Guangzhou's Museums: Great Culture at a Fantastic Price

Guangzhou's Museums: Great Culture at a Fantastic Price
By Beth Green ,

From thousand-year-old jade pieces to papercuts made in the last year, Guangzhou's museums prove that no matter how long you've lived here, there's always more to explore. When getting to know a country, a culture, a city or even just a neighbourhood, examining the past can bring new insight and texture to your daily experiences. To that end, here are a few enjoyable museums for the curious Guangzhou-goer to seek out. While not a definitive list – Guangzhou has more than 30 museums – these were chosen for their accessibility by Guangzhou public transit and their short distance from most central areas. And since all have ticket prices at less than 15 RMB, what's stopping you from enjoying a day at the museum?

Guangdong Provincial Museum 广东省博物馆

1) Guangdong Provincial Museum 广东省博物馆 View In Map
The city's most famous museum is of course the Guangdong Provincial Museum. Now in an intriguingly designed building meant to represent a Chinese treasure box, the museum changed locations last year to the new tourism district near the new Guangzhou Opera House, Guangzhou Library and Haixinsha Tourist Park. Exhibits inside this well-lit museum feature history, art and nature. Most have English descriptions.

Perhaps because of the new building and the free admission price, crowds of people are eager to see the province's exhibits. Queues can be extremely long to get in, so make back-up plans for what to see or get there early. The old museum building on Yuexiu Nan Lu is no longer being used as a museum, although the signage is still in place and some websites and travel guides still refer to it. 

Add: No. 2 Zhujiang Dong Lu, Zhujiang New Town, Guangzhou
Tel: 020-38046886, 020-38046880
Opening hours: 09:00-17:00 Mon-Sun. Passes distributed 08:50-16:00  
Price: Admission free, although passes are limited to 5,000 per day. Bring your passport or valid ID to receive your free pass from the office on the south side of the building.
Getting There: Metro Line 3 or 5 to Zhujiang New Town station, Exit B1. Walk toward the Canton Tower, turn left at the pedestrian crossing and pass the Guangzhou Opera House. APM to Guangzhou Opera House station. Take buses Nos. 886, 886A, 293 to Xiancun Lu Nan stop, or buses Nos. 40, 407 to Guangzhou Opera House West Gate.

Guangdong Folk Arts Museum广东民间工艺馆

2) Guangdong Folk Arts Museum广东民间工艺 View In Map
For a closer look at Cantonese culture, we have the Guangdong Folk Arts Museum. Housed inside the grey-brick courtyards of the Chen Clan Academy, this museum within a museum preserves the styles and methods of some of Guangdong's artistic traditions from weaving to carving and painting.

The setting is as nice as the artwork. The Chen Clan Academy, the largest ancestral hall in Guangdong, is a beautiful study in Cantonese traditional architecture, especially the roof-line which is decorated with hundreds of ceramic and plaster figures. Each courtyard features bonsai trees, flowering plants and benches and tables at which visitors can rest. The museum's flat layout and near lack of stairs make this a good choice for sightseers with disabilities or with small children. It also features a few small but interesting gift shops where visitors can purchase folk art souvenirs.

Add: Chen Clan Academy, Zhongshan Qilu, Liwan District, Guangzhou
Tel: 020 8181 4559
Opening hours: Daily, 08:30-17:30
Price: 10 RMB. Children under 1.2 meters tall get in free. Audio guide in English available for 10 RMB plus a 100 RMB deposit.
Getting There: Metro Line 1, Chen Clan Academy station, exit D. Buses No. 85, 88, 104, 107, 109, 114, 128, 133, 181, 193, 204, 233, 250, 251, 260, 268, 286.

Guangzhou Museum of Art  广州艺术博物院

3) Guangzhou Museum of Art  广州艺术博物院View In Map
People craving more examples of Chinese painting can seek out the Guangzhou Museum of Art.  A showcase for artists born in Guangdong province, this museum and its statue-studded courtyard are ideal for contemplating Oriental artwork. From gilded, colourful court paintings centuries old to minimalist, realist brushwork painted just decades ago, the museum has a range of Chinese paintings, calligraphy and some sculptures.

While individual exhibits have little or no English translations for item descriptions, most gallery rooms are dedicated to a particular artist and their biographies are written in English at the beginning of the exhibits. Also, the exhibit on celebrated musician Ma Sicong is fully translated and has a number of his personal effects on display as well as his musical scores. The museum has elevators and escalators to all levels and is a good starting or ending point for a day spent exploring Luhu Park and the nearby sculpture garden.

