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Cover Stories Series 2011> The National Museum of China Reopens> Video
UPDATED: April 12, 2011
Inside the National Museum of China


As an icon of the Mao-era construction of socialism, the National Museum means much more than just a cultural facility. Today we'll learn some inside stories about the special architecture in the political heart of China.

These photos were taken in 1959, showing the facades of the National Museum of China History and the National Museum of Chinese Revolutionary History. In 2003, the two museums were merged into the National Museum of China.

They were designed by the late architect Zhang Kaiji, who designed a dozen other important buildings in the capital, such as the Beijing Observatory and the bleachers of the Tiananmen Rostrum.

The entire time limit for the project was less than ten months, so Zhang produced his draft in less than a month.

"The construction was designated to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China," said architect Zhang Jinqiu. "I was then a student of Tsinghua University. I was so honored to take part in the project. The museum, on the east side of Tiananmen Square, was designed to echo the style of the Great Hall of the People on the west side. Therefore, the bulk of the two buildings has to be equally large. It's very difficult."

Chief designer Zhang Kaiji's idea was to make it a "public space" with easy access from the square.

"I keep hearing from my father during his late years that a museum is cultural architecture," said architect Zhang Yonghe, son of Zhang Kaiji. "It has to be very different from the Great Hall of the People, which is a political building. Although it lies on such an important location, its vigor doesn't have to be that protrusive and awesome. It has to make people feel that you can easily step in. A public building shouldn't make people feel hesitant to enter."

As part of the renovations, the museum has been expanded to more than 191,000 square meters from the previous 65,000 square meters.

(CNTV.cn March 9, 2011)

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