Changsha Mawangdui Han Dynasty Tombs Exhibition

3rd Floor
Permanent Exhibition

Free admission

The excavation of the three Western Han Dynasty Tombs at Mawangdui, Changsha, which took place between 1972 and 1974, was one of the world’s most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century. The fully preserved tomb structure as well as a wealth of funerary items serve to fully embody everyday life and funeral concepts during the Han Dynasty. Over 700 exquisite lacquer items with intricate workmanship reflect the brilliant accomplishments of Han Dynasty lacquerware, and over 500 exquisite textile garments fully attest to the “Kingdom of Silk” (Seres) in the Western historical records. More than 50 bamboo slips and silk manuscripts serve as “encyclopedias”, demonstrating the knowledge and wisdom of the ancient sages. Strange and bizarre coffin paintings embody the fantasies of people in the Han Dynasty ascending to the heavens and longing for external life, while the dreamlike face of a deceased woman is a testament to extraordinary preservation techniques. The Mawangdui Han Dynasty Tombs are renowned as the exemplar of the history and civilization in the early Han Dynasty, providing a window to understand society in China over 2,100 years ago.


2nd Floor
Permanent Exhibition

Free admission

Hunan, located in the central Chinese hinterland, is bounded in the north by the waters of Lake Dongting, embraced on three sides by majestic mountains, and crisscrossed by the four rivers, Xiang, Zi, Yuan, and Li. The province, known as the “Land of the Hibiscus” since Tang Dynasty, is blessed with rich resources and a temperate climate. The region was settled almost 500,000 years ago by people who have welcomed migrants over various periods with open hearts. The descendants of these original settlers and generations of migrants make up the “Hunanese” we know today. From the earliest domestication of wild rice to the breeding of rice cultivars and finally to the growing of the hybrid rice of today, Hunan has always been grounded in rice farming. Over the generations, the diligent and wise people of Hunan, with their practical minds, have engaged in mutual help and built a comfortable pastoral home for themselves. In the process, they created a land abundant with food, which is known as “the Granary of China”. From eating rice with fish to enjoying spicy and hot flavors, the people of Hunan practice a way of life that has been passed down through the generations and seek a way of life that is above and beyond the mere utilitarian. Shang and Zhou (1600--256 B.C.) ritual music instruments made out of bronze, lacquered-wood vessels from the Han Dynasty (202 B.C.--220 A.D.), the popular Changsha ceramics in the Tang Dynasty (618--907 A.D.), and the well-educated farmstead family of Ming and Qing periods (1368--1912A.D.): these are all reflections of Hunanese customs and beliefs, and the Hunan way of life. For thousands of years, due to deep immersion in the culture of the Central Plains, patriotic thoughts, strong scholastic heritage, and modern ideological agitations cultivated the generations of great men who have emerged from Hunan. The people of Hunan are bold, fiercely patriotic, and deeply loyal.

Contemporary Exhibition-Special Exhibition

Youth is Meant for Striving: An Exhibition of Youthful Mao Zedong’s Cultural Relics

Themed Exhibition Hall, 3F
Over the past century, with every forward stride of the era, the figure of the youth has been reflected, promoting the victory with their beliefs, suppressing the turbulence through diligence, and composing the anthem of the times with their youth. Youthful Mao Zedong harbored lofty ideals, sought knowledge, tempered revolutionary skills, pursued truth, courageously undertook the mission of national rejuvenation, and harmonized knowledge with action, awakening the masses of workers and peasants. Confronting difficulties directly, he dared to struggle and advocated for striving. This exhibition, centered around time, carefully selects over 150 exhibits from the Hunan Museum, Changsha Museum, Mao Zedong and the First Normal School Memorial Hall, and Hunan Provincial Archives. It showcases the journey of young Mao Zedong from studying at the normal school to leading the movements of workers and peasants, narrating his exemplary influence in cultivating moral character, establishing lofty ideals, loving the great motherland, and shouldering the responsibilities of his era.

