Across China: Private museums help preserve history, culture

Source: Xinhua| 2018-05-21 19:22:53|Editor: Liangyu
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CHANGCHUN, May 21 (Xinhua) -- Xia Xicheng has put a lot of money into his museum, but to him, the treasures it holds are priceless.

Xia, 68, is the creator and owner of a museum in the city of Hunchun in northeast China's Jilin Province.

With an area of 35,000 square meters and more than 140,000 exhibits, the museum features folk and ethnic culture, Chinese artifacts, revolution-themed items and the history of Hunchun.

Xia collected or bought all the items over the past 50 years.

"When I was young, I applied to join the People's Liberation Army (PLA), but didn't pass the test," said Xia. "I have this fondness for military life, and that's why I love PLA-themed collections."

"The unique culture of Hunchun also mesmerizes me," he said. Xia's museum has numerous artifacts and tools from local ethnic groups, and he has even built several examples of traditional ethnic architecture inside the museum.

Private museums are gaining momentum in China. According to data published by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) in January, China had a total of 4,826 museums at the end of 2016, 1,266 of which were privately owned and operated. Jilin also has 14 private museums.

Private museums can play important roles in exhibiting and preserving cultural heritage and can be a good supplement to public museums, according to Lu Jiansong, head of the department of cultural heritage and museology at Shanghai-based Fudan University.

However, running a private museum is not so easy.

For Xia Xicheng, a successful entrepreneur, money is not a problem. But most of his family and friends discouraged him when he first had the idea to build his own museum.

"They all thought I was crazy," said Xia. "They told me if the hundreds of millions of yuan were invested elsewhere, the profits would be respectable."

But Xia continued with his museum project anyway. Making money is not the point, Xia said. "Now after seeing my museum, they can finally understand me."

In July 2017, the SACH issued a set of guidelines to facilitate the development of private museums, pledging better financial support and favorable tax treatment.

Xia made his own efforts. As a local lawmaker, he has been proposing measures to facilitate the development of the prefecture's tourism and cultural industry.

"Culture is the soul of a city and a country. I hope the development of our cultural industry can help boost our cultural confidence," he said.