The Shanghai Museum is a world-class museum whose collection of approximately one million pieces primarily consists of Chinese relics from throughout China’s dynastic history. Nearly 130,000 items in its collection are considered national treasures. Located in the People’s Square near Nanjing Road in downtown Shanghai, the museum hosts nearly two million visitors a year (1,944,820 in 2012). The museum was originally established in 1952; its current location opened in 1996.

The museum has ten galleries for permanent collections and three for special exhibits. The museum’s permanent exhibits (listed from the ground floor up) include the following:

Ancient Chinese Bronze Gallery

This sprawling exhibit features over 400 bronze relics, the oldest of which date to the 18th century BCE. The relics include numerous weapons, along with many ancient vessels used in religious rituals.
Noteworthy piece: “Large Ding Made for Ke”, from the reign of King Xiao (late 10th century BCE) of the Western Zhou Dynasty, pictured below.

Ancient Chinese Sculpture Gallery

The approximately 120 sculptures in this gallery include examples from the Warring States Period (475-221 BCE) to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE). Many of them are Buddhist artworks such as Bodhisattva statues and steles, reflecting the importance of Buddhism in the development of Chinese art.
Noteworthy piece: “Stone Statue of Bodhisattva,” from the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE), pictured below.

Closeup of a statue of a Heavenly Guardian in the Shanghai Museum
Statue of a Heavenly Guardian
(photo by Colin J.)
Ancient Chinese Ceramics Gallery

This fantastic exhibit of over 500 pieces of pottery and porcelain covers an 8,000-year period, from the Neolithic Age (approximately 10000-2000 BCE) to the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It includes such items as vases, statues, cups, bowls, flasks, dishes, and teapots. The adjacent Zande Lou Ceramics Gallery displays an additional 130 pieces.
Noteworthy piece: “Famille Rose Vase with Peach and Bat Design” from the Yongzheng period (1723-1735 CE) of the Qing Dynasty, pictured below.

Chinese Painting Gallery

This collection includes Chinese paintings from the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) through the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE), of which approximately 140 are on display at any time.
Noteworthy piece: “Flowers,” completed in 1859 by the Qing Dynasty artist Zhao Zhiqian, pictured below.

Chinese Calligraphy Gallery

This outstanding collection comprises about half of the calligraphic artworks in all of China’s public collections, of which about 60-70 are on display at any given time. The earliest examples of Chinese calligraphy are characters inscribed on oracle bones and bronze relics. The items in this gallery range from such early Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BCE) examples through Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE) masterpieces.
Noteworthy piece: Cursive Poem by Wen Peng, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE), pictured below.

Chinese Seal Gallery

Also called chops or stamps, seals have been used in China since the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BCE). The approximately 500 seals in this exhibit extend from the Western Zhou Dynasty (1029-771 BCE) to the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE).
Noteworthy piece: “Gilded Silver Seal with Qilin-shaped Knob,” the Seal of the Prince of Duo Luo Ding, from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE), pictured below.

Jade cup in the Shanghai Museum
Jade cup
(photo by Allan Siew)
Ancient Chinese Jade Gallery

A stunning variety of jade relics and artworks are on display in this gallery, from jewelry and ornaments to cups and figurines. The collection’s 300 pieces include relics dating back to China’s pre-2000 BCE Neolithic period, as well as more sophisticated Ming and Qing masterpieces. This gallery emphasizes the profound cultural and historical significance of jade in Chinese civilization, which was the first to mine and use jade.
Noteworthy piece: “Model of a Mountain with Figures,” Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE).

Chinese Currency Gallery

This large collection of over 3,300 pieces covers a period of 1,000 years, including the origins of Chinese currency. The gallery features a special exhibit of ancient coins from nations along the Silk Road.
Noteworthy piece: “Reward of the Western King Coin,” issued by the rebel leader Zhang Xianzhong (1606-1657 CE), pictured below.

Chinese Ming and Qing Furniture Gallery

About 100 pieces of high-quality hardwood furniture from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE) are displayed in this gallery, including tables, chairs, beds, and bookcases, along with rarer items such as funerary furniture models.
Noteworthy piece: “Rectangular Table with Engraved Cloud and Dragon Design” and “Throne Chair with Engraved Cloud and Dragon Design,” Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE), pictured below.

