10 Of The Best Ancient Museums To Visit In Asia
Museums are hubs of history and culture, providing us with a glimpse into our past while helping us understand where our roots come from.
Hubei Provincial Museum boasts an exceptional collection of ancient art, featuring 2,400-year-old chime bells that draw thousands of visitors every year.
This museum, located near the Mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, boasts an extensive collection of bronzes, sculptures and pottery.
1. Hubei Provincial Museum
Hubei Provincial Museum can be found by Wuhan’s East Lake in Wuchang District and boasts an extensive collection of state-level historic and cultural relics. As one of China’s five A Level Scenic Spots, it is famed for its massive selection of ancient musical instruments.
Tomb of Marquis Yi is an archaeological find dating back over 2400 years that contains many priceless artifacts such as King Gou Jian’s sword and spear, along with those belonging to Wu Cha.
There are also exhibits from tombs belonging to Chu, the kingdom that once dominated modern-day Hubei and Wuhan. Of particular note is the Chime Bells Exhibition Hall with 65 bronze bells that can emit two distinct tones each; so beautiful are these that an outdoor music performance takes place here each day!
2. National Museum of China
National Museum of China features unparalleled collections of bronze, porcelain, jade, Chinese calligraphy and paintings, cliff inscriptions and ancient coins – not to mention treasured fossil remains from 1.7 million years ago; painted pottery and jade ritual objects from Neolithic times; Simuwu Rectangle Ding from Shang Dynasty that boasts as being the world’s biggest piece of bronze ware and square bronze Zun with four sheep heads from Western Zhou Dynasty as highlights. Located in Beijing at its center lies the National Museum of China which also showcases significant archeological finds as well as ethnic culture; top highlights include fossil remains from Yuanmo Man 1.7 million years ago as well as painted pottery ritual objects from Neolithic times; painted pottery from Neolithic times Neolithic times Neolithic ritual objects from Neolithic Neolithic times painted pottery ritual objects Neolithic times Neolithic times painted pottery ritual objects from Neolithic times Neolithic times Neolithic times Neolithic times Neolithic times Simuwu Rectangle Ding (a kind of vessel from Shang Dynasty which is the biggest piece ever cast bronzeware ever created); square bronze Zun from Western Zhou Dynasty which features four sheep heads!
Tian’anmen Square Museum, one of the world’s largest by display space. Boasting massive 1950s Soviet-style building on its eastern side, with numerous galleries covering Chinese civilisation from Ancient China up through modern China; you could spend hours here exploring its galleries!
3. Terracotta Army Museum
The Terracotta Army, placed within China’s first Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi’s tomb to accompany him into afterlife, is one of the most recognized images of Chinese heritage and one of the world’s most visited exhibitions in history.
There is evidence of up to 8,000 full-sized terracotta warriors and horses being buried here, and four major pits have already been excavated; these contain soldiers, chariots and weapons as well as carefully modeled figures with distinctive features to indicate different ranks or roles (from archers and infantrymen to charioteers and musicians).
To avoid crowds and see the museum without being overwhelmed by them, consider joining one of the daily VIP Xi’an Terracotta Army Tours with a guide. It typically lasts about 2 hours from downtown Xi’an and includes transportation. Winter low season offers cooler temperatures and fewer visitors, making winter an excellent time for visiting!
4. Hainan Museum
Haikou Museum covers an area of over 40,000 square meters and houses more than 20,000 cultural relics, making it a landmark of Haikou and drawing in visitors from all around the globe for its remarkable artifacts, statues, pottery pieces, paintings and more.
Hainan Island Cultural Museum features a vast gallery that explores Hainan’s rich cultural history, its intangible cultural heritage, and national minority groups. Anyone wanting to gain more insight into Hainan culture should pay a visit.
MAD Architects was an award-winning architecture firm which designed this museum, drawing its inspiration from nature. The museum offers visitors an excellent opportunity to admire some of Hainan’s beautiful carved coconuts dating back as far as Tang Dynasty which are famed for their intricate patterns and designs.
5. National Palace Museum
The National Palace Museum (Gugong Bowuyuan in Chinese) houses one of the world’s finest collections of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts, including paintings, ritual bronzes, jade, ceramics and decorative carvings.
Jadeite Cabbage with Insect – one of its signature pieces is this exquisitely carved jade masterpiece featuring delicate katydids and locusts within its leaves – is probably its most well-known work; however, this hoard encompassing several dynasties covers every facet of Chinese art.
Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Chinese Nationalist Kuomintang party and fleeing during China’s civil war with Mao Zedong’s Communist Red Army. This moved much of its collection from Beijing Palace Museum with him when he fled to Taiwan during civil unrest; these pieces remain contentious between Beijing and Taipei with Beijing demanding that Chiang return them back.