Everlasting Prayer:Statues and Beliefs in Meishan Cultural Area

No.2 Themed Exhibition Hall, 3F
With the collision and fusion with other cultures, Meishan culture has evolved into a cultural form that flows with the genes of the Southern Chu(was a Zhou dynasty vassal state) culture, but also blends elements of Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism and the influence of other ethnic groups in the south. Meishan culture is not only a cultural phenomenon in the Meishan region of central Hunan in ancient times, but also a living culture that has been inherited to the present day, and is a typical representative of the cultural practices of many ethnic minorities such as Yao and Miao in southwest China. Ancient pre-Qin Hunan realm, is the location of barbarian tribes such as "Jiu Li" "Three Miao". During the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods, the Chu people went to the south of China, and in this fertile land of myths, beliefs and sorcery, the magnificent and brilliant Chu witch culture in the South was nurtured and grown. The Chu culture was gradually assimilated by the dissolution of the Central Plains culture, but the original beliefs of the Chu deities and sacrificial customs were preserved in the ancient Meishan area, which is "not connected with the outside world". The objects of worship may have changed, but the primitive, instinctive and simple desire to seek good fortune and avoid bad luck in real life constitutes the eternal spiritual treasure of the folk beliefs of the Meishan Cultural area. By selecting more than 100 pieces of wood carvings and archaeological relics from the Hunan Museum and related institutions in the central Hunan province since the Ming and Qing dynasties, this exhibition shows the origin and basic features of folk beliefs in this cultural area, with a view to leading the audience to appreciate the cultural forms with unique local characteristics of Hunan and stimulating the audience to think about historical and cultural inheritance, cultural diversity, and the perception of life. This exhibition, as part of Hunan Museum's "Hunan Culture" exhibition series, "Treasures Revisited--Hunan Museum's 'Discovery Series' Original Thematic Exhibitions", was awarded the State Administration of Cultural Heritage's "Carrying Forward the Outstanding Traditional Chinese Culture and Cultivating the Socialist Core Values" Thematic Exhibitions Recommendation Project for the year 2023.

“Fan Painting and Beyond — Exhibition of Fans”

Themed Exhibition Hall, 3F
Since the Song Dynasty, when aesthetically inspired individuals began to paint on silk fans, the fan painting has gradually evolved into a new form of Chinese calligraphy and painting. During the Ming Dynasty, folding fans became popular for their portability. Fans, appreciated for their beauty and their playfulness, became sought-after personal possessions among Shidafu, the scholar-officials of imperial China. From the Qing Dynasty to the Republic of China period, officials and scholars, in social gatherings, often competed in creating, gifting, and collecting fans, using fans to show their talents, tastes, and social status. This exhibition will use the presentation of the artistic conception within fans and the camaraderie beyond fans as a starting point to reveal the cultural connotation of fan faces. Those displayed fans vividly present a variety of themes, including bird-and-flower, landscape, figure and poem. These themes can all be depicted on fans, utilizing the limited space to unfold unique layouts that showcase a distinct form of artistic beauty. Beyond the artistic conception, fans themselves embrace practical as well as cultural values. Scholars and literati express their sentiments through fans and exchange fans as gifts. The landscapes and poems depicted on the fans both convey the emotions and thoughts of their creators, allowing recipients to feel a sense of friendship while appreciating and handling the fan. The collection of fans at the Hunan Museum mainly covers the Qing Dynasty to the Republic of China period, featuring a significant collection of works by renowned literati painters from Hunan Province. In addition to presenting traditional themes in fans, this exhibition will also delve into the cultural deposits of fans from the perspective of Hunan local culture. "In the tender embrace of breeze, half a sheet of paper gracefully folds and unfurls guiding us to a wonderful journey at a whim." Let us explore the feelings and scene of fan face art together to rediscover the elegance inherent in these fans.

Special Exhibitions