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Masterpiece Journey
MASTERPIECES WHICH CANNOT BE MISSED
2 hours
Undoubtedly, it is a big place with too many objects. No problem. Here is our guided tour in minute detail.

Shanghai Museum is one of China's most famous museums of ancient art. It has a collection of various types of 140,000 pieces of precious cultural relics, ten categories of which are on display. These cultural relics are carefully selected by our experts for your appreciation and your visit. Due to the large number of cultural relics on display, and the limited visiting time, you must be quite concerned about how to appreciate some of the best works in each gallery during your tour. This is a catalogue of cultural relics of special significance. They are remarkable for their craftsmanship and appearance. We hope you can enjoy the best works of ancient Chinese art history through this tour, and come to love and care more about our Museum.

4F
Ancient Chinese Jade Gallery

  
 
  • 1
    Neolithic
    Date: Liangzhu Culture (ca. 3200-2200 BC)
    Dimensions: Height 5 cm, Width 6.6 cm
    Material: Jade
    Unearthed from Liangzhu tomb at Fuquanshan, Qingpu, Shanghai in 1982
    Introduction
    Cong was a sacrificial vessel as well as an object used for burial and funeral ceremonies. This piece was carved with the simplified deity mask pattern on the upper part and the simplified mythological creature mask pattern on the lower part. Both sides of the masks are decorated with flying birds, symbolizing the messengers of the deity.
  • 2
    Neolithic
    Date: Shijiahe Culture (ca. 2500-2200 BC)
    Dimensions: Height 10.3 cm
    Material: Jade
    Introduction
    The condition of this mystical figure housed in the Shanghai Museum is completely intact. The jade texture is crystal clear and the craftsmanship superb. It is the only extant piece found in the world so far. Wearing a flat-topped hat and two earrings, with hands crossed at the chest, this image is generally believed to be a wizard conducting a religious rite and communicating with spirits.
  • 3
    Xia Shang Zhou
    Date: Warring States (475-221 BC)
    Dimensions: Length 7.2 cm, Width 2.3 cm, Height 3.1 cm
    Material: Jade
    Introduction
    Zhi (a slotted jade fitting attached to a sword-scabbard) is the accessory of an ancient sword. This piece of work in grey jade texture is relatively thick and heavy. It is carved with the design of coiled interwoven dragon, phoenix, tiger and serpent images in low relief with artful technique. It is one of the most complicated and delicate jade pieces of its kind seen so far.
  • 4
    Wei Jin Southern and Northern Dynasties
    Date: Jin (AD 1115-1234)
    Dimensions: Length 8.8 cm, Width 3.6 cm
    Material: Jade
    Introduction
    The jade ware of the minorities of the Jin period had distinctive grassland themes. With designs of ‘Spring Water’ and ‘Autumn Mountain’, these ornaments reflect the hunting scenarios of the two seasons of the northern nomads. ‘Spring water’ depicts the spring hunting scene when the emperor and his men go to the lakeside to round up swans by releasing the fierce gyrfalcon to snap and bite the head of swan. When the swan dropped to the ground, the men would stab and then share the swan meat together.
    The spring water jade ornament adopts the approach of Qiao Se, meaning the smart arrangement of colour according to the texture and colour of the material. The scene of the black gyrfalcon preying on the white swan is carved and represented through the different colours of the jade, forming a sharp contrast, which creates an aesthetic appeal full of tragic feature.
  • 5
    Qing
    Date: Qianlong Reign Period, Qing (AD 1736-1795)
    Dimensions: Height 20.6 cm, Width 10.7 cm
    Material: Jade
    Introduction
    The imitated antique jade wares of the Ming and Qing were the copies of the bronze sacrificial vessels of the Shang and Zhou dynasties, but with variations and contemporary features. They were regarded as the re-creation of art. The bronze Gu was formerly used as a drinking vessel. The jade Gu on the other hand was generally used for flower arrangements, known as a flower goblet. This piece of jade work was made from a high grade yellow jade produced in Hotan, Xinjiang, which was pure and immaculate. Many of the jade works in the Qing palace were made from yellow jade, as a symbol of the dignity of the royal families. This flower goblet is carved with three Chi-dragons in relief. The Chi-dragon is a legendary dragon, with the partial tone of xi (happiness), symbolizing good luck. It became one of the main decorative patterns of jade wares together with dragon design after the Han dynasty. The date mark on the base of the Gu is ‘Qian Long Nian Zhi’, meaning ‘made in the reign period of Qianlong’, indicating it was an object used by the Emperor Qianlong.

