Sichuan's new provincial museum opened on May 1 to a few thousand curious visitors. The 50,000-square-meter museum has been under construction since 2001, and its massive size and relatively central location near Dufu's Cottage meant that its opening—which came several years later than originally expected—was a highly anticipated event.
Sichuan Provincial Museum dates back to 1941 when it opened at Huangcheng Mingyuan Lou (皇城明远楼), a building in the ancient city situated roughly where Tianfu Guangchang now stands. It moved a second time, in 1949, to Renmin Gongyuan. In 1965 it moved to 3 Renmin Nan Lu, Section 4, and stayed there until it closed in 2002.
Laid out in what appears to be the standard style for regional museums in China, the interior of the Sichuan Museum will feel very familiar to those who have visited the Shanghai Museum. When that museum opened in its current location in 1996, it was touted as raising the standard for the nation's museums to an international level. Sichuan's slightly smaller (three floors compared to Shanghai's five) does the same for the southwest region.
Given the museum's size and scope, visitors should plan to spend at least a half day visiting if they wish to view all of the halls. The three-floor museum holds a dozen galleries, and each gallery contains an abundance of items on display.
The museum's excellent lighting, intuitive placement of exhibits, and attractive interior decoration all make it a pleasure to visit, especially compared to many of the local museums' subpar quality. The showrooms are easy to navigate, and every gallery is decorated in the style of the items it houses; for instance, signage in the Bronze Hall is made to look like corroded, greening bronze, and the Pottery Hall features pottery-embedded walls and glass floors, underneath which are broken pieces of ceramic. Ancient seals are displayed in glass cases above a mirror that reflects the imprint through a magnifying glass. The shadow-puppet display is a room with illuminated walls, each panel displaying a puppet.
Notable displays include the 20th century Sichuanese painter Zhang Daqian's reproductions of the Dunhuang frescoes, 5,000-year-old pottery, and a hall dedicated solely to Tibetan artifacts, including clothing and religious relics. The Folk Customs hall displays artifacts from a number of Sichuan's minority ethnic groups, including jewelry, clothing, musical instruments, and everyday objects used by the Qiang, Yi, and Tujia people.
Audio tours in Chinese and English are available for RMB20 with a deposit of RMB200 and an ID. Guided tours also available for between RMB100 and 250 depending on the size of the group. The vast majority of signs are in Chinese and English, with some also displaying Japanese and Korean.
First floor: Han Dynasty Pottery, Lecture hall, Temporary exhibit halls
Second floor: Zhang Daqian Art Center, Bronze Center, Calligraphy and Painting, Ceramics, Souvenir shop
Third floor: Sichuan Folk Relics, Folk Customs, Industrial Relics,
Tibetan Buddhist Relics, Wanfo Temple Stone Sculpture Center
All photos by Leo Chen.
This article was originally published in CHENGDOO citylife, issue 23, "streets."