Aurora Museum is a 'cultural treasure box'

Su Yanxian
The Aurora Museum showcases ancient Chinese treasures including pottery, porcelain, Buddhist statues and jade artefacts of great historical significance.
Su Yanxian
Aurora Museum is a 'cultural treasure box'
Dong Jun

Editor's note:

Architecture is frozen music, an epic of stone and a cultural monument. An art museum epitomizes this.

In this "Art unfrozen: a journey through Shanghai's cultural monuments" series, we will guide you through an immersive experience, varying from the museum's special architectural style and gift shops to its cafeteria and coffee shops in the museum's neighborhood.

Aiming to level up with the world's top museums such as the Pompidou Center in Paris, the Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, and the Tate in London, the art museums of Shanghai have blossomed in the past decade.

Visiting museums has become a lifestyle, a kind of social activity or recreation. The charm of an art museum permeates every corner.

As well as the exhibitions inside, what else can visitors enjoy on a cozy weekend afternoon at a museum?

Get ready for a museum trip!

Aurora Museum is a 'cultural treasure box'
Dong Jun

The Aurora Museum

As the first museum renovation project undertaken by Tadao Ando in China, the Aurora Museum, which opened in 2013, is akin to a "cultural treasure box" standing on the banks of the Huangpu River.

Tadao Ando, the world renowned Japanese architect, not only designed the building that hosts the museum, but also the concept of the museum when he undertook its remodelling.

Sited in the financial hub of Pudong, Aurora Museum showcases the collection of Aurora Group's founder, Chen Yung-Tai and Yuan Hui-Hua who, over 40 years, have gathered ancient Chinese treasures including pottery, porcelain, Buddhist statues and jade artefacts of great historical significance.

The museum's collection of pottery is mainly painted figures from the Han and Tang dynasties.

The collection of jade runs from the Neolithic Age to the Ming and Qing dynasties, the time span of the entire history of ancient China.

The blue-and-white porcelain are also a highlight. They include the typical blue-and-white porcelain from Yuan dynasty sold to the Middle East, the essential porcelain from official kilns and folk kilns in the Ming and Qing dynasties, and exported trade porcelain in trade.

The museum's collection of Buddhist sculptures is mainly from the Gandhara sculptures in the early period of Buddhism and the localized sculptures in Northern Wei, Sui and Tang dynasties. These clearly outline the different styles and aesthetic viewpoints displayed in the process of localization of Chinese Buddhism sculpture.

Architecture Style

As the 89th museum designed by Ando, this building is based on the themes of "circle" and "harmony," and "circle" itself is the element that best expresses "harmony".

In his eyes, circle is an element that seems to be limited, yet is full of spirit and freedom.

The Aurora Museum, facing the Bund against the back-drop of Lujiazui's high-rises, conjures up a striking contrast between history and modernity, which brought Ando a lot of inspiration.

For example, the museum's minimalist style facade, was shaped by Ando in order to make the building appear more modern to echo the surrounding buildings.

The main building features a glass window structure, with clean geometric lines cuts. Inside the museum, the spiral staircase extends up to five stories above the central foyer. The carefully structured interior is designed to engage the viewers for a dramatic atmosphere even before entering the exhibition area

With its layered geometric lines, round-phase rotating staircases, ivory or light grey hued spaces plus the changing light and shadow, the museum showcases Ando's personal style. The artefacts in the museum and the Bund on the other side of the river unwittingly add a unique feel to the comers to the museum.

"Architecture must be a unique product of that place and time," Ando said. "It doesn't matter whether the building is small or big, but the perception of the real city counts. How you pose your questions and the strong will behind the building."

Aurora Museum is a 'cultural treasure box'
Dong Jun

Decorated in grey, the cafeteria renders an amazing view of the Huangpu River.


A Café, located in the Aurora Museum, is divided into two rooms. One is on the ground floor, in the Cultural and Creative Shop. It is spacious and bright, with a relaxed and simple style.

The other, designed by Ando, is on the fifth floor of the museum. Decorated in grey, the cafeteria renders an amazing view of the Huangpu River. Sitting by the window and watching the river flowing by slowly, one might find a perfect experience to see the Bund at sunset.

Aurora Museum is a 'cultural treasure box'

Painted figures from the Han and Tang dynasties

Aurora Museum is a 'cultural treasure box'

A close-up

Aurora Museum is a 'cultural treasure box'

A figurine

Aurora Museum is a 'cultural treasure box'

Gift shop

Gift Shop

1. Golden Snow Globe

This clay figurine is from the Eastern Han Dynasty. The witty expressions and exaggerated appearance actually catches the vivid moment of the performer at that time.

Place inside a crystal ball, the Golden Snow Globe gives a festival atmosphere.

2. Color Tumbling Blocks

This woman figurine features a plump face, thin eyes, small mouth with a typical high bun of the Tang Dynasty. With a graceful and leisurely posture, the ancient lady has two hands lifted in front of her chest, her head and body slightly turned left. In fact, the Tang Dynasty witnessed a prosperous period of feudal culture in China, and the relatively loose and free social environment enabled women to get rid of the constraints of traditional rituals, pursuing boldly the natural beauty of clothing.

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