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       Updated:2012-02-09      Text:Large /  Medium  /  Small  

1. From small Henan Museum to large Henan Museum

Henan Museum is one of the oldest museums in China. In June, 1927, General Feng Yuxiang, commander in chief of the National Revolutionary Army and the chairman of Henan Province at that time, brought forward his opinion of “Education is Essential Politics for a Country” in his political programme for managing of Henan. That June, Guo Xujing, Xu Jinquan and He Rizhang were appointed by the provincial government as commissioners under the Provincial Education Office, to prepare construction of Henan Museum under the care of General Feng Yuxiang. The site designated for Henan Museum, was the schoolhouse of the former Legal and Law School, which was located at West Street, Kaifeng Court (Sansheng Temple Street, Kaifeng today) and thus the museum was born.

However the only museum in Henan before revolution, had a rough road to travel through the turbulent political situation. In May of 1928, the former provincial government changed Henan Museum into a“National Museum”and mandated to represent the history and actuality of the nationalities, and to propagandize an ideology of national republics and great world harmony. It was put under the direct lead of the provincial government. At the same time the provincial government offered a part of confiscated bequest of Liu Shi Ancient Hall and asked the museum to open in limited time. With the tenet of “Enlightenment of Knowledge and Demos of Civilization; Proliferation of Revolutionary Ideas; Boosting of Social Civilization” the National Museum widely collected material concerning history, natural science, agriculture, art, physiological sanitation etc. and though lacking in collections, on October 10, 1928, held its first exhibition, which consisted largely of models.

On December 1, 1930, Henan Provincial Government changed “National Museum” back to “Henan Museum” as a social educational organ directly under the Provincial Educational Office. Guan Baiyi was appointed as the curator by the Educational Office on December 30 and the schoolhouse of the Demotic Normal School was taken as a showroom of antiques. On January 20, 1931 Henan Provincial Educational Office publicized “Organization Regulations for Henan Museum” with its tenet of “Developing its Connatural Culture; Advocating Learning and Study; Increasing People’s Knowledge; Boosting Social Civilization.” At the same time the Storing Department and the Collection & Investigation Department were set up as well as the Executive Council, whose membership included directors of the Civil Administration Office and Educational Office, the president of Henan University, and the Museum curator among of hers. The 19 showrooms of the former National Museum were renovated in 7 and enriched with historical cultural relics instead of the many folk fineries and models. During the years from 1930 through 1937, Henan Museum underwent an unprecedented development. Under the guidance of a team of highly-skilled researchers, led by Guan Baiyi, the Museum amassed fine and substantial collections focusing on local history. At that time Henan Museum became very famous, gaining recognition both at home and abroad. In 1937 “Event 7.7” erupted; the Japanese army invaded China. The Museum was closed, and 68 boxes of key cultural relics were moved to Chongqing. During 1940 the Henan Museum was reopened under Japanese governance, as “Henan Provincial Museum” with several departments such as Affair Office, Storing Department and Investigation Department. After the Anti-Japanese War, the Henan Provincial Government of Kuomintang appointed Xie Menggang as the take-over commissary. The Museum was taken over but it was still in difficulty because, with the eruption of the Liberation War and the Kuomintang government being busy with civil war, the economy declined and funding was lacking.

In 1948, the Liberation Army liberated Kaifeng. The Party and the Government paid much attention to culture, education, and natural history. A three-person group, under the leadership of Zhao Ganting, was sent to reorganize the museum. In November 1949, Qu Naisheng, director of the Provincial Education Office, was nominated by the Henan Provincial Government as curator of the Museum. He started to organize personnel, coordinate cultural relics and showrooms, renovate the establishment, carry through business, making the Museum into vital force in flourishing development once again.

In 1953, Henan Museum was confirmed as topologic one according to “Opinion about guideline, assignment, property and development direction for local museum” issued by the Central Cultural Ministry. In 1961 Henan Museum moved from Kaifeng to Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan, where it enjoyed a superior exhibition space.

