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  You are here: Home > China Travels News > China's Biggest Museum Cluster - Jianchuan

Update: March 31, 2013, By: Admin

A short bus drive away from Chengdu, Sichuan Province, Anren Town and its vast grounds are collectively known as the Jianchuan Museum Cluster. The "cluster" is comprised of 10 exhibition halls, several outdoor plazas, and a handful of teahouses and souvenir shops. Other than the massive museum grounds - allegedly China's largest -- and Anren Old Town, home to Liu's Mansion, the tiny, sleepy town appears to contain a small bus station, one intersection, and a handful of homely restaurants. It's quiet and filled with odors.

Because the cluster is the town's main attraction, banners are hung every few meters to remind you of its existence, and since there are not many other reasons an outsider would be hanging out in Anren, theoretically, you should have no problem finding your target destination. But things don't always work out like you think they might, and if you miss the massive billboard marked with an arrow, follow the bus route from the Anren Middle School for one stop.

To accompany one of the cluster's themes, propaganda songs play on loudspeakers disguised as rocks hidden in bushes. These tunes will accompany you along your way to the Red Age Living Necessities Hall, a sprawling collection of Cultural Revolution-era artifacts - radios, dishes, a bicycle, a sewing machine, clocks, letters, newspapers, and a spread of many miniature Mao Zedong busts. Most are in glass display cases, but one wing of the hall features rooms set up to show visitors various facets of daily life during the era - a typical living room, a goods shop, a hospital, the room of a privileged family, army barracks (complete with antique cups holding toothbrushes and toothpaste that look suspiciously like they were purchased from the local Huhui Market c. 2007).

The War of Resistance halls feature fairly typical war-museum fare - soldiers' uniforms, artillery, lots of binoculars, handwritten notes, and tons and tons of photographs. This is particularly true in The Hall of the Heroes of the "Flying Tigers," an unapologetic homage to the American soldiers who were based in China during the Second World War. There's also a shoddily built trench that visitors can walk through, but it ends in a wardrobe whose back has been removed, so while you're re-living the experience of Lucy or Edmund from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, try to avoid hitting your head on the low overhang.

To uphold the folk customs part of the exhibitions there is a traditional furniture hall and a "Hall of the Three-inch Golden Lotus," also sometimes translated as "Gallery of Women's Tiny Shoes." Inside are hundreds of, well, tiny shoes used in the days when bound feet were the norm. The floor of the gallery is paved unevenly, we're presuming on purpose, to simulate the experience of walking on bound feet, although we didn't see any sign confirming this. In the center of this hall an "erotic" chair is prominently displayed; according to the sign it was used for copulation - foot binding had strong sexual connotation. The second floor of the hall discusses the end of the foot-binding custom, starting with the wartime need for women in the workforce and ending during the Cultural Revolution, when it was made illegal.

Relative to some of Chengdu's other museums, Jianchuan has quite a bit to offer in terms of artifacts, but its value is more evident in quantity rather than quality. Emphasis seems to be on the expanse of the cluster, the number of halls, and the variety of subjects it showcases; the information it has to offer - in general, but especially in English-is oftentimes lacking. This is particularly noticeable in the halls where many photographs or handwritten notes are on display, and without captions, there are few clues to tell visitors their significance. On the other hand, most of the navigational signage on the external grounds is translated into English as are most of the main signs in the halls, so getting around and seeing the big picture is no problem.

Halls
War of Resistance Series
Chinese Heroes Statues Plaza
"Flying Tigers Heroes" Hall
The Hall of the Sichuan Army in the War of Resistance
The Hall of Unyielding Chinese Prisoners of War
Core of Resistance Hall
China Anti-Japanese Veteran Handprints Plaza
Conventional Battlefront Hall

China Folk Customs Series
Traditional Furniture Hall
Three-inch Golden Lotus Hall

Age of Red Series
New China Porcelain Wares Hall
Age of Red Everyday Items Hall
Age of Red Seals, Clocks and Badges Hall

Source: Citylife

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