Five Lesser-Known Beijing Museums Keeping China’s Weird and Quirky History Alive

2 weeks ago

Beijing is crammed with quirky museums dedicated to oddly specific areas of interest. Following 10 of our favorites last week, which included, among others, museums for eunuchs, watermelons, bees, and tap water, we rustle up another five gems to add to your Beijing bucket list.

Before you head out to explore these fun and weird museums, remember to carry your ID or passport with you since most require it for entrance.

Beijing Hairdressing Museum
The first niche museum on our list was founded by Silian Hairdressing, a time-honored Beijing chain barbershop that was established in 1956 by – weirdly – the first Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Zhou Enlai. The esteemed statesman apparently felt that his countrymen needed a bit of a style upgrade in the early days of the Republic, and shipped some hairdressers in from Shanghai for that very purpose. The 100sqm Beijing Hairdressing Museum is therefore dedicated to showcasing China’s hairdressing history and culture, and home to hundreds of objects associated with the haircutting biz, such as old furniture, tools, various types of scissors, and ancient wooden combs and hairpins, as well as a collection of old photos showing how Chinese have cut and styled their hair throughout the ages. One of our favorite features are two iPads that allow you to what you’d look like with various typical Chinese hairstyles such as the Mao Zedong balding bouffant.

Free. Daily 9am-9pm. 100m southeast of the crossing of Jiugulou Dajie and Liupukang Nanxiaojie, Xicheng District (8208 4644)

China Media Museum
The China Media Museum is situated in the basement of the library of Communication University of China (CUC), China’s leading university in media education, and is a must-see for AV club nerds. Making full use of the rich media resources owned by the university, the museum provides a general overview of the development of the media industry in China. Divided into sections about transmission, broadcasting, television, and films, each exhibition houses an impressive collection of media-related artifacts from China and abroad, ranging from old recorders, gramophones, music boxes, cameras, film projectors, black and white TVs, typewriters, and wireless installations.

Free. Mon-Fri 9am-4pm. CUC, 1 Dingfuzhuang Dongjie, Chaoyang District (6378 3696)

Museum of Tibetan Culture 
It may come as somewhat of a surprise to learn that Beijing contains such a museum, yet here it is. The Museum of Tibetan Culture is great resource if you want to learn more about the history and culture of this contentious autonomous region and showcases over 2,000 examples of historical relics of Tibetan cultural significance including Buddha statues, religious instruments, artifacts, pictures, and other documents, as well as presentations of historical figures and events. One of the highlights of the museum is the collection of vibrantly colored traditional Tibetan robes, including ones worn by the Dalai Lama (who himself is not pictured, of course).

Free. Tue, Thu, and Sat, 9am-5pm. 131 Beisihuan Donglu, Chaoyang District (64935128)
西藏文化博物馆: 朝阳区北四环东路131号

Beijing Opera Museum
The Beijing Opera Museum is located within the former Huguang Provincial Guild, a venue that used to accommodate scholars, businessmen, and musicians from Hunan and Hubei provinces during their stately visits to Beijing around 200 years ago. Sitting adjacent to the guild’s pavilions, the museum shares its neighbor’s cultured vibe and documents the history and development of the Peking opera via traditional costumes, photographs, and videos of iconic opera scenes. Best of all, the museum continues to host Peking opera (call 8457 6669 for times) and crosstalk performances (every Wed-Fri, 8pm, and Sat-Sun, 2.30pm and 8pm; click here for tickets) so you can experience a Beijing welcome just as delegates did centuries ago.

Free. Tue-Sun 10am-5pm. 3-1 Hufang Lu, Xicheng District (8355 1680)
北京戏曲博物馆: 西城区虎坊路3-1号

Manchu Folk Culture Museum
The so-called “Manchu Town” in Huairou District is the largest ethnic town in Beijing and boasts a Manchu population of 43 percent of the total population, many of whom still follow Manchu folk customs today. The area is also known for its well-preserved typical Manchu buildings. Built in the same architectural style as a traditional Manchurian palace, the 2,000sqm Manchu Folk Culture Museum sits at the foot of the mountain in the north end of the town. The huge museum hosts over 900 post-Han dynasty artifacts, including 500 collected from locals. The rest were donated by a single descendant of the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan, of which Qianlong was perhaps the most famous member.

Free. Tue-Sun 8am-5pm. 2 Mencun, Manchu Town, Labagou, Huairou District (6062 3729)

Read Part 1 of our Weird and Quirky Beijing Museums series, right here.

Photos: Mafengwo, Dianping

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