Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Xian: Shaanxi Museum

I loved Shaanxi Museum before I had even seen the collections. First, it was free to get in, which is unheard of for Chinese tourist attractions, where rampant ticket price inflation is the general rule. Secondly, not only was it not under cover, but there was heating on too. Security guards at the main entrance even provided you with a little plastic bag to put your umbrella in, and two of them almost pushed each other over in their eagerness to offer me a bag. This would have been blissful enough, even if the collections were mediocre, but I was treated to a series of beautifully curated galleries showing off Xian's historical treasures.

This a selection of my favourite items, roughly in chronological order. I could have been super organised and photographed all the labels too, so I could tell you that this is a drinking vessel from the Tang dynasty used for holding the Emperor's third favourite concubine's morning tea, but life is too short.

Ok, so I did photograph the label for this pottery jar, and can inform you that it is from the Spring and Autumn Period (770-475 B.C.). This was because the resemblence to Greek pottery decoration of the same time is simply so strong that I did a double take!

These are some replica Terracotta Warriors and horses. In the background you can see the montage of photographs of the real Warriors, showing how individual each one's face is. I wish I'd taken a photograph of that alone, as not only would it have been interesting to show you all, but also a pleasing cliche of postmodernism. Anyway, the Terracotta Warrior exhibition in the museum, although small, was far better curated than that at the actual site.

This is a bronze swan from the Qin tomb. The First Emperor obviously wanted his mercury rivers to be well populated. Interestingly, scientists have discovered that there is an increased level of mercury in the soil around the tomb area, so the legends about mercury rivers may in fact be true.

An acrobat. There was also a couple of warriors on display too, but as you can see the glass and lighting made taking photos a bit of challenge, and this is the only one not hopelessly blurry!

The calligraphy desk from the art centre/museum cafe, where I enjoyed a delicious and very reasonably priced latte. This is a very rare combination in China!

This is a lamp ingeniously designed to keep the smoke out of the room, as smoke from the taper would pass up through the head of the fish, down through the neck of the goose and be dissolved in it's water filled belly. Yeah, I confess, I photographed the label for this one too cos it was just so clever!


  1. Beautiful photos and commentary on the museum. Thanks, J.

  2. I don't have words enough to tell you how much I enjoy such post of yours. You are opening a completely new world to me. Thanks!
    This is a lovely post.

  3. I'm glad you both enjoyed the virtual tour. :)