International Museum Day is celebrated on the 18th of May each year, and this year’s theme is “The Power of Museums”. To mark the occasion, China Travel Course is recommending a special tour featuring ten unique Chinese museums that will allow you to appreciate the role of Chinese museums in preserving and passing down this ancient civilization whilst embracing the future with technology and innovation. This tour also acts as a world heritage, panda and food tour, allowing you to visit ten World Heritage Sites, get up close and personal with lovable pandas, and sample the edible delights of China, a land boasting a rich array of delicious cuisines.

The Palace Museum UNESCO World Heritage Site, 5A tourist attraction  
Standing on the former site of the imperial palace (widely known as the Forbidden City), the Palace Museum dates back over 600 years to the Ming (1368-1644 AD) and Qing (1636-1912 AD) dynasties. The largest and best preserved wooden palace complex in the world, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. As you walk into the palace and along the central axis to the north, you will come across three great halls, namely the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony, and the Hall of Preserving Harmony, where great ceremonies took place. Located further north on the axis are the residential quarters of the emperor and his empresses, with the Imperial Garden at the end.

We suggest you also try the “Panoramic Palace Museum”, which offers an immersive virtual tour of the Forbidden City. Through this online experience, you can enter the different halls and buildings of the palace, explore classical Chinese architecture in detail, or simply enjoy the changing scenery of the Forbidden City, whatever the season.
National Museum of China, Beijing

The National Museum of China lies to the east of Tiananmen Square and is a superb choice if you want a quick overview of the history of the Chinese civilization. Basement level 1 contains the essential and must-see Ancient China exhibition. Following the thread of China’s dynasties through time, it paints a comprehensive picture of ancient China’s development in terms of its politics, economics, culture, society and foreign relations in each period, from prehistoric times to the Ming and Qing dynasties. The National Museum of China also features thematic exhibitions on ancient Chinese bronzes, Buddhist sculptures, jade and porcelain, providing a wide-ranging perspective of the cultural achievements of ancient China.

玉龙(公元前4700–2900) Jade Dragon (4700-2900 BC)

四羊青铜方尊(约公元前14世纪—前11世纪) Square Vessel (fang zun) with Four Rams (approx. 14th-11th century BC)

Phoenix Coronet for Empress Dowager Xiaojing (1573-1620 AD)

China Traditional Culture Museum, Beijing

Boasting a long history and unique craftsmanship, China’s arts and crafts are shining examples of traditional Chinese culture. China Traditional Culture Museum opened to the public during Chinese New Year in 2022. Located on the northern extension of Beijing’s central axis, the museum collects and displays Chinese arts and crafts and intangible cultural heritage over six floors, with permanent exhibitions on the fifth and sixth floors.
Especially worthy of a visit are the four jade national treasures: the jade mountain The Wonder of Mount Dai, the jade flower The Scent of Ju Rui, the jade basket Fragrant Sights and the jade screen Four Seas Play. These four pieces took several skilled masters over eight years to complete, and feature novel designs and elaborate production techniques.
Mogao Grottoes (UNESCO World Heritage Site, 5A tourist attraction), Dunhuang, Gansu Province 
Carved into a cliff in the eastern foothills of the Mingsha Mountains in Dunhuang, Gansu Province, are over 700 grottoes, large and small. Together, they make up the world’s largest and best-preserved collection of Buddhist art – the Mogao Grottoes. In December 1987, Mogao Grottoes entered the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. In 2014, the Mogao Grottoes Digital Exhibition Centre opened to the public. Here, visitors can learn about the history of the Mogao Grottoes through themed films and fulldome films before visiting them on site. You can also get a closer look at the exquisite frescoes and painted sculptures of the Mogao Grottoes by visiting the Digital Dunhuang website.
Shaanxi History Museum, Xi’an, Shaanxi Province

The construction of Shaanxi History Museum began in 1983 and was completed in 1991. The museum mainly focuses on the civilization of ancient China, and especially the history and culture of Shaanxi Province . Its collection of artefacts ranges from crude stone implements used by ancient humans to various objects from the 19th century, and spans a timescale of a million years in total. The diverse range of artefacts in Shaanxi History Museum are of exceptional quality and great historical value. Highlights of the museum include the permanent Ancient Civilization of Shaanxi exhibition, and two themed exhibitions, Mural Paintings of the Tang Dynasty and Treasures of the Great Tang Dynasty: Objects Unearthed at Hejiacun Village (Tang Dynasty: 618-907 AD). At the museum, you can also see exquisite bronze pieces dating from the Shang (approx. 1600-1046 BC) and Zhou (1046–256 BC) dynasties, various pottery figurines, elegant gold and silver objects representing the advanced craftsmanship of the Han and Tang dynasties, and an unparalleled collection of Tang Dynasty tomb murals.