After the Third Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Party, Henan Museum became improved gradually and entered a new historical era. Especially in the 1980s, the museum was growing larger and larger; its organization scheme was improved, having Exhibition Department, Storing Department, Social and Education Department, Library, Investigation Department, Editor Office of “Central Cultural Relics”, Museum Office, Administration Section, and Security Department etc. The museum presented a new flourishing existence completely with a post liability system and bylaws.

Due to the frequent cultural exchange between countries and fast growing tourism, that came along with the “Reform and Opening to Outside” continuing deep into the 1990s, all museums in our country underwent a great development. But Henan Museum, built in 1958 - the time of “Big Bound”, could not adapt to the development of museums today whether in architectural form, scale or inner establishment. So the Party Committee and the Government of Henan decided to build a modern museum in Zhengzhou during “the Eighth Five Year Plan”. In 1991, the State Council moved to undertake construction of the Henan Museum, according to Li Ruihuan’s instruction, and through the hard work of Hou Zhongbin, former Secretary of the Party Committee of Henan, and Li Changchun, former governor of Henan Province.

The new Museum, located in central Zhengzhou along Agriculture Road (Nongye), occupies an area over 100,000 square meters, with a floor area of 78,000 square meters. The project, a Renminbi 300,000,000 investment, was accomplished in 5 years. The main building, at the center of the grounds, is in the shape of pyramid. Behind it is a storeroom for culture relics, around it there are the electrified education building, combined service building, office building and training building. The constructed Museum sight is grandiose and precise, displaying primitive simplicity and elegance. It features the artistic style and culture of central China.

According to the State’s requirements for modern museums, the new museum possesses perfect facilities including automatic fire fighting system, safety supervising system, OA managing system, culture relics protecting system, electrified education system and building automation system. In July 1997, the Henan Provincial Government decided to merge Zhongyuan Stone Inscription Art Galleries with Henan Museum into a new Henan Museum. The establishment of this consolidated Henan Museum is a landmark in the development of Henan Museum as well as a very grand affair in the phylogeny of museums in China.

2. A large museum with rich collections started from scratch

Henan, located in central China, is one of the important cradles of Chinese civilization. Our ancestors have long lived in these far-flung lands, multiplying and creating the bright and colorful ancient civilization, which laid a strong foundation for the development of Henan Museum.

Henan Museum set out to amass collections of culture relics in its establishment but worked with some blindness and liberty and recruited collections sometimes with the single aim of gathering rareness, so the collections were rather complex and not always good.

From 1930 through 1936, the former Henan Museum had an abundant store of collections and had done lots of fruitful work on collecting, sorting out and studying. Especially under the leadership of Mr. Guan Baiyi, the museum took over all the culture relics kept by the Committee of Antique Conservation, including bronze ware of Spring and Autumn Period unearthed in 1923 in Xinzheng, cached porcelains of Song Dynasty unearthed in 1925 in Yanling town and stone inscriptions of different dynasties in Luoyang and other places. Large numbers of famous ancient paintings, calligraphy and modern artworks, collected in 1934 and 1935, greatly enriched the collections of the museum both in quality and quantity.

The Museum arranged its team go out and work in the fields several times and found a lot of cultural relics. Collections in the museum in this period were not only large in quantity but also high in quality and rarity, such as the Quadrangular Jar with Lotus and Crane, large tripod caldrons,the Wang Ziyingci Stove, a Bell Set unearthed in Xinzheng, nine pieces of Jade Ruyi from Dengfeng, the carved stone of Beiwei Kistvaen, the Statue Stele of Liugen, 8 pieces of Records of Wei, a Statue with four sides of Shui Dynasty, the Inscription of Dagoba, the Grave Marker of Quan Nanshen in Tang Dynasty, Scripture on Twain Stone, and a Superscription Stele of Jinshi in Jin Dynasty. Henan Museum improved its status greatly in the museum industry in China and was praised abroad. It received commendations: “Concerning amount of collections for Chinese museum, Henan Museum was in second place except Palace Museum” .