Chinese Minority Nationalities’ Art Gallery

This gallery comprises more than 600 exhibits of a wide variety of artworks from China’s nearly 60 ethnic minority groups, including clothing, embroidery work, metalware, and masks.
Noteworthy piece: “Hand-painted Wood-carved Fishing Boat,” from Taiwan’s Gaoshan (“high mountain”) people, second half of the 20th century, pictured below.

Tips for visiting the Shanghai Museum

Admission: Admission to the museum is free. Keep in mind that the museum limits the number of visitors to 8000 per day and does not admit new visitors after 4 PM. Also, visitors may not be allowed to enter when the galleries are overcrowded.

Planning your visit: If you don’t have at least half a day to tour the museum, be sure to decide in advance which galleries you want to focus on. (Refer to this floor map of the museum.) For anyone interested in Chinese art, culture, and history, it’s easy to spend an entire day exploring all the galleries.

The exterior of the Shanghai Museum in the People's Square
The Shanghai Museum in the People’s Square
(photo by xiafenfang_1959)

Gift shop: The gift shop on the ground floor has a great selection of books. Not only does it have museum guidebooks (including an excellent, thorough guide in English currently available for US $12); it also has photo books in both Chinese and English devoted to each permanent exhibit (currently only US $5 each). You can essentially take the museum home with you via these books and save yourself the effort and distraction of taking a ton of photos during your visit.

Guided tours: For those going to the museum without a local tour guide, audio tours in English and a number of other languages are available on the ground floor. Daily guided tours are also available; information about them is posted next to the information desk in the lobby.

Tour packages: Normally, all of our standard tour packages that include Shanghai feature the Shanghai Museum. Read about them on our Mainland China Tours page. Although our current value tour packages (EBIV and EBXF) do not include the Shanghai Museum, it’s easy to fit in a visit to the museum at the end of your tour. Contact us for details and options.

Facts about the Shanghai Museum:

  • The shape of the museum building, designed by local architect Xing Tonghe, is meant to suggest the shape of an ancient Chinese food vessel called a “ting” or “ding” (鼎, dǐng).
  • The Da Ke Ding (“Large Ding Made for Ke”), unearthed in Shaanxi Province in 1890, is considered the museum’s greatest treasure and is cited as the specific inspiration for the museum’s architectural design. See the photo of the Da Ke Ding below.
  • The building’s circular shape and square base reflect the ancient Chinese conception of the heavens as round and earth as square.
  • The museum’s collections of Chinese bronzeware, ceramics, calligraphy, and paintings are considered among the best in the world.

Further reading and resources:

  • View or download a floor map of the Shanghai museum.
  • Read more general information about the Shanghai Museum on Wikipedia.
  • Get more specific and up-to-date information about the museum on its official website.
  • See a great selection of photos of the museum and its collection via this search on Flickr. In many cases, these photos are of higher quality than the ones on the museum’s official website.

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Shanghai Museum Photo Gallery

Click on any photo below to see a full-sized version.

The main entrance of the Shanghai Museum Da Ke Ding food vessel in the Bronze Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
The main entrance to the museum, whose design
was inspired by the Da Ke Ding on the right

(photo by CIT)
Large Ding Made for Ke
(Da Ke Ding)

(photo by CIT)
Dui with Inlaid Geometric Pattern food vessel in the Bronze Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Bells of Marquis Su of Jin in the Bronze Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
Dui with Inlaid Geometric
Pattern (food vessel)

(photo by CIT)
The Bells of Marquis Su of Jin
Click here to listen to the bells
(photo by CIT)
Zi Zhong Jiang Pan water vessel in the Bronze Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Ox-Shaped Zun wine vessel in the Bronze Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
Zi Zhong Jiang Pan (water vessel)
(photo by CIT)
Ox-Shaped Zun (wine vessel)
(photo by CIT)
Drums in the Bronze Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Drum Stand with Openwork Coiled Dragon Design in the Bronze Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
Bronze Drums
(photo by CIT)
Drum Stand with Coiled Dragon Design
(photo by CIT)
Stone Bodhisattva in the Sculpture Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Stone Buddhist Stele in the Sculpture Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Stone Thousand-Buddha Stele in the Sculpture Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
Stone Statue of Bodhisattva
(photo by Kris)
Stone Buddhist Stele
(photo by CIT)
Thousand-Buddha Stele
(photo by CIT)
Polychrome-Glazed Pottery Statue of Heavenly Guardian in the Sculpture Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Wooden Bodhisattva painted in color and gold in the Sculpture Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Celadon Jar with Cloud and Dragon Design in the Ceramics Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
Statue of Heavenly Guardian
(photo by CIT)
Painted Wooden Bodhisattva
(photo by CIT)
Celadon Jar with Cloud and Dragon Design
(photo by CIT)
Famille Rose Vase with Peaches and Bats Design in the Ceramics Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Famille Rose Eight Immortals Vase in the Ceramics Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Red Vase in the Ceramics Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Underglaze Blue Landscape Vase in the Ceramics Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
Famille Rose Vase
with Peaches and Bats

