Beijing’s Capital Museum located at FuxingmenwaiDajie, just right off Muxidi station on Line 1,is a stunning representation of past meets present. A museum dedicated to Beijing’s history and cultural heritage, within its modern exterior are six floors and countless halls of artifacts and research preserving the past and toasting the future. Admission is free and just needs advanced reservations for tickets! How does one pass that up? Like a lot of the buildings popping up all over the city, the Capital Museum looks like high-tech office building, all glass and steel. However, if you look close enough you will see the pieces of Chinese history that stand in stark contrast to all the grey. In the front entrance, a piece of danbi (a stone slab carved with dragons and the like) is imbedded in the ground. The overhanging roof itself is a modern take on the traditional Chinese architecture style. My first step inside the building drew a “Wow” and a low whistle. Expecting low ceilings and crammed glass cases strewn all over the lobby, I was impressed by the impossibly high ceiling and natural light pouring in. As soon as you walk in, to your left is the giant leaning structure of the Bronze Exhibition Hall, which features a movie every 12 minutes (subtitles included!), on Beijing’s early stages. It’s a perfect spot to reserve for the end of your visit. A good time to sit, lean back, and watch digitally rendered images of Beijing’s growth set to epic instrumental scores, maybe even a bit too epic.
Epic is more wandering the six floors, six exhibition halls, and the 5,622 total pieces of Beijing’s cultural heritage. One could easily spend the entire day in the Capital Museum. Your ticket is good for the whole day so you can go out, grab a bite to eat, and head back in for some more exploring. Or you can stay in and snack at their little café, and do your shopping at the ground floor bookstore. I even caught a high school aged kid taking a nap on the benches. I’m pretty sure museum security quickly took care of that, but it goes to show, this place is great for the whole day!
The top floor of the museum houses the “Old Stories of Beijing – Exhibition of Old Beijing Folk Customs” and it is by far my favorite. While most of the pieces are stuck behind glass cases, the majority of them are in the open, separated by red cords and waist high glass panes. Old doors, furniture, or replicas of the like are within one’s reach. I wouldn’t suggest actually reaching across the ropes though and touching them, but just the fact that they’re out like that beckons you to peer for a closer look. In the traditional wedding exhibit, a display of a couple’s wedding bed drew some laughs from our end.
While the rest of the museum blends into a blur of jade, bronze, porcelain, paper, stone, and wood, there are pieces that stand out from the displays because of certain odd characteristics. Like a sitting monk with a full beard and belly button hair? I think I drew a crowd due to my ecstatic squeals. High pitched yells are quite frowned up on in the “Exhibition of Fine Artistic Collection of Ancient Chinaware and Jade Collection” so I would advise you to keep to the ooohs and aaahs instead.
There are a lot of the artifacts in the Capital Museumthat I spent over ten minutes looking at. The amount of detail put into some of these pieces just blows my mind. I could not get over the intricate designs on this ancient Chinese hard pillow. A pillow! Ancient Chinese were designing ordinary things like pillows and turning them into masterpieces like this. Why don’t these things still exist today? Granted, this pillow wouldn’t be the most comfortable to sleep on but who cares when you’ve got a carved piece of art beneath your head?
Through a total of 5,622 other masterpieces in the Capital Museum, Beijing’s cultural heritage and history is put on a colorful and detailed display. I encourage anyone wanting to learn more about Beijing and China’s past to go the Capital Museum and get ready to spend the whole afternoon exploring. Not one exhibition is a like, and guaranteed you will find yourself also unexpectedly squealing over some piece of fabulous history.