4F
Chinese Ming and Qing Furniture Gallery

  
 
  • 1
    Ming
    Date: Ming (AD 1368-1644)
    Dimensions: Seat 70 x 46.5 cm, Overall Height 112 cm
    Material: Huanghuali wood, cupronickel, strand
    Donated by the Chuang family
    Introduction
    This piece of work is well-proportioned with fluent lines. It is made of Huanghuali wood, the color of which is neither too plain nor too gaudy, just at the right point at which the grain is visible and is full of dynamic changes. The crest rail of the chair is made up of five sections, connected with mortise-and-tenon joints, holding them together instead of falling to pieces. The backrest and armrest naturally flow down in a round and gentle way. The back splat is made from a frame and three carved panels, with the top carved in interlaced Chi-dragon design; the middle hollowed with a Kylin design, and the bottom is Kunmen Liangjiao meaning an opening that lightens the feet. Kunmen is the carving on a Sumeru pedestal and bed stand or the see-through device at the bottom of a chair back splat, or the foot of a folding screen. The joints are inlaid with cupronickel gadgets to strengthen and decorate. Folding chairs of this kind were regarded as a sign of identity and status and are usually placed in a prominent position in the hall, giving a dominating presence.
  • 2
    Ming
    Date: Ming (AD 1368-1644)
    Dimensions: Length 226 cm, Width 162 cm, Height 234 cm 
    Material: Huanghuali wood, rattan
    Introduction
    The six-post canopy bed named after its six pillars was first seen in the Southern and Northern Dynasties. This piece of work made in the late Ming dynasty comprised both canopy and bed. The front side of the overhanging board of the bed is mounted with three hollow carved slabs with the designs of two phoenixes facing the sun and two dragons playing with a pearl, while the front of the panel below is carved with a Kylin design, all of which are auspicious patterns. On the apron beneath the bed, there is a relief of twisted-grass and Chi-dragon pattern. Chi is a dragon without horns in ancient legends, said to be able to expel the demons and evil spirits. The overhanging board on both sides, the back of the bed and the open-carved railings are decorated with a cloud cluster motif, a mix of gathering and cluster. This furniture is elegant and beautiful, exquisitely carved and made of genuine Huanghuali wood. Canopy beds of the Ming dynasty are excellent in terms of both practicability and artistry and have been used and developed by people for hundreds of years.
  • 3
    Ming
    Date: Ming (AD 1368-1644)
    Dimensions: Length 108 cm, Width 69 cm, Height 29.5 cm
    Material: Huanghuali wood
    Donated by the Chuang family
    Introduction
    The utilization of low tables can be traced back to ancient life style when people sat on the ground. In northern China it is very cold in winter. Most of the houses are built with a high platform of bricks hollow inside, known as a Kang. Fire can be made inside to keep warm. The low table placed on the Kang is called a Kang table (bed table).
    This piece of furniture is girded with three curved legs suitable for carving elegant decoration, forming a sharp contrast with the straight-feet no-girding type bed table. This type of shape is relatively special and rare. The table is made of an aligned apron; namely the apron is not connected with the table legs at 45°, but in vertical flush joints, so the detailed carved double twisted grass and interlaced hydra design can be presented completely. The apron is the wood boards on the sides beneath the table top. There is the teaching in Records of Lu Ban (Lu Ban Jing) in the Ming dynasty: “The carving decoration of the four-tooth square table is often seen in the shoulder parts of the legs.” The animal patterns on the shoulder parts of the legs of this bed table have ‘flying hair, glaring eyes and as if breathing from its nose’. The apron is decorated with two dragons facing each other, relaxed but powerful and lifelike.
  • 4
    Qing
    Date: Qing (AD 1644-1911)
    Dimensions: Length 170 cm, Width 76 cm, Height 218 cm
    Material: Zitan wood in imitation of bamboo, glass, cupronickel
    Introduction
    Antique shelves were very popular in the Qing dynasty, usually in paired combination. In the later period they appeared decorated with stained glass in Western style. This work is made of rosewood in classic Western styling. It has a capping on top and a base at the bottom. There are two kinds of doors on the cabinet, opening doors and sliding doors. All the glass is imported Western-style patterned glass and the door handles are carved out of ivory. The furniture carving patterns are basically in the Oriental style with the bamboo pattern on the main body frame. There are also the Eight Immortals in relief, flowers and plants, fish and bird designs, most of which are bird designs. In the middle of the top rack, there is a circular engraved phoenix, implying the meaning of all birds paying homage to the phoenix. The phoenix is holding a scroll in its beak and its head can turn around. With the corners of the components wrapped with gilt white copper ornaments, the shelve boasts sophisticated workmanship and elaborate carving.
  • 5
    Qing
    Date: Qing (AD 1644-1911)
    Dimensions: Length of the screen 375 cm, Width 60 cm, Overall Height 280 cm
    Material: Zitan wood, jade, turquoise, lapis lazuli, rose quartz, coral, agate
    Introduction
    This screen is a typical work of the mid-Qing period. It is extremely luxurious and sumptuous with decorations of various materials and in multiple techniques. The screen consists of five panels of rosewood. The front of the screen is engraved with dragons flying in clouds in high relief. The painted black ground is inlaid with birds, flowers and antique patterns made of white jade, sapphires, turquoise, lapis lazuli, rose quartz, coral, and agate, looking brilliant and shining. The back of the screen is decorated with the rolling clouds carving and gold-painted rocks, pines, bamboos and plums. The exquisite carving work, the genius design of multiple-jewel inlays and the elegant picture are presented in a careful, sophisticated and ordered way, showing high levels of craftsmanship. It is a typical work of the heyday of the Qing dynasty, praised as a national treasure.