For the safety of the cultural relics, the museum team, with enthusiastic loving of motherland and high sense of liability, carefully selected 5678 cultural artifacts, 1162 pieces of rubbings, and 1472 sets of books, which were put into 68 boxes and stored in France Concession in Hankou during the Anti-Japanese War. The cultural relics, stored in Hankou, were transferred to Chongqing to avoid foraying and destroying by the Japanese enemy. Most of the bronze and iron wares left in Kaifeng were lost when the city was occupied by Japanese and 38 boxes, selected by Kuomintang government, including 5119 cultural relics and 1450 sets of books were transferred to Taiwan in December 1949. Thus Henan Museum, a large museum with over 20 years of elaboration, was hard hit and existed in name only.

After the foundation of new China and under the support of the Party and the Government, Henan Museum took all the advantages to rally and collect cultural relics by investigating, purchasing, accepting contribution, disentombing, sorting and flitting, and recovered in short time. So far its many collections, amount to 100000 pieces, which are much better both in quality and quantity than before. The Ogygian cultural relics, bronze ware of Shang and Zhou Dynasty, and chinaware possess especially high historical, scientific and artistic value and good reputation worldwide. Prized objects include ancient painted pottery of the Neolith Period unearthed in Dahe village, Zhengzhou, pottery jar painted with stork, fish and zax unearthed in Linru -Zhengzhou bronze ware stored in kiln, bronze ware of Chu State unearthed in Xiashi- Xichuan, copper wares unearthed from Ying State Tomb in Pingdingshan and Guo State Tomb in Sanmenxia, bullion coins of Chu State unearthed in Fugou; the Tang Tri - colored pottery of Luoyang and Ru and Jun porcelains.

Since 1954, the museum had been sending its team frequently to visit and investigate in the old revolutionary area, where they collected numbers of valuable revolutionary cultural relics. At the same time, the museum took over some revolutionary cultural relics and related material from the Provincial Military Authority and Provincial Civil Administration Hall. Among them there were many rarities such as notices of Taiping, banners of The Boxers, the martyr Ji Hongchang’s blood clothes, in which he died a martyr, the martyr Peng Xuefeng’s relics, Weekly “Pilot”, “New Youth”, Paper “Red Flag”, “Zhongzhou Review” and “Dawning” .

In recent years, along with the work in depth on cultural relics, archeological work has unearthed even more brilliant and elegant cultural artifacts. Under the support and solicitation of the Party and the Government of Henan Province, large quantities of brilliant cultural relics were called up from related units of the state, provinces and cities for supporting the construction of Henan Museum, taking advantage of the large province of Henan, so rich cultural relics emerged in gorgeous ancient culture.

3. From “National Models Display” to “Light of Ancient Culture of Henan”

Display and exhibition are key tasks and Henan Museum has been working on from its beginning. The“Nationality Model Display” during “National Museum” period was the Henan Museum’s first exhibition. In that show the main exhibits were statues and some pictures, which showed National Models all over the world and attracted lots of people to Kaifeng, who blocked the road to the museum.

In period from 1930 through 1937, the museum opened 13 showrooms based on widely collected historical cultural relics, folk-custom cultural relics and natural specimens, such as a showroom of unearthed utensils and articles from Yin Ruin, Anyang, a showroom of ancient utensils and articles of Xinzheng, a showroom of ancient utensils and articles of Luoyang, a showroom of rocks, a showroom of national models, a showroom of past collected cultural relics in Xiangguo Temple in Kaifeng, a showroom of carved stones, a showroom of stored scripture, a showroom of plant and mineral specimens, and a painting and calligraphy showroom. Henan Museum of that day was of a good size and was few among the good museums in China, though the display quality was not too high owing to a limited level of exhibition and the adoption of a display method that consisted of heaping utensils and articles under guide of an idea of “Only utensils and articles”.

After the main collections were transferred to Chongqing in 1937, the museum was still open but the quality and quantity of collections were greatly inferior. The museum closed in 1938 when the Japanese aggression army occupied Kaifeng and did not re-open until 1940, when the museum was renamed “Henan Provincial Museum” under rule of the Japanese and its puppet government.

