Hangzhou is a beautiful city not far from Shanghai. It is famous for its vast West Lake and as the headquarters of the Alibaba giant.
This time I want to recommend two museums in Hangzhou. They are worth visiting and will help you learn about the history of Chinese porcelain and silk. Both museums are free of charge.
Southern Song Dynasty Guan Kiln Museum
This museum is devoted to the rich Chinese history of pottery and porcelain. It consists of two parts – an exhibition area and an official kiln relic. There are many explanations in English, but if you manage to find a good guide or a curator from the museum, you will learn a lot about Chinese porcelain and porcelain related legends.
Chinese porcelain has a very long history. Some data shows that it originated during the Eastern Han Empire. Porcelain is so durable that some pieces are 2000 years old and still maintain their bright color.
Most of us know about the Chinese porcelain that has a blue and white pattern, but here in the museum you will see celadon as well. Celadon originated in China, but the term is European. Celadon is a term for pottery that has a jade green color or a type of transparent glaze, often with small cracks. The Chinese Imperial court highly regarded celadon, and later it was replaced by blue and white porcelain.
In the museum you will learn how porcelain is made, you will see over 8,000 restored Chinese wares, and get information about ancient kilns and modern technologies.
The Jiaotanxia Guanyao (official kiln) was first discovered in 1930, but was only seriously excavated in the 1980s. The Dragon kiln is an impressive place to visit and to look around.
The museum has an educational workshop for porcelain and pottery making. Children and even adults like to have a go at making a bowl or a sculpture from porcelain. The shop in the museum is an excellent opportunity to purchase a stylish celadon gift from Hangzhou.
The museum is hidden in a garden and is a 15 minute drive from the West Lake.
The address: No.60 Nanfu Road, Shangcheng District, Hangzhou
Opening hours: 8.30 a.m. – 04.30 p.m. Closed on Mondays.
To get there: 1. Take bus 42, 87 or 133, and get off at Shijiashan Station. Then, walk south approximately 50 meters to reach the Southern Song Dynasty Guan Kiln Museum.
2. Take bus 20, 42 or 62 to Hangzhou Taocipin Shichang Station, and then walk east for 5 minutes to the museum.
3. Take bus 20, 39, 119, 189, 202, 308, 514a or 514 to Shuichengqiao and walk north for about 10 minutes to the Southern Song Dynasty Guan Kiln Museum.
China National Silk Museum
This museum is the largest silk museum in the world. It tells the 5000-year history of Chinese silk and the Silk Road.
The vast museum is also surrounded by trees. There are many mulberry trees here, which will also add to your knowledge of silk.
For the very first time I saw the entire silk-producing process, including breeding silkworms, and had the unique opportunity to examine sophisticated weaving equipment.
This museum, with its exquisite garments, bright colors and rich history of Chinese silk, significantly adds to your knowledge of Chinese heritage. When China hosted the G20 summit in Hangzhou, the First Lady of China took the wives of the leaders to this museum. The museum was enriched and expanded in 2016, most probably because of this event.
Here you will learn about the differences in fashion between the regions of China, peculiarities of clothes from the different dynasties, and have a glimpse at the Western way – works of famous designers like Christian Dior, Lanvin, Balenciaga, etc.
The museum also has a textile training center where visitors are taught to dye, weave, embroider and knit.
You can also visit a Brocade cafe, and a shop where silk products are sold. The items are expensive, but are high-quality – scarves, blouses, dresses, skirts, etc. These are made in the museum’s shop factory.
The museum has explanations in English, and also audio guides in English, which are free of charge.
You can also book an English museum guide by phoning 0571-87035223.
The address of the museum: 73-1, Yuhuangshan. Road, Hangzhou.
Opening hours: 9.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m., 12.00 – 5.00 p.m. on Mondays.
To get there: Bus K12, 31, 42, 87, 133. Please get off at the National Silk Museum of China.