Ningbo Museum- History, Culture and Architecture!


Detail of the recycled bricks in the wall

The Ningbo museum, located in the near suburb of Yinzhou near University of Nottingham, Ningbo, is another architectural masterpiece of Zheijang architect Wang Shu. He is award winning and also designed the Ningbo Museum of Art. This building is very symbolic of Ningbo. The bricks used in construction were mostly taken from old buildings in the area. The differing textures and colors throughout the brick made it so interesting and beautiful to look at from all angles. There is a water moat around the building to symbolize the importance of rivers in the history of Ningbo. The jutting out of the second and third floors look like the hull of a ship and the mountains that surround Ningbo.

Placard at the beginning of the history exhibit

Admission to the main history and culture exhibits are free, and only special exhibitions have an admission fee. On the main floor is a large lobby and special exhibition room. The history collection begins on the second floor. Ningbo has a long history dating back to the Hemudu culture in 5500 B.C. The exhibit featured some pottery shards, rebuilt pottery, and various bone and stone tools as well as a diorama with a re-creation of a scene of what a Hemudu village may have been like. Landon was very interested in the scenes scattered throughout the museum.

Hemudu culture exhibit
Interesting decorative pot!
Big pot bottom

Next up, there was a section on the creation of a certain type of porcelain pottery that came from this area. Boats have long been a part of the culture here, and so international trade of these porcelain items as well as other things was common.

Silk road graphic
A warrior and scholar stood at the entrance of a tomb in Ningbo

Ningbo was an original stop on the marine silk road. Items from Ningbo have been found all over southeast Asia, India and the middle East. Landon loved to see all of the examples of boats and maps associated with them. Because of the increased importance of international trade in Ningbo, as well as the cultural and political climate at the time, many educated and important families moved to Ningbo and settled around Moon lake.

Little treasure found in the basement of the Tianyi library
Scholar exhibit

Buddhist temple model

We learned about some of the public works projects that helped to shape the city. In order to irrigate the land, they diverted the rivers surrounding Ningbo into fields and they built a city wall around the city proper with a moat. They had sluices that let water into the city and Moon lake and Sun lake were the municipal water sources. I wish we could have gone into more depth on this interesting topic, but I was in parent-museum-mode, which involves mostly following my boy around as he skips most of the exhibits, and then waiting until he has interest in something- then I can actually read the placards! I was surprised that most of the placards and informational signs were in English as well as Chinese. There were some funny typos, but it was definitely well done for being just a city history museum!

IMG_3931The next part was Landon’s favorite- when the pirates came! There was a time in the Ming dynasty when all international trade by boat was forbidden. All trade changed into the exchange of “tributes” between Japan, China, and Korea. Portugese traders began smuggling in goods, and Portugese pirates terrorized the coasts.

The the Opium wars happened and the British attacked the coasts of China. We checked out the cannons, and lots of murals of bloody battles. It seemed like a pretty gruesome time to be from Ningbo! Landon liked the cannons, though.

Opium war cannons
More boats!

The second half of the history section of the museum is housed in a separate section on the second floor. We ended up wandering up to the third floor to the culture section and then going back down to the second floor and finishing off the history section. For those visiting in the future, the second half is across the atrium, and on the right!

Landon in the outdoor area
Carvings in the outdoor area

The second floor had an outdoor area to run around. Across the deck was a cafe overlooking the Yinzhou area of Ningbo. It was a very interesting design of the museum that there were several little outcroppings off of the second floor including a lecture hall and an external staircase.

Streets of Ningbo…

By the time we got to the culture section of the museum, Landon was losing interest and wanting to be naughty, so we didn’t spend as much time there. Also, there were less placards and it was more of an “experience” anyway. They fashioned the exhibits to be like we were walking down a road in Ningbo 100-150 years ago. There was a wedding procession, and a placard explaining the Chinese dowry tradition. I guess red furniture were always included as part of the dowry.

Wedding carriage- we’ve seen a few of these and they are SO intricately decorated!

Unfortunately for Landon, his feet have a magnetic attraction to poop. People poop all over here, so it is always unknown whether the poop is human, dog, or other. Anyway, he stepped in a big pile with both feet within 2 minutes of leaving the museum, so we had to skip walking through and checking out Yinzhou park. Some local food cart vendors helped me out with a plastic bag and a suggestion to go swish them off in a nearby fountain. I did, and they are recovering but man, I wish he would just stop stepping in crap. It is difficult to catch a taxi back into the city from the entrance to the museum, so we walked by a tiny bit of the park to get to a corner and hail a cab. The water lilies growing in the little river we crossed were giant! I think they just grow bigger and bigger throughout the summer!

Waterlilies at Yinzhou park

Ningbo museum- it’s worth it to go just to check out the architecture. I think they are still working on the grounds and moat around it, so it should be even better to come back in a few months or years. The exhibits were suitable for all ages, and we learned a lot about Ningbo and Chinese history, even in the 3-year-old running around condensed version of the museum.




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