(photo by Bill Taroli)
Famille Rose Vase
with Eight Immortals

(photo by CIT)
Vase with Red
Underglaze Design

(photo by CIT)
Underglaze Blue
Landscape Vase

(photo by CIT)
Prince of Duo Luo Ding Gilded Silver Seal with Qilin in the Seal Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Display of seals from the Qing and Ming dynasties in the Shanghai Museum
Gilded Silver Seal with Qilin Knob
(photo by Bill Taroli)
Display of seals from the Qing and Ming dynasties
(photo by CIT)
Seal with Eight Immortals Relief Carving in the Seal Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Flowers by Zhao Zhiqian in the Painting Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Cursive Script Poem by Wen Peng in the Calligraphy Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
Seal with Eight Immortals
(photo by CIT)
Flowers, Zhao Zhiqian
(photo by CIT)
Cursive Poem, Wen Peng
(photo by CIT)
Wood-Carved Fishing Boat in the Minority Nationalities Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Reward of the Western King Coin in the Currency Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Belt Plaque with a Dragon-Through-Peonies Design in the Jade Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
Wood-Carved Fishing Boat
(photo by Dennis Jarvis)
Reward of the Western King Coin
(photo by Bill Taroli)
Belt Plaque with Dragon and Peonies
(photo by CIT)
Flying Apsara in the Jade Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Model of a Mountain with Figures in the Jade Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
Flying Apsara, jade
(photo by CIT)
Model of a Mountain with Figures, jade
(photo by CIT)
Rectangular Table and Throne Chair in the Furniture Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Strange cartoon figure that adorns some displays in the Shanghai Museum
Rectangular Table and Throne Chair
(photo by CIT)
Strange cartoon figure adorning some displays
(photo by CIT)

Shanghai Museum-Related Words

Study the words below on Quizlet:
Complete List: Characters, Pinyin, and English
Detailed Lists: Characters and English | Pinyin and English
Reversible Lists: Characters and English | Pinyin and English | Characters and Pinyin
Chinese Language Resources page

上海博物馆 (Shànghǎi Bówùguǎn): the Shanghai Museum, world-class museum located in the People’s Square in downtown Shanghai with a collection of approximately one million pieces, including nearly 130,000 pieces classified as national treasures

  • 人民广场 (Rénmín Guǎngchǎng)
    the People’s Square, public space in downtown Shanghai near several important cultural centers
  • 古物 (gǔwù)
    ancient object; antique; antiquities
  • 文物 (wénwù)
    cultural relic; historical relic; artifact (measure word: 件, jiàn, or 个, )
  • 珍贵文物 (zhēnguì wénwù)
    masterpiece; museum piece officially recognized as a masterpiece according to a grading system including first-class (一级, yījí), second-class (二级, èrjí), and third-class (三级, sānjí) rankings
A spiked bronze food vessel in the Shanghai Museum
Bronze food vessel
(photo by
Dennis Jarvis)
  • 出土 (chūtǔ)
    to be unearthed or excavated; to come up out of the ground
  • 收藏 (shōucáng)
    to collect; collection (e.g., museum collection)
  • 艺术品 (yìshùpǐn)
    artwork; art piece; work of art (measure word: 件, jiàn)
  • 展览 (zhǎnlǎn)
    display, exhibit; to put on display, to exhibit, to show

中国古代青铜馆 (Zhōngguó Gǔdài Qīngtóngguǎn): Ancient Chinese Bronze Gallery, ground-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum featuring displays of bronze relics

  • 古代 (gǔdài)
    the period in Chinese history from remote antiquity to the mid-19th century; also, ancient times in general

中国古代雕塑馆 (Zhōngguó Gǔdài Diāosùguǎn): Ancient Chinese Sculpture Gallery, ground-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum featuring displays of Chinese sculptures