Add: 13 Luhu Lu, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou
Tel: 020 8365 9337, 020 8365 9202
Open: Tues-Fri, 09:00-17:00; Sat-Sun, 09:30-16:30
Price: Admission free
Getting There: Metro Line 5, Xiaobei Station, exit B. Turn right, then left at the first intersection. Follow Luhu Lu until the car lanes turn into an overpass. At the 7 Days Inn the sidewalk goes down the hill for a few metres and then turns into a pedestrian overpass which leads straight to the museum and Luhu Park. Alternatively, buses No. 10, 63, 297, 808, 883, 109, 110, 184, 190, 544, 561, 546 take you there too.

Guangzhou Museum 广州博物馆

4) Guangzhou Museum 广州博物馆 View In Map
To learn more about the history of the city, check out the Guangzhou Museum, located in the middle of Yuexiu Park. It's housed in Zhenhai Tower, a five-story red building that was the tallest thing around when it was built in the 1300s but is dwarfed several times over today by the city's modern skyscrapers.

The tower provides informative exhibits, translated into English, on the city's growth from a small village to the world-renowned city it is today. There's an emphasis on the importance of maritime trade in the shaping of the city, and the fourth floor exhibit about Western influences and trading may especially interest foreign visitors. However, visitors with disabilities or small children may have difficulty accessing the museum because of its hilltop location and its many flights of stairs.

Add: Zhenhai Tower, Yuexiu Park, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou
Tel: 020 83550627, 020 8354 5253
Open: Daily, 09:00-17:30
Price: 10 RMB. Children under 1.20 metres get in free. Audio guide available in Chinese only for 10 RMB.
Getting there: Metro Line 2, Yuexiu Park station. Once inside the park, a shuttle bus runs from the main entrance up the hill for 10 RMB. Buses No. 24, 63, 103, 104, 109, 112, 112 and 211 stop at Yuexiu Park. Buses No. 6, 10, 33, 36, 66, 184, 190, 191, 219 and 544 stop at Xiaobei Hua Quan.

The Museum of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum of the Nanyue King西汉南越墓博物馆

5) The Museum of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum of the Nanyue King 西汉南越墓博物馆 View In Map
Across Jiefang Bei Lu from Yuexiu Park is the city's museum with the longest name. The Museum of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum of the Nanyue King, perhaps the most specialised of the museums reviewed here, is structured around the actual archeological site of a king's tomb.

The king ruled over a territory encompassing present-day Guangdong and Hainan Island, as well as most of Guangxi and parts of Guizhou Province and a sliver of northern Vietnam. Visitors are able to climb down inside the burial chambers – an unforgettable experience. English descriptions are prevalent throughout the museum except in the temporary exhibits. Video presentations are in Mandarin with English subtitles.

The second floor of the entrance hall has a unique collection of ceramic pillows from the Tang to the Song dynasties and the main museum building beautifully exhibits some of the hundreds of jade pieces that were sewn together for the king's burial garment and other treasures. Visitors with knee problems should note that this museum and the access to it can involve a lot of stair climbing. 

Add: 867 Jiefang Bei Lu, Guangzhou
Tel: 020 3618 2920
Open: Daily, 09:00-17:30 
Price: Audio guide in English available for 10 RMB plus a 100 RMB deposit.
Getting there: Metro Line 2, Yexiu Park station, Exit E. Buses Nos. 203, 273, 552, 543, 211, 29, 7, 33 go to Jiefang Lu Bei station.

 Liwan Museum荔湾博物馆

6) Liwan Museum 荔湾博物馆 View In Map
And finally, the Liwan Museum is a fun peek into the past of a small but formerly wealthy residential district. The centre of the Xiguan culture, which many Cantonese embrace as being typically Guangzhou, Liwan has it's own traditional architecture, furniture and twists on Chinese customs.

The first section of the museum is housed in a traditional grey-brick, two-story home and furnished with the things a family 100-200 years ago may have owned. It's decorated with photographs of Liwan District, mainly in black and white, which are particularly good. This section has descriptions in English.

The second part is in a white building incorporating Chinese and Western architectural styles. This section has exhibits on local handicrafts and a selection of internationally sourced musical instruments. These have descriptions in Chinese only. The white building has some nice views of Liwan Hu Park from the upper levels. After the museum, take a stroll around the surrounding streets and into the park looking for other buildings in the Xiguan style. 

Add: 82 Fengyuan Bei Jie., Longjin Xilu, Guangzhou
Tel: 020 8939 9917, 020 8195 4528
Opening hours: Daily, 08:30 to 17:30
Price: 8 RMB. Tickets must be purchased from a free-standing ticket office near the canal.
Getting There: Metro Line 1, Changshou Lu station, Exit B then follow Baoyuan Lu. Buses Nos. 226, 541, 39 to Hengbao Garden Bus Terminal; buses Nos. 2, 25, 55 or 66 to Pantang.

If these six museums pique your interest for more, check out the local government's 'Brief Introduction to Museums in Guangzhou,' available at some museums' service/information counters. 

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Keywords: Liwan museum Guangzhou museums Guangzhou museum guide Guangdong provincial museum


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