Written by the Warrior

 

For most people, the China bucket list includes such classics as the great wall, the forbidden city, the five great mountains, the pandas, the pagodas, the terra-cotta warriors… but in my humble opinion, the list should also include it’s publicly funded museums, which are, by the way, all, free.

For an engineer, the word “free” is practically the most beautiful word ever invented!

According to the China Daily, as of 2012 all publicly funded museums, memorial halls, art galleries became free of charge, ending what the paper calls “long accusation that such institution cater to elite academics and professionals, rather than the general public.”

Further, according to the paper, “To ensure the future strength of cultural institutions… finance departments at all (government) levels should give more money to art galleries and libraries, enabling those institutions to continue operating and improving their basic services without relying on entrance fees… The central government also planned to provide special subsidies to art galleries and libraries in the less-developed regions of central and western China.

While this sounds like a freaking great philosophy, like Canada’s universal healthcare system – does it actually work in reality?

Yes, it most certainly works! Not only are the museums free, they are also world-class! Judged by my sample size of two – which is a lot, considering the fact that I am not exactly a museum buff.

The National Museum of China in Beijing, is centrally located at the famous Tianmen square. It is grand and stately.

Beijing - National Museum of China

Even its gates are expensive looking!

Beijing - National Museum of China

We only had enough time to visit two exhibits, but there is enough here to easily pass an entire day. China’s long and rich history is on display through exquisite artefacts and uniquely beautiful artistry.

While the museum must competes against a long list of “must sees” in Beijing, consider this… the museum does provide a great reprieve from the air pollution. (The whole time we were in northern China, the air quality index hovered between “very unhealthy” to “hazardous to health”.)

The Heilongjiang Science and Technology Museum, on Sun Island near Harbin, is basically an ode to children.

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Currently, it is not centrally located – at all. But a planned subway system to connects Sun Island with downtown Harbin scheduled for completion within the next few years, will make it much more accessible to visitors.

This multilevel museum has state of the arts, interactive, hands-on activities, to keep the young and the “young at heart” amused. Again, there is enough here to easily pass an entire day.

Seriously how could anyone possibly pass up a museum that farts?

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Fart jokes aside, here some general notes from our experience:

  • The displays are generally in both Mandarin and English.
  • No food or cafeteria is provided on site. But you can bring in your own food and there are areas inside the museum where eating is permitted.
  • An official passport or ID card is required, in order to obtain the free entry tickets.
  • In Beijing, the security is oh so tight, that in order to get into the museum, even babies get x-rayed, scanned and patted down.
  • Sit toilets are not very commonly found in China. Often the only ones to be found within a city, are in the museums. But those ones are often used, unfortunately, as storage rooms.