6. National Museum of Taipei
The National Museum of Taipei houses one of the world’s finest collections of traditional Chinese arts and historical documents, housing approximately 700,000 pieces that once belonged to Beijing’s Forbidden City.
Set within an idyllic haven of gardens, pagodas and lotus ponds teeming with birdsong, this museum presents Taiwan’s diverse heritage in two old European-style buildings. Some notable features include 32 Corinthian columns with elaborate acanthus and volute designs as well as a grand staircase.
Collections at the NPM range from an ancient jadeite cabbage, Tang tri-colored pottery, and Qing dynasty porcelains depicting dancer and musician figurines to Jiu Manzhou Dang — a set of Manchu court archives, as well as Narcissus Basin with Light Bluish-Green Glaze from Ru Ware dating between 1086 – 1106. Additionally, NPM houses an archive for scholarly journals.
7. National Museum of Japan
Museums provide us with windows into human history, art and culture. Showcasing ancient artwork to contemporary pieces – these top 10 museums in Asia showcase its diversity while sharing compelling narratives of our world.
This museum exhibits an abundance of historical artifacts ranging from silk road civilizations and Buddhist masterpieces, paintings and pottery to fossils and archaeological specimens. Additionally, there is also a section devoted to natural science that features various fossils.
The National Museum of Korea houses over 109,000 historical relics in a neoclassical building dating back to 1860s, in six sections: Korea Gallery, Art Gallery and Korean Treasure Room – each designated National Important Cultural Properties. Its collection encompasses traditional Korean pottery and calligraphy as well as Indonesian batik; gold and silver from long-lost Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms and gold and silver from long-forgotten Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms; pottery made by hand by local potters as well as gold and silver from long-lost Hindu-Budddhist kingdoms from long ago; gold from long lost Hindu-Budddhist kingdoms from all over Indonesia – among many other things! Their mission is to pass along their traditional art and cultural heritage to future generations; with three of their sections being designated National Important Cultural Properties: Korea Gallery Art Gallery and Korean Treasure Room respectively.
8. National Museum of Korea
The National Museum of Korea showcases an expansive collection of historical artifacts and artwork, from chipped stone hand axes to golden crowns, exquisite celadon pieces to Buddhist statues – each showcases Korea’s rich culture and history.
The museum features nine exhibition rooms, with its Prehistory and Ancient History Gallery housing 4,500 artifacts from Paleolithic to Unified Silla era excavated from sites across Korea. Other notable highlights include Bangudae Petroglyphs and Songgung-ni Room; Bronze Age & Gojoseon Room; Proto Three Kingdoms Room; Baekje Room; Gaya Room and Silla Room as highlights.
The museum features the Donated Collection and Sculpture & Crafts Gallery with over 800 works of art such as Buddhist statues, metal arts, inlaid white porcelain pieces and more. Furthermore, the Donated Gallery hosts two contemplative Bodhisattva statues that have been designated National Treasures by Korea – making this an experience not to be missed!
9. National Museum of China
The National Museum of China is an enormous museum complex located on the eastern side of Tiananmen Square in Beijing and housing one of the world’s largest museum collections. Comprising two former institutions — Museum of Chinese History and Revolutionary Museum — this mammoth museum complex now unifies both of these collections into one magnificent complex.
The Museum houses an immense collection of art and historical treasures. This includes pottery and jade from the Neolithic Age; fossilized remains from Yuanmo Man and Beijing Man; as well as some very rare pieces such as Houmuwu Rectangle Ding which dates back 3,000 years and weighs 832kg – the world’s heaviest ancient bronzeware!
It also displays ancient bronzes, Chinese Calligraphy and Paintings, Buddhist sculpture, Ming & Qing furniture as well as some cliff inscriptions and ceremonial suits made of jade used to bury members of Royal Families.
10. National Museum of Anyang
Visitors to Anyang’s 3,000-year-old capital will discover bronze ritual vessels, ceramic jars, jade ornaments and bells reminiscent of its elite culture in its palace district – drawn from the National Museum of Asian Art’s collection – that showcase its important Bronze Age site. Additionally, this exhibition spotlights ongoing archaeological work at Anyang.
This exhibition at the Freer Gallery of Art at NMAA commemorates their work supporting early excavations at Anyang, featuring over 200 objects that honor that legacy. These include oracle bone scripts–direct ancestors of Chinese writing–along with works that explore ritual development and practice, weaponry innovations and warfare innovations and tombs filled with personal items for afterlife burials. Furthermore, two bronze heads with markedly protruding eyes believed to be stylistic depictions of Cancong from Anyang are included as part of the exhibition.