Henan Museum was revitalized after liberation. During 1949-1961, three basic displays “Natural Environment and Resources of Henan”, “History of Henan” and “Revolutionary Cultural Relics of Henan” were held by the museum along with many other exhibitions, related to the key tasks and political movements of different period, also held, for example “Exhibition: From Ape to Human” in 1950, “Exhibition: Crackdown on Counterrevolution” in 1951, “Exhibition: Great Motherland” in 1952, “Exhibition of Bronze Wares” in 1952, “Exhibition of Raiment in Past Dynasties” in 1954 and “Exhibition: Root up Counter Revolutionists” in 1956.

Henan Museum steadily developed and held quite lot of exhibitions during 1961 through 1966. When it moved to Zhengzhou, the museum held the Exhibition of “Historical Cultural Relics of Henan”, more than 2000 pieces of cultural relics were shown. The show attracted a lot of visitors and received good comments. “Exhibition of Revolutionary Cultural Relics of Henan”, held in 1963, displayed the revolutionary history of Henan through material, pictures, paintings and characters. In 1964, the first basic exhibition giving a survey of Henan history, entitled “Display of Henan History”, was developed through in depth studying, designing, and fracturing, based on the “Historical and Cultural Relics of Henan” exhibition.

In the 20 years from 1977 through 1997, Henan Museum experienced much progress. It created vivid and dramatic displays and exhibitions and established its status as a promenant museum in China. For example, in 1980 the museum reopened “Display of Henan History” based on the old one from before the Cultural Revolution, by adding new content and adopting new displaying facilities and means, making it a more scientific, popular and real cultural treasure loved by the people. Since 1981, tens of exhibitions were held, such as “Display of Henan Revolutionary Cultural Relics”, “Display of Ancient Sculpture Art”, “Display of Ancient Architecture Art”, “Exhibition: Museum Collected Paintings and Calligraphy of Ming and Qing Dynasty”, “Exhibition: Museum Collected Brilliant Cultural Relics” and “Exhibition of Bronze Ware of Chu State”. These attracted more and more visitors year by year, and the average attendance rose to 300000 annually.

After 6 years’gestation and lucubrating, based on the collective wisdom of Henan Museum and supported by leaders of the Central Committee, province, municipality and related units, Henan Museum held one basic display and 7 special displays, rich in content, such as “Light of Ancient Culture of Henan”, “Ebb and Flow of Century in Central China”, “Ancient Carved Stone Art of Henan”, “Ancient Jade Article of Henan”, “Ancient Architecture of Henan”, “Bronze Ware of Chu State”, “Rare Arts and Crafts in Ming and Qing Dynasty” and “The World of Dinosaurs”. The “Light of Ancient Culture of Henan” was the largest display in 70 years, displaying the most advanced technology and rich contents, the exhibition portrayed impressive achievements of Henan ancient culture with a display area of over 3200 square meters and more than 1000 pieces (sets) of brilliant cultural relics, which displayed the splendid achievement. In content, the exhibition was quite different from the traditional model; In form, the exhibition adopted modern technology of sound, light, and electricity which let visitors really enjoyed themselves; In interpretive technology, the exhibition was equipped with computer controlled automatic amplifying, playing, recording and video system, sound controlled slide projector and induction recording and speaking system, which satisfied the visitors, desire to learn from and enjoy the cultural relics.

Henan Museum has been working hard, leading out the cultural relics of central China, bringing our treasured history to the rest of the world. For example, 8 pieces of bronze ware unearthed in Xinzheng were sent by Henan Museum to be shown in the “International Exhibition of Chinese Art” held in 1935-1936 in London, which caused a big stir there and received high praise from overseas visitors. In 70 years, overseas exhibitions held or contributed to by Henan Museum abroad included: “Exhibition of Chinese Jewellery” held in 1980 in Denmark and Switzerland, “Exhibition: Pottery Figurines of Past Dynasties in Chinese history” 1985 in Japan, “Exhibition: Civilization of Yellow River” 1986 in Japan, “Exhibition: Pottery Figurines of Past Dynasties in Chinese History” 1987 in the USA, “Cultural Relics of Henan Province” 1990, in Japan, “Ogygian Cultural Relics of Henan” 1991 in France, “Imperial China” 1992 in Australia, “Emperors and Kings of China” 1993 in Denmark, “Human and God” 1996-1997 in Britain, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark, “Civilization of Great Yellow River” in 1998. The exhibitions strengthened friendship between China and other peoples of the world , and acquainted oversea visitors with Henan and with the long standing, far-reaching and intensive culture of central China.

