The scope, depth and quality of its collections, and the striking architecture and use of modern technology make the Shanghai Museum one of the most famous if not the most famous in China. It covers an area of 38,000 square meters, with a scale that surpasses the old museum severalfold. The exterior of the museum utilizes the shape of an ancient bronze ding, specifically a Chen ding, with its rather archaic flavor. The structure and materials of the entire building, however, are an accomplishment of the most modern technology.
The Shanghai Museum is mainly a museum for ancient arts. At present it is divided into ten sections. These are: ancient Chinese bronzes, sculpture, ceramics, jades, seals, calligraphy, coin and currency, paintings, Ming and Qing-dynasty furniture, and crafts of China's national minorities. In addition to these ten permanent exhibitions, the museum often holds small-scale exhibitions and also exhibits articles from elsewhere on a short-term basis. The Museum also exhibits its material in museums both within China and abroad.
Among the holdings of the Museum many items are superlative works of art and are unique in the entire country. These include in particular the bronzes, calligraphy, paintings, and Ming and Qing furniture.
China's Shang and Zhou-period bronzes are an important testimony to the ancient civilization of the country. When visitors enter the Ancient Bronzes Hall, the presentation and atmosphere of the rooms expresses the cultural atmosphere of the bronze age. The subdued dark-green tone of the walls imparts an ancient atmosphere, the simple and elegant display cases and the lighting are carefully designed to enhance the experience. Some 400 exquisite bronze items are displayed in a space of 1,200 square meters, perfectly reflecting the history of the development of China's ancient bronze arts.
The Calligraphy Hall includes works from many dynasties; in chronological order it displays the history of the marvelous genius of Chinese calligraphic arts. The aura of the hall is scholarly and elegant, assisted by automatic lighting in display cases that protects the art by shining only when the visitor is viewing a work. Among these works are a number of unique world treasures.
The Chinese Painting Hall of the Museum similarly has a touch of traditional architectural style to it, combined with an atmosphere of Confucian elegance. Around 120 masterpieces are displayed in the 1,200?square-meter exhibition space. These date from the Tang dynasty to modern times but do not include contemporary works.
The apex of Chinese furniture creation occurred during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Walking into the Ming and Qing Furniture Hall is like walking back into the gardens and rooms of the Ming and Qing dynasty. In some 700 square meters of space are exhibited some 100 pieces of superlative Chinese Ming and Qing-dynasty furniture. Among these are Ming pieces that are fluid in line and harmonious in proportion. The Qing pieces have more complex ornamentation and are often made of thicker, heavier wood.
The underground part of the Shanghai Museum also has some courtyard gardens that imitate authentic Chinese traditions. Although these are hidden deeply underground, their architecture and environment seem light and airy.