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Museum puts the excitement into excavations

Updated: 2023-10-12 07:58 ( China Daily Global )
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Visitors take photos of cultural relics at the Chinese Archaeological Museum in Beijing, which opened to the public in September. JIANG DONG/CHINA DAILY

Innovative use of technology allows visitors to enjoy unique immersive experiences, Yang Feiyue reports.

A sweeping timeline is stamped on the ground at the entrance of the Chinese Archaeological Museum, which opened to the public last month. It starts with Lufengpithecus lufengensis, ancient apes dating back about 8 million years, through ancient dynasties and up to the new era, and marks significant moments in time and major historical events in China's history.

The timeline looks like a red carpet that leads to the inner sanctum of the museum. Visitors will be amazed by the precious cultural relics on show, which bear witness to the evolution of Chinese civilization. Affiliated with the Chinese Academy of History, the museum is the only one of its kind in the country.

It serves as a kind of historical and cultural salon on Beijing's Central Axis, a new national cultural landmark that displays more than 5,000 years of Chinese civilization, says Li Guoqiang, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of History.

It encompasses exhibitions, collections, academic research and education, and has a permanent 7,000-square-meter exhibition hall.

The exhibition area is divided into five sections based on changes to social formation, and focuses on political, economic, cultural and social life, as well as on exchanges between China and other countries, from the Paleolithic period until today.

Visitors can see important ancient cultural relics, particularly from the early stage of civilization, including a Neolithic pottery sculpture of a human face that reflects Yangshao Culture, and is dated to between 4,700 and 7,000 years ago.

A turquoise-inlaid bronze plaque from the Erlitou site, Luoyang, Henan province. JIANG DONG/WANG KAIHAO/CHINA DAILY

Also on display is a turquoise-inlaid bronze plaque with a beast-mask design that offers a glimpse into Henan province's Erlitou site, which dates back over 3,500 years. It is widely considered to be the capital of the Xia Dynasty (c. 21st century-16th century BC), the first central dynasty recorded in Chinese history.

There is also a turquoise mosaic dragon from Erlitou that is 70 centimeters long and is made of more than 2,000 small pieces of green turquoise of varying shapes.

"The dragon's body is adorned with copper bells, and contains a jade clapper inside. The body is gracefully curved, and the image is vivid and lifelike," says Gong Wen, the archaeological museum's director.

"The sheer scale of craftsmanship, precision, and the size of this dragon-shaped artifact make it truly rare among early Chinese artifacts," Gong says.

Other highlights include the remains of horses and a chariot from the Yinxu Ruins from the Shang Dynasty (c. 16th century-11th century BC), and bronzeware from the same period.

"All the exquisite cultural relics on display came primarily from our frontline archaeological excavations," Gong says.

From the prehistoric era all the way through to social development, the Chinese Archaeological Museum presents the development of a unified multiethnic nation in a panoramic manner, she adds.

Cross-cultural exchanges along the ancient Silk Road make up another major section of the exhibition.

The new facility is themed on ancient China and the fusion of civilization, and houses immersive, warehouse-style displays, Gong says.

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