Despite its unwieldy title, “The Majesty of All Under Heaven: The Eternal Realm of China’s First Emperor” is an excellent exhibition currently running at the Hong Kong Museum of History. It features many valuable Qin dynasty (221-207BC) artefacts – national treasures rarely seen outside the mainland.
In terms of the quality of their collections and the affordability of their admission prices, museums are among the few things that offer good value for money in Hong Kong. It is just unfortunate that they are housed in such ugly buildings.
The idea of thematic exhibitions for the edification of the public is a fairly recent one in China.
The first modern museum founded by the Chinese was opened in 1905 by scholar, politician and industrialist Zhang Jian (1853-1926) in the city of Nantong, just north of Shanghai. The museum featured four sections: natural science, history, art and education, and stood in the middle of a beautiful public garden. The artefacts in its collection were donations or acquisitions from individuals and temples across China.
Today, after more than a century of revolution, foreign invasion, civil war and internal political strife, the museum continues to operate in its original building, surrounded by grounds that are still as lovely. In contrast, most of Hong Kong’s museums look like toilets turned inside out.