4F
Chinese Minority Nationalities' Art Gallery

  
 
  • 1
    Qing
    Date: Qing (AD 1644-1911)
    Material: Brocaded gauze
    Introduction
    Robes embroidered with python design derived from the early male clothes style of the Manchu, retaining the original features while making a few changes. The Manchu lived on horseback. The horse hoof shaped cuff, also known as arrow cuff, can protect the hand when shooting arrows. Later formal dress adopted this feature and therefore a special action of sleeve flicking was involved when Manchu people gave a salute. The reformed Manchu embroidered robe was once the official uniform of the Qing dynasty.
  • 2
    Modern
    Date: First half of 20th century
    Area: Ordos, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region
    Dimensions: Width 10 cm
    Material: Silver
    Introduction
    Mongolian costume mainly consists of jewelry, robes, belts and boots, all with bright and rich colors. The costumes vary with different regions and tribal clans and with women’s headgear boasting greatest differences. Mongolian women's headgear is very particular. A set of headgear was often worth many horses or hundreds of camels according to records.
    This set of head ornaments inlaid with silver and coral is the best of all the clans. It belongs to the Ordos type, featuring large size, heavy weight, sophisticated decoration and exquisite workmanship. Made from silver inlaid coral and turquoise and other precious materials, this work looks colorful and eye-catching. Ordos head-ornaments are the most complicated and expensive ones among Mongolian tribes and are the symbol of wealth and social status.
  • 3
    Modern
    Date: First half of 20th century
    Area: Taiwan
    Dimensions: Height 97 cm, Width 51 cm
    Introduction
    The chief of the Atayal of Gaoshan people in Taiwan used to wear the shell-bead vest as a symbol of wealth. It is threaded with nearly 100,000 carefully polished tiny shell-beads. Thread the irregular beads first and then polish them on the sand paper till they become regular, and then sew them on linen to make the vest. As the shell bead vest is very time consuming and features unique craft, simple as it is, it is a symbol of status and wealth.
  • 4
    Modern
    Date: Second half of the 20th century
    Area: Sandu, Guizhou province
    Dimensions: 98 x 166 cm (with strap)
    Introduction
    Horsetail embroidery is the traditional craft of the Shui people of the Sandu area of Guizhou province. First entwine the white silk thread around the horse tail hair to form spring-typed thread and then use it to outline the corresponding ground pattern, and embroider the blank part of the pattern with colored silk velvet threads. Horsetail embroidery, with butterfly or phoenix as the main motif patterns, features bright colors and striking patterns.
    This piece of work adopts the structure of ‘pattern inside pattern’, where designs like butterflies, flowers and fruits and longevity character patterns are embroidered outside the butterfly pattern, with silver dots (standing for stars) decorated and yellow tape edged, highlighting the pattern.
  • 5
    Modern
    Date: First half of 20th century
    Area: Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
    Dimensions: Diameter 18.4 cm, Height 40 cm
    Material: Copper
    Introduction
    The hand washing kettle is the common bathing and cleaning utensil for Muslim people, known as ‘Holy Water Kettle’. This copper kettle has a quaint and refined shape. Engraved and hollow carved with flowers, plants and Uygur text patterns all over the body, the kettle is not only an article of utility but a perfect work of art.
  • 6
    Modern
    Date: First half of 20th century
    Area: Guide, Qinghai province
    Material: Lacquer
    Donated by Qinghai Provincial Museum
    Introduction
    This is a Tibetan sorcerer's mask used in religious rites. It is closer to the masks hung in the temples but quite different from the Tibetan opera masks. The body is coated with paint on the outside, the mask is light and handy, even newer with time and easy to preserve. Bull head Vajrahasa is a Dharma Protector, from the Esoteric Sect of Dge-lugspa of Tibetan Buddhism, also known as ‘Yamantaka Vajrahasa’, whose image is a solemn god wearing a skull on the head. His three-eye shape is influenced by Siva of Hinduism. There are two bull horns, decorated with golden cloud design with two small bells on the ears which can make pleasant sounds during the dancing performances.
  • Introduction
    These are the deities enshrined and worshipped before the altar in Nuo opera. Both are the head sculpture of circular engraving. They are respectfully addressed as East Mountain God and South Mountain Goddess. There are many legends about them and one of which believed they were the incarnation of Fu Xi and Nu Wa after the times of great antiquity that recreated the world.

4F
Chinese Currency Gallery

  
 
