On our first full day in Beijing, we started our morning at the National Meuseum of China which is located just off of Tiananmen Square. The focus of our visit was an exhibit titled “The Road to Rejuvenation”. This exhibit showcased Chinese political history post 1839.
The National Museum of China first opened in 1959 and since then has spent more time closed to the public than open. After multiple changes in leadership and exibit focus, Beiijing won the bid for the 2008 Olympics and the federal government decided to invest heavily in the museum with the goal of opening a brand new facility in time for the global event. Unfortunately the current version of the museum did not open until October 2009, well after the olympic ceremonies had concluded.
The exhibit we spent the most time in focused on the political history in China from the first Opium War of 1839 to the present. In particular, the museum holds numerous gifts from foreign dignitaries to Chinese leaders in the last forty years. It was unclear how exactly the gifts were chosen or not chosen to be displayed. Due to the nature of some of the gifts, I would think they were chosen deliberately in order to showcase the relationship in a light most in line with current party positions.
Below you will see a gift given by President Hugo Chavez of Venzuela to Hu Jintao. The sword was not only very well crafted but also included diamonds inlaid throughout.
The museum also featured gifts from President Bush, President Reagan, and President Vladamir Putin.
No where in the exhibits was there any references to the Tiananmen Square massacre. I was not surprised by this, only disappointed. Although the exhibits artfully present the significant progress made by the Chinese people over the past two hundred years, it missed the opportunity to explore the challenges the country has faced and how facing these challenges made the country and people stronger and wiser for it.