金怪兽(公元前475年-公元8年)Gold Monster (475BC-8AD)

Hollow Silver Fragrance Burner with Interlocking Flowers (618-907AD)

Painting of Musicians and Dancers (618-907AD)

Female Glazed Ceramic Figure of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD)


Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum (UNESCO World Heritage Site, 5A tourist attraction) Xi’an, Shaanxi Province

Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum is built on top of the original site of the Terracotta Army and mausoleum of Emperor Qinshihuang, which was itself built between 246 BC and 208 BC. The world’s largest underground military museum, it boasts more than 8,000 life-size pottery figures and horses (including chariots, cavalry, and infantry), all neatly arranged and with their own distinct features. Discovered in 1974, the site is considered one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the twentieth century.
Henan Museum, Zhengzhou, Henan Province 
Established in 1927, the Henan Museum collection features prehistoric artefacts as well as bronzes, ceramics, jade and stone carvings dating to the Shang and Zhou dynasties. With seven permanent exhibitions displaying nearly 6,000 pieces (or sets) of artefacts, the museum reflects the progress of civilization and important achievements in this central Chinese region. 

贾湖骨笛 Jiahu Bone Flute

四神云气图(西汉,公元前202年—公元8年) Four Animals in Clouds (Western Han Dynasty, 202 BC-8 AD)

Meanwhile, Henan Museum also uses 5G, VR and other technologies to extend the exhibitions to the stage, creating musical song and dance scenes featuring the “Huaxia Ancient Orchestra”. During the Spring Festival of 2021, a performance of the dance Night Banquet at the Tang Palace, inspired by the music and dance figurines discovered in 1959 in Anyang, Henan Province, took China by storm. What sort of performance will these “Tang Dynasty Ladies” give when they come to Henan Museum?

Sanxingdui Museum, Guanghan, Sichuan Province

Located around 50 kilometres from Chengdu, Sanxingdui is a large site dating from the late Neolithic Age to the Shang and Zhou dynasties and a significant archaeological and historical discovery. An ancient city dating back three or four thousand years was discovered here, along with a large amount of precious bronze, jade, gold, ivory pieces and other important cultural artefacts. The site indicates that the Yangtze River region had a highly developed civilization at the same time as the rise of the Yellow River civilization. 
The Sanxingdui civilization is distinctive and produced rare artefacts, with its golden sceptre, a bronze standing figure and a bronze tree being particularly striking. Sanxingdui Museum is focused on collecting, preserving and displaying Sanxingdui artefacts. It has two permanent exhibition halls: a general hall displaying gold, jade and pieces, and a bronze hall displaying fine bronzeware. 

金杖 Golden Sceptre

玉璋 Jade Tablet

青铜神树 Bronze Sacred Tree

青铜立人像 Bronze Standing Figure


Shanghai Museum

Nestled in the modern metropolis of Shanghai lies a huge museum of ancient Chinese art. First established in 1952, the new and relocated Shanghai Museum reopened to the public in 1996. The building’s design, featuring a square base and circular dome, symbolizes the view of ancient Chinese cosmology that the heaven is round and the earth is square. The museum has exhibition halls showcasing bronze, sculpture, ceramics, painting and calligraphy.

大克鼎(公元前10世纪末) Da Ke Ding (bronze food vessel, late 10th century BC)

子仲姜盘(公元前770年-公元前7世纪上半叶) Pan of Zi Zhong Jiang (water vessel, 770 BC – first half of the 7th century BC)


Suzhou Museum, Jiangsu Province 

Suzhou Museum was designed by the world-renowned architect I. M. Pei. This comprehensive museum is a blend of the modern and the ancient and sits in innovative landscaped gardens. The Suzhou Museum collection showcases the long history and characteristic crafts of the Wu region, shedding light on the local culture and arts, craftsmanship, and the Suzhou lifestyle. Notable pieces include the Sword of Yumo, King of Wu, a Lotus Sutra, which was written in ink made of mercury and gold powder on indigo dyed paper, and a drum-shaped three-footed bowl for washing writing brushes.
There are a host of world heritage sites, delectable dishes, and cultural experiences to discover on this museum tour. Check out more on

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