  • 1
    Sui and Tang Dynasty and Five Dynasties
    Date: Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms 
    Area: State of Chu
    Dimensions: Diameter 43.27 mm
    Material: Gilt copper
    Introduction
    Tiance Fubao was a coin minted by Ma Yin of the State of Chu during Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms in the first year of Qianhua (AD 911). Ma Yin was appointed as the Tian Ce Fu General and built the Tiance Mansion. This coin was minted in memory of this event. Tiance Fubao was made in two types, copper and iron coins. Among them, the gilded copper is the most precious and is counted by pieces.
  • 2
    Liao Jin Yuan
    Date: Jin (AD 1115-1234)
    Dimensions: Length 34.8 cm, Width 21.6 cm
    Material: Copper
    Introduction
    Paper currency, as a kind of credit currency, began to appear and to be widely used in the Northern Song and Southern Song, Liao, Western Xia and Jin dynasties. The printing plate Zhenyou Baoquan Wuguan was used to print paper money when Zhenyou Baoquan paper currency was put in practice in the 7th month of the 3rd year of the Zhenyou Period (1215) by the Emperor Zhangzong of Jin. The plate is made of bronze with the characters written reversed. Outside the flower frame on the top of the plate, it is horizontally written with two characters Wu Guan indicating the denomination of the paper money. On the right of the plate, there are two contract seals obliquely placed meaning the printed note can be cashed in the Prefecture of Jingzhao and Prefecture of Pingliang. Wu Guan Ba Shi Mo in the middle of the flower frame means Wu Guan can only exchange for 4,000 (20% off) Wen in accordance with the Sheng Mo (a monetary system in the Song dynasty, according to which, 77 coins were used as 100 coins) system. At the bottom, it is cast with the inscriptions indicating the sphere of circulation, places for exchange of the paper currency, as well as punishment of forgery and the title of the official position in charge of printing and minting. It is an important material data for the research of the development of Chinese ancient paper money and for the study of ancient Chinese movable type printing as well.
  • 3
    Ming
    Date: Ming (AD 1368-1644)
    Dimensions: Diameter 34.19 mm
    Material: Copper
    Introduction
    Yongle Tongbao coins began to be minted in the 6th year of the Yongle reign period of Ming dynasty (AD 1408). But only the Xiaoping coin (1 Wen / cash) was found in circulation. This Yongle Tongbao coin housed in Shanghai Museum is 3 Wen / cash (Zhe San). It is cast with two words, San Qian, indicating that it is a coin recording the weight. It reflects that the state intended to cast the coin recording the weight in five currency values according to the Hongwu Tongbao monetary system. But surprisingly this kind of money was not implemented. So it was actually a sample coin. It is an important material object for the study of coinage system development in the early Ming dynasty.
  • 4
    Qin Han
    Date: Eastern Han (AD 25-220)
    Dimensions: 13.4 x 8.3 x 1.4 cm
    Material: Copper
    Introduction
