)
While the paintings and the calligraphy didn’t mean so much to me, I really enjoyed the sculpture, bronze work, jade and seal galleries. The pottery section was also very interesting. There were models of different kilns that had been used throughout history and a young man demonstrated a traditional method for making pots. The lighting in the museum was really effective, quite dim, with spotlights highlighting individual pieces.
After lunch, I went back with Clare to the stoneware gallery to take a picture of a piece she had especially taken to. I had already taken one of a ‘Loka Pali’ that I had liked (he appeared to be having a great amount of fun). I think she was a little offended when I said I thought her bhodisattva looked like Queen Victoria. However, she ended up having the last laugh - my picture of the Loka Pali came out blurry, where as ‘Queen Victoria’ looks really good. Oh yeah - photography was allowed, just not with a flash.