Suzhou Museum

Set in an innovative I. M. Pei building, this museum has a small yet impressive collection of art and artifacts, including prehistoric pottery.

The Suzhou Museum houses an exquisite collection of ceramics, wood carvings, jade, textiles, paintings and calligraphy. The  modern building was designed as a contemporary reimagining of a traditional courtyard and garden. Admire the museum’s unique design and fine exhibits, which beautifully reflect the history and culture of Suzhou and the surrounding region.

The museum’s original 1960 collection was housed in the nearby residence of Prince Zhong. In 2006, the current building was designed by modern architect I. M. Pei. The structure creates a fascinating juxtaposition between indoor and outdoor space, as well as the modern and the traditional. As you explore, notice how its design uses natural light to emphasize the artwork and gardens. 

The museum includes three floors and four exhibition halls, with the main buildings surrounded by gorgeous courtyards. Look for prehistoric pottery, jade and bronze vessels in the underground exhibition hall, as well as Wu Pagoda relics on the first floor. 

Don’t miss the Seven Pieces of Painting exhibit, which comprises seven ink paintings of bamboo painted by seven different artists of the Yuan dynasty. Other notable pieces to watch for include the Republican-era boxwood statue of Avalokiteshvara and an engraved celadon lotus-shaped bowl.

Inspect the vivid patterns decorating the Pearl Pillar of the Buddhist Shrine, which was produced in the Northern Song dynasty. Standing 4 feet (1.2 meters) high, this multilayered piece is considered to exemplify traditional Chinese craftwork. 

Be sure to explore any temporary exhibitions which may be on display during your visit. In the past, shows have focused on themes including the Kunqu Opera and the silk embroidery techniques of the Qing dynasty.

Save time to explore the courtyard garden, with a pretty pond filled with brightly colored koi fish. Pay attention to the rock display, which is said to be inspired by classic Chinese painting and features rocks hand-picked by I. M. Pei. 

Find the Suzhou Museum adjacent to the Humble Administrator’s Garden. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday and admission is free. Pay an additional fee for an audio guide or tour by an English-speaking docent.

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