    Stack casting was a main method to mint coins from the Qin and Han dynasties to the Northern and Southern Dynasties. With the stacked pottery fan (mold for casting copper coins), over a hundred of coins could be minted at a time. The production efficiency was higher than vertical casting with sectional molds. This is a mold case for Wuzhu coins minting in the 17th year of the Jianwu period (AD 41). It can be used repeatedly to cast the pottery mold cases. There is the date and other inscriptions on the back of the mold. Wuzhu coins began to be minted in the 16th year of the Jianwu period of Eastern Han (AD 40). This case, dated the 17th year of the Jianwu period, is very valuable for the study of coin minting in the Eastern Han dynasty.
  • 5
    Qing
    Date: Qing (AD 1644-1911)
    Dimensions: Diameter 41.75 mm
    Material: Silver
    Donated by Wang Kangyuan
    Introduction
    Silver was generally cast into the silver ingot in the Qing dynasty and put in circulation in the tael system, in two different forms: real and virtual silver. It was extremely inconvenient in practice due to the fact that different forms and criteria of arbitrage transaction rates were applied in different regions and conversion was needed frequently in the process. During the Daoguang reign period, silver coins forged by imitating foreign machine made coins appeared in today’s Fujian and Taiwan areas. In the 10th year of the Guangxu period, Jilin province initiated the production of machine made coins. In the 16th year of the Guangxu period (AD 1890), Guangdong began to cast a new silver coin—Guangxu Yuanbao. Since then, all the provinces began to cast it one after another and put it in circulation together with the silver tael.
    This coin got its name for the character ‘Shou (longevity)’ inscribed in official script on the back. The denomination is Kuping One-teal (the benchmark for taxes and levies of the Qing government). It has two major versions classified by the positive and negative lines of wings of the bat carved on the front side. It was said that this kind of coin was cast in Guangdong in the 31st year of Guangxu period (AD 1905) for the celebration of Empress Dowager Cixi's 70th birthday, therefore only few were handed down.
  • 6
    Qing
    Date: Qing (AD 1644-1911)
    Dimensions: Length 10.05 cm, Width 16.9 cm
    Material: Paper
    Donated by Mr. Wu Chouzhong
    Introduction
    The Qing government successively issued various kinds of paper currency, such as Shunzhi Banknote, Great Qing Banknote, official banknote of Ministry of Revenue, and Bank Exchange Certificate of the Great Qing (Ministry of Revenue) and so on. Various kinds of paper currency were also issued from the official finance departments, various banks and private financial institutions. After 1840, foreign financial forces began pouring into China by setting up banks and issuing paper money in the country.
    The International Banking Corporation was the former name of Citibank of the United States. Citibank was founded in 1812 and the then English name was International Banking Corporation. In January 1927, it changed its name to The National City Bank of New York after merging with National Bank of New York. China began issuing paper currency in 1907 in dollar and tael banknotes. This one dollar note issued in1909 was first issued in Guangzhou.