4. From Journal of the Henan Museum to Cultural Relics of Central China

Henan Museum, with a more than 70-year history, is not only a place that concentrates on collection of historical relics, cultural activities, and education, but is also at the forefront for scientific research. In particular, since the founding of the People’s Republic, talents have been emerging here constantly, achieving fruitful results in this regard.

When the relics of the Yin Ruins were acquired by the museum in 1929, Guan Baiyi, a well-known archeologist, was invited to the Editorial Board to study and research the inscriptions on bones and tortoise shells and of the various articles unearthed, and published his findings. In late 1930s, Mr. Guan Baiyi took over the position of Museum Curator and founded the Research Department, standardizing the undertaking of scientific studies. According to incomplete statistics, over one hundred volumes of antique catalogs and research findings were publicized by Henan Museum between 1931~1938.

The most important of these include the Stone Diagrams of Yique (Guan Baiyi), Shi Hua (Guan Baiyi), The Genuine Articles of Yin Ruins (Guan Baiyi), The Genuine Characters of Yin Ruins (Guan Baiyi), The Study of the Antiques at Xinzheng (Guan Baiyi), The Album of Han Dynasty at Nanyang (Guan Baiyi), The Records of Metal and Stone Inscriptions in Henan (Guan Baiyi), The Selected Works of Stone Carvings at Lao Jun Dong (Guan Baiyi), The Selected Works of Stone Carvings at Fanta (Guan Baiyi), The Collected Remaining Works of the Figures of Han Dynasty at Nanyang (Sun Wenqing), The Explanation to Volume I of the Genuine Characters of Yin Ruins (Xu Jingcan), Report on the Finished Stone Carvings Collected in Henan Museum (Sun Wenqing), and Report of Henan Museum on Natural Science Volume I, Volume II, and Volume III (Fu Tongsheng), etc. The content of the studies is distinct in local flavor of Henan, and has brought into full play the advantages of a regional museum. In terms of research approach, the museum addressed practice, and the research fellows always played an active part in collecting and restoring cultural relics and samples. For example, in August 1935, Guan Baiyi had the Tomb of the Warring States Period unearthed in Shanbiao Town, Jixian County; in the spring of 1936, Sun Wenqing joined in the 13th excavation of the Yin Ruins; and, between September ~ November, 1936, Xu Jingcan and Guo Yucai also took a part in the excavation at the Colored Glaze Pavilion, Huixian County.

Since succeeding the post of the Curator by July 1936, Wang Youqiao, established the Journal of the Henan Museum to “bring forward the culture and research on the learning”. The Journal suspended in March 1938 because of the Japanese invasion. In the short a period of two years, 15 editions had been issued. Due to the resourceful content, the publication was so intriguing and fascinating that it was therefore known as “a feast for the eyes, and the grand overview of the culture of the ancient Central China”. The journals not only introduce in detail the history of Henan Museum, but also make available to the public a series of important theories, survey reports, and theses on archeology. Even until today they play a significant role as an academic resource.

