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First Look: The Shanghai Museum East Branch

We checked out Pudong's new cultural landmark together with roughly 8.000 other people that day.
2024-04-10 18:00:00

Pudong's hinterland got a new landmark with the opening of the much-anticipated Shanghai Museum East Branch, which opened in February this year. It is adjacent to the Shanghai Science & Technology Museum (still under renovation), the Shanghai Library East Branch, and the Shanghai Oriental Art Center, turning this once deserted part of Pudong into a new cultural wonderland.

Once fully open, it will give its sister museum, the also recently reopened Shanghai Museum, a run for its money, now boasting the most comprehensive collection of ancient Chinese art globally.

The massive gray building houses artifacts spanning over 33 categories, with a total collection exceeding 1.02 million pieces or sets, including nearly 145,000 precious artifacts. Covering an area of approximately 46,000 square meters, the building comprises six above-ground floors and two underground levels.

Pretty impressive numbers. Shanghai doesn't do small!

The Phased Opening

The opening of the Shanghai Museum East Branch is divided into three stages. At present, only the first floor's Ancient Chinese Bronze Gallery and the special exhibition "Stars Over China: The Ancient Shu Civilization of Sanxingdui and Jinsha" (located in Gallery 1 on the second floor and Gallery 2 on the third floor) were opened. The trial opening space currently occupies about 25% of the exhibition space.

That hasn't stopped the crowds from visiting, though. Currently, the daily visitor flow is approximately 8,000 people.

Other galleries, such as the Ancient Chinese Sculpture Gallery, Chinese Painting Gallery, Chinese Calligraphy Gallery, Chinese Ming and Qing Furniture Gallery, and Chinese Minority Nationalities' Art Gallery, will gradually open throughout the year.

According to the plan, by the end of June, the open area will reach 80%; by the end of November this year, the entire museum will be fully open, accommodating a whopping 30,000 visitors daily!

The Ancient Chinese Bronze Gallery

The Ancient Chinese Bronze Gallery marks the sixth renovation of its kind in the past 50 years for the Shanghai Museum. The entire exhibition features a curated selection of over 500 ancient Chinese bronze artifacts, spanning 3,600 years from the late Xia Dynasty in the 18th century BC to the mid-Qing Dynasty in the mid-19th century AD.

The Special Exhibition of Sanxingdui

The Sanxingdui exhibition gathers 363 cultural relics from 12 cultural institutions within Sichuan Province and 16 others from various regions across China.

One of the major highlights of the Sanxingdui exhibition is the Bronze Human Head with Hair in a Bun, Covered by a Gold Mask, unearthed in Pit No. 8 of the Sanxingdui site in 2021. Experts from the Shanghai Museum have undertaken the restoration of this artifact, and it is making its debut in this exhibition. Many of the artifacts in this exhibition are newly unearthed treasures from recent years. Among these are the Bronze Statuette with a Tiger's Head and a Dragon's Body, and the Bronze Mythical Beast, which are being exhibited in Shanghai for the first time. Perhaps this is why the exhibition has garnered so much attention; after all, many enthusiasts of ancient Chinese culture are eager to see these newly unearthed artifacts.

How to get Tickets?

The exhibitions are completely free, but due to their high popularity, it is important to ensure you make a reservation in advance before visiting.

Access the "上博参观" (shang bo can guan) WeChat mini-program and fill in your information (name and passport number) in advance. If you plan to visit the museum on a Saturday, you will need to make a reservation on the previous Sunday at noon, one week in advance. However, even if you find that the time slot you want is fully booked, you can try accessing the mini-program on the same day. Sometimes there will be a few available time slots, so you may still be able to reserve a spot for the day. It's usually easier to secure a time slot on a weekday; weekends are much harder. Once you've successfully reserved your time slot, you'll receive a QR code. Scan the code to enter.

Is it worth visiting?

We visited one afternoon after the Qingming holidays had ended, expecting it to be a regular workday. However, it was still incredibly crowded.

If you prefer avoiding crowds, your experience here might not be as enjoyable. However, it's usually less crowded right after the museum opens or near closing time, on weekdays. You might want to consider visiting during those times.

If you're interested in China's historical past, and ancient bronze artifacts, then it's definitely worth a visit because they have some truly remarkable artworks. The Sanxingdui exhibition will be running until May 20, and there are more exhibitions planned for the second half of the year, including a major Ancient Egypt exhibition in July. Really looking forward to that!