New batch of first-grade museums listed

Students inspect dinosaur skeletons in a museum on May 14, 2024 in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, ahead of International Museum Day, which is celebrated on May 18 every year. Photo: VCG

Students inspect dinosaur skeletons in a museum on May 14, 2024 in Southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality, ahead of International Museum Day, which is celebrated on May 18 every year. Photo: VCG

The Chinese Museums Association has recently announced a list of 123 museums nationwide that are set to be named national first-class museums in China. 

These museums are scattered in different provinces and autonomous regions such as Henan, Hunan and Sichuan. The majority of them can be classified as “themed museums” focusing on “Chinese history, industrial and cultural heritage, folk traditions and archaeology,” museum expert Zhang Liming told the Global Times. 

The list incorporates several war history-related sites such as the Memorial Museum of the Huaihai Campaign in Jiangsu Province and the Exhibition Hall of Evidences of Crime Committed by Unit 731 of the Japanese Imperial Army in Heilongjiang Province. 

Bei Jiekai, a Shanghai-based cultural resource management expert, told the Global Times that war history museums “play a prominent role in the country’s patriotic public education.” He also added that those museums should be supervised even more “strictly” than other sites displaying cultural artifacts. 

“To achieve their educational purpose, exhibited items at these museums should be coordinated with correct historical references and explanations that can reinterpret real history. Those are bedrock principles,” Bei remarked. 

Taking the major event of the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-45) as an example, in 2019, China designated a total of 80 national-level sites dedicated to the war across the country. Many of them were also national patriotic educational bases partnering with educational institutions like primary schools and universities. 

To encourage further contributions by the country’s archaeological history, several ancient ruins museums were also put on the recent list. The Erlitou Site Museum of the Xia Capital in Henan Province and the Liangzhu Museum in Zhejiang Province are two standouts. 

As a supporting facility for the Erlitou site, the museum in Henan Province hosts precious relics revealing how ancient urbanism and power regimes were established during the Xia (c.2070BC-c.1600BC) and Shang (c.1600BC-1046BC) dynasties. In Hangzhou, the Liangzhu Museum is an embodiment of ancient Chinese ingenuity in jade handicrafts. 

Meanwhile, the Erlitou Site Museum of the Xia Capital has a research center for China’s national project to trace the origins of Chinese civilization. Zhang told the Global Times that for archaeological museums, research is often more important than holding exhibitions.  

“Many of those museums are established right on the original ruins site, and they should have professional teams and equipment to make new discoveries,” Zhang emphasized. 

The 123 museums on the list are scheduled to become the country’s fifth batch of national first-class museums. Prior to this, a total of 204 museums, including the prestigious Palace Museum in Beijing, have been honored with “first-class” status.  

Luo Wenli, deputy director of China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration, revealed that the final list of the fifth batch of national first-level museums will be released on Saturday at a celebratory event for International Museum Day at the Shaanxi History Museum’s Qin Han Museum. 

Considering museums’ responsibility to improve public cultural services and research, the final list will be announced on International Museum Day 2024 as its main theme will be “Museums for Education and Research.”

Held annually on May 18, International Museum Day is a global effort to explore how museum facilities around the world contribute to people’s cultural lives and interpret social changes contextualized against different cultural backgrounds. The event’s theme changes every year. In 2023, its theme was “Museums, Sustainability and Well-being.” 

The Qin Han Museum, China’s main venue for International Museum Day, will be officially opened that day. 

According to Luo, the opening ceremony will include several significant announcements, such as unveiling the latest data on the development of China’s museum sector in 2023, the Ministry of Education jointly awarding 20 national revolutionary cultural relic coordination centers, the launch of the theme exhibition Reading China in Museums in collaboration with the Cyberspace Administration of China, and announcing the “Top 10 National Museum Exhibitions.”

Night economy continues to delight across China

Tourists select intangible cultural heritage fans at a shop on the Dongguan Street in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province on April 29, 2024. [Photo/VCG]

The night economy continues to add vibrancy to consumption, offering visitors a mix of experiences including specialty snacks, themed performances and displays of intangible cultural heritage.

With the May Day holiday approaching, Dongguan Street in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province is bustling with visitors. Decorated with red lanterns, the street attracts many locals and tourists for a leisurely stroll.

In Hefei, Anhui province, traditional arts performances such as Huangmei Opera and “Prelude to Water Melody” have been staged to cultivate a distinct cultural legacy and enhance the night economy.

Blossom festival held in Heze, hometown of peonies

Photo: Lou Kang/GT

Photo: Lou Kang/GT

As peonies bloom in abundance, tourists from home and abroad have been flocking to Heze in East China’s Shan-dong Province, the hometown of peonies, for a special event.

The 2024 International Peony Cultural Tourism Festival opened in the city on Monday, with an ad-ditional satellite venue in Shimane, Japan. This kind of flower has served as a cultural ambassador fostering exchanges between the two countries since it was first introduced to Japan during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

Established during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Caozhou Peony Garden is home to more than 100 century-old peonies and has witnessed the vicissitudes and splendor of this land. Encom-passing more than 300 varieties, the garden shines with a mix of classic domestic breeds and rare imports, while newly cultivated varieties with fragrances add a delightful touch.

In traditional Chinese culture, peonies often symbolize wealth, honor, prosperity and happiness, painting a picture of luxuriousness and magnificence. 

“Compared with flower culture elsewhere in the world, Chinese flower culture has a typical aesthet-ic tendency and traditional psychology surrounding the ‘imagery’ of flowers. Flowers and trees are closely linked to the ideological, value, moral and aesthetic standards of Chinese people. The spirit of traditional Chinese literati and the simple concept of ‘harmony between man and nature’ are also reflected in the cultivation, appreciation and artistic expression of flowers,” said Han Fei, an associ-ate professor with the Communication University of China.

Photo: Lou Kang/GT

Photo: Lou Kang/GT

Among China’s vast kingdom of plants and flowers, peonies symbolize the cultural characteristics of China.

Heze is hailed as the “capital of Chinese peonies,” with its history of cultivation dating back to the Sui Dynasty (581-618). Currently, Heze boasts more than 1,200 varieties, encompassing nine color series and 10 flower types, making it the world’s largest base for peony breeding, cultivation and research, said Yang Dongbo, director of the Heze Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism.

Influenced by the cultural and tourism boom, this year’s peony festival will also serve as an im-portant component of local cultural tourism leveraging peonies.

To provide visitors with a deeper understanding of peony culture, local authorities have launched immersive experiences themed on “Peonies and Time Traveling back with Ancient Celebrities.” Wandering in the garden, visitors can “travel through time” and appreciate the charm of peonies by meeting with legendary figures such as Yang Guifei, Li Bai and Xi Shi, listening to their legendary stories and enjoying an unprecedented garden experience.

To promote local cultural tourism through peonies, Yang told the Global Times that the city has planned 10 spring flower tours. 

“In addition to peony-centric routes, visitors can explore the popular Caoxian Hanfu Town, enjoy opera performances, experience intangible cultural heritage projects, and more,” Yang noted.

However, peonies are just one facet of Heze’s cultural tourism. Yang told the Global Times that be-sides visiting major peony gardens, tourists can explore attractions like Caozhou Ancient City, Qin-glong Mountain, and Yellow River Wetland Scenic Area.

As part of the festival, more than 20 high-quality domestic and international performances will take turns to entertain visitors.