As museum studies have been growing at an unprecedented rate since the founding of the People’s Republic, scientific research in this area is in depth. Unequalled achievement have been made during the over 40 years, in spite of the impacts of various political campaigns. Among the thousands of reports on excavation and research papers, and tens of catalogs and readings published by the museum, the most important include Essay on Chinese Porcelains (Henan Museum), A Discussion on Longmen Grottoes (Henan Museum), Henan Museum (7th of the Chinese Museums), The Chinese Slave Society (Xu Shunzhan), Pile Casting of the Han Dynasty (Tang Wenxing), The Culture of the Remote Antiquity of Central China (Xu Shunzhan), Symposium on Studies of the Xia Culture (Zheng Jiexiang), The Three Palaces of the Han Dynasty at Zhongyue (Lu Pin), Han Dynasty’s Brick Relief in Henan (Tang Wenxing, Lu Pin), The Dawn to the Civilization of the Yellow River (Xu Shunzhan), Records to the Documents of Archeology in Henan Volume I and Volume II (Sun Chuanxian, Editor-in-Chief), Han Stone Gravings – Studies on the Figures of Han Dynasty in Henan (Zhou Dao, Wang Xiao), and Symposium by the Foundation of Henan Museum.

In 1977, Henan Wenbo Tongxun, the first provincial journal in China about cultural relics, was established by Henan Museum. The title of the publication was inscribed by Mr. Guo Moruo, the late famous archeologist and historian. Shortly after its issuance, the journal was drawing attention at home and abroad. In pursuit of more extensive influence, the journal began to be distributed to the public in China and overseas by 1980, and was renamed Cultural Relics of Central China in 1981. For over two decades Cultural Relics of Central China has been shouldering the responsibility of promoting the policies of cultural protection, bringing forward the outstanding national culture, strengthening the patriotic education, and advancing academic prosperity, and has evolved into an academic journal with regional characteristics and a unique style. By attracting more and more attention in circles of historical material culture, the publication is serving as an important stage for studies of the prehistoric culture, the culture of Xia and Shang Dynasties, figures of Han Dynasty, Chu Culture, scientific archeology etc, and has been awarded as the Class I Journal of Henan Province and the Core Journal on Social Sciences in China for consecutive years. Up to now, Cultural Relics of Central China has had an issuance of approximately 100 editions that cover over 2,000 theses and archeological reports. The journal has also included some special editions such as the Symposium of the Henan Provincial Society of Archeology, Symposium of the Society of Buddhism on Wei, Jin, and the Southern and Northern Dynasties, A Discourse on Yangshao Culture. These issues have reflected in detail the prospect of undertaking museum studies in Central China from various aspects.

The transition of Journal of the Henan Museum to Cultural Relics of Central China shows us, not only the brilliant progression of Henan Museum over seventy years, but it also helps us experience deeply the generations an unremitting effort behind the fruitful results in Henan Museum. The staff has exerted their utmost effort contributing to the development of the museum and the scientific research.. Mr. Guan Baiyi, famous Chinese scholar and archeologist of the 1930s, was one of the co-founders of Henan Museum. Profound in learning and prolific in writing, he was excellent and marvelously original in history, epigraphy, archeology, oracle bone and shell study, study of gazetteers etc. As early as the 1930s, Mr. Sun Wenqing had made new breakthroughs in the study on the figures of Han Dynasty, laying a solid foundation in this area. Since the founding of the New China, talents have been emerging from Henan Museum constantly, the most prolific and most famous of which at home or even abroad include Xu Shunzhan, Han Shaoshi, Yang Huancheng, Sun Chuanxian, Ren Changzhong, Zhou Dao, Wang Yingsan, Zhang Weihua, Tang Wenxing and Lu Pin. Now some of them are already over seventy-years old, and some have retired, however, they continue to contribute to the field of cultural relics, regardless of fame or age. More satisfactorily, thanks to the instruction and encouragement of the experienced experts and scholars, a lot of talents are being explored, who are not only proficient in understanding of cultural relics, but also adaptable to receive new methods and mentalities. This is the fundamental guarantee to the succession and prosperity of our future undertakings. The pleasant tomorrow of Henan Museum is fully exhibited in those young professionals.

Today's achievement of Henan Museum was made possible through the care and support of governments at various levels and people from all walks of life, and also from the joint efforts of generations of museum staff. The unparalleled geographic conditions, abundant resources of cultural relics, and the unremitting effort of all the employees ensure Henan Museum’s continued contribution to Central China with more concrete steps, brand-new appearance, modernized management, and multipurpose service, in a pleasant, elegant and unique environment.