Last Friday, we went to the Capital Museum in Beijing. Pam had already gone with Isabel, but she had been so impressed with its various exhibitions, as well as with the building itself, that I also wanted to check it out. I was not disappointed. The building is a beautiful combination of traditional and modern architecture that presents a city proud of its past, but also looking towards its future (you can watch a great interview with the architects here.)
In a city with so many historical sites to visit (the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, the mandatory visit to the Great Wall, etc.), I am not surprised that the museum often goes under the radar (if it weren’t for Pam, I would have also missed it), but I would definitely recommend a visit. It offers a great overview of the history of the city, and it also introduces you to some important aspects of Chinese culture and festivals.
They also have a very decent Buddhist art collection, which made my visit all the more exciting,although, as you can see in one of the pictures below, they could have used a native English speaker to polish the explanations of the various rooms and artifacts.
If you ever come to Beijing, make sure to include it in your itinerary.
P.S. Pam, Sophia, and Isabel just visited the National Museum of China, which is directly across Tiananmen Square from the Great Hall of the People. It’s recently been renovated, so the giant, Socialist style exterior has a modern, light-filled interior. She said that in contrast to the Capital Museum, the National Museum, not surprisingly, is a paean to China’s great and lengthy civilization, with halls focused on money through the dynasties, jade carvings, fan art, scroll painting, etc. The Buddhist statue collection is pretty good too, which includes a number of large stone and wooden statues (Isabel wanted to pose in front of each of the large “Bu-ahs,” as she calls the Buddhas). With limited time, Pam says she would definitely recommend going to the Capital Museum over the National Museum (and the National Museum is much more crowded, in part due to its central location).