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New Suzhou Museum

Suzhou, China

Designed in 2006 by the same man responsible for the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, the building of Suzhou Museum is a beauty to behold. Mr. I.M. Pei was a Chinese-American architect with Suzhou as his hometown and so the most well-deserved candidate of the project. It incorporates southern oriental style into cutting edge modern design and the fusion is just a visual feast. That isn’t to say that what’s inside is worth any less. The museum is a treasure chest of relics and artwork from ancient times dating as far back as the Song Dynasty.

Right across from the Humble Administrators Garden, the Suzhou Museum can be accessed by many tourist and public buses going to the dedicated Museum stop. There is no charge on admission for either the museum or the adjoining Prince Zhong’s Mansion. On top of that, there are even free video shows that run during the visiting hours for guests. There is a limit to the number of people who can enter daily at 4,200 (600/hour) and you have to book online in advance and show your ID/passport at the gate. Timings are from 09:00 to 17:00 and the museum remains closed on Mondays (unless that falls on a public holiday).

When you enter the compound, you will instantly be greeted by gardens that incorporate typical elements of some of Suzhou’s finest landscaping. Visitors are often seen taking selfies with the building or the koi in the ponds. Going inside, you will pass along many sunlit corridors (that create an atmosphere of calm) with windows that act as different frames for the scenery outside. The museum is divided up into three main areas; the central, western and the eastern area. The priceless artifacts are laid out in cases that are just as sophisticated. On display are bronzeware, handicrafts, fine silk apparel, ceramics and paintings. Some items merit special mention.

The Celadon lotus-shaped bowl is perhaps the most valuable porcelain artefact at the Suzhou museum. It is carved with such finesse that it looks uncannily real with a surface as smooth as jade.
In the calligraphy and art section, the Seven Painted Scrolls of Bamboo are the most acclaimed and belong to the Yuan era. They were painted by legends of the time and have been donated to the museum by the families of the artists. Together, they cost a fortune.

From the Northern Song Dynasty, the Pearl Pillar of Buddhist Shrine is a notable piece for its fine craftsmanship and the use of expensive material like gold, silver, copper and precious stones. The fact that the relic is about 1000 years old only adds to it worth.

There’s much more on offer but when you have had enough and need a break, there’s a little garden at the back which offers amazing respite in a classical southern garden atmosphere!

And then, after exiting the museum, you can take a round of the royal mansion from Taiping Heavenly Kingdom’s period, one of the few so extensively restored.

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