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China's great museum race

  • Source: Global Times
  • [23:56 May 17 2010]
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A display at Shanghai Comic Museum located in Comic and Animation Valley. Photo: IC

By Wu Ziru

As International Museum Day celebrations take place across the world today, China is enjoying a surge of new museum openings, winning widespread applause for boosting people's cultural life, but also generating criticism for the problems caused by the race for rapid construction.

A number of new museums have recently opened their doors in China, with hundreds currently under construction across the country.

"Visiting museums is always one of my favorite things while traveling in different cities," commented Wang Juan from Xi'an, Shaanxi Province. "It's one of the most efficient ways to understand the city's culture and history."

Wang added she was happy to see an increase in the number of museums in her own city, adding that they offer her many more choices for her family during the holidays and in their free time. "They stand as live history books," Wang explained. "For my 12-year-old son, they are the best places to learn Chinese history."

China's new museums cover a variety of subjects, from traditional Chinese art and culture, to various industries, including film, technology and animation.

Xi'an is among the cities with the largest number of museums. In the next three years, the city's 47 museums will grow to 100, according to an announcement at a meeting on cultural relics held in Xi'an in March. The meeting revealed that 15-20 new museums would open by the end of the year.

Some experts and residents warmly welcomed the ambitious goal, saying that as an ancient city with abundant Chinese cultural relics and historical sites, it stands to reason that Xi'an should be No.1 among all Chinese cities in terms of the number of museums.

Zhao Liguang, director of Xi'an Beilin Museum, one of the most famous museums in the city, is among the advocates of the ambitious 100-museum plan, saying that Xi'an has been acclaimed as "a natural museum of Chinese history and culture" for the numerous invaluable cultural relics it has, its history of thousands of years should be recognized and it once served as the capital of 13 dynasties.

However, some critics have argued that while opening more museums can be of great benefit in terms of preserving relics and boosting public education, the goal of opening 53 museums in such a short time is excessive.

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