Wooden Head of Kasyapa in the Shanghai Museum
Head of Kasyapa
(photo by Khalid Albaih)

中国古代陶瓷馆 (Zhōngguó Gǔdài Táocíguǎn): Ancient Chinese Ceramics Gallery, second-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum featuring displays of Chinese pottery and porcelain

  • 陶瓷 (táocí)
    pottery and porcelain; ceramics

中国历代绘画馆 (Zhōngguó Lìdài Huìhuàguǎn): Chinese Painting Gallery, third-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum featuring displays of Chinese paintings

  • 历代 (lìdài)
    successive dynasties; past dynasties (refers to the various dynastic periods of imperial China)

中国历代书法馆 (Zhōngguó Lìdài Shūfǎguǎn): Chinese Calligraphy Gallery, third-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum featuring displays of Chinese calligraphy

  • 书法 (shūfǎ)
    calligraphy; penmanship

中国历代印章馆 (Zhōngguó Lìdài Yìnzhāngguǎn): Chinese Seal Gallery, third-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum featuring displays of Chinese seals

中国古代玉器馆 (Zhōngguó Gǔdài Yùqìguǎn): Ancient Chinese Jade Gallery, fourth-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum featuring displays of Chinese jade artifacts

  • 玉器 (yùqì)
    jade artifact
Spear with Cloud and Thunder Pattern in the Shanghai Museum
Bronze spear
(photo by Dennis Jarvis)

中国历代货币馆 (Zhōngguó Lìdài Huòbìguǎn): Chinese Currency Gallery, fourth-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum featuring displays of Chinese coins and other forms of currency

中国明清家具馆 (Zhōngguó Míng-Qīng Jiājùguǎn): Chinese Ming and Qing Furniture Gallery, fourth-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum displaying antique furniture from the Ming and Qing dynasties

中国少数民族工艺馆 (Zhōngguó Shǎoshù Mínzú Gōngyìguǎn): Chinese Minority Nationalities’ Art Gallery, fourth-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum featuring displays of clothing, artworks, and handicrafts from many of China’s ethnic minorities

  • 工艺 (gōngyì)
    arts and crafts; handicrafts; technology

For many more Chinese vocabulary lists and information about tools and resources for learning Chinese,
visit our Chinese Language Resources page.

CIT Tour Packages Featuring the Shanghai Museum

The standard tour packages below include a visit to the Shanghai Museum. Although our current value tour packages (EBIV and EBXF) do not include the Shanghai Museum, it’s easy to fit in a visit to the museum at the end of your tour. Contact us for details and options.

包括上海的中文特價團更豐富!請觀看特價團網頁的中文版
如果您想要在上海多呆一天,參觀上海博物館,請與我們聯絡

Open the CIT001 tour information page
China Highlights 11-Day Tour
Beijing – Xi’an – Guilin/Yangshuo – Shanghai
Open the information page for our China Highlights 15-Day Tour
China Highlights 15-Day Tour
Beijing – Xi’an – Guilin/Yangshuo – Shanghai – Zhouzhuang – Suzhou – Wuxi – Hangzhou
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Jiangnan Gourmet Cuisine / Yellow Mountain 10-Day Tour
Shanghai – Zhouzhuang – Suzhou – Wuxi – Hangzhou – Hong Village – Huangshan (Yellow Mountain)
Open the information page for our Magnificent Yangtze / Ancient Capitals Deluxe 15-Day Tour (CIT005)
Magnificent Yangtze/Ancient Capitals Deluxe 15-Day Tour
Beijing – Three Gorges (Yangtze Cruise) – Xi’an – Guilin/Yangshuo – Shanghai
Open the information page for our Mysterious Tibet 16-Day Tour (CIT008)
Mysterious Tibet 16-Day Tour
Beijing – Three Gorges (Yangtze Cruise) – Xi’an – Lhasa – Shanghai
Open the information page for our China Discovery 11-Day Tour (CIT011)
China Discovery 11-Day Tour
Beijing – Xi’an – Shanghai – Hong Kong
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Ancient and Modern China
13-Day Tour
Beijing – Xi’an – Guilin/Yangshuo – Shanghai – Hong Kong
CITSH1 icon - 75 x 75 Shanghai 3-Day Tour Extension
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