When I asked my colleague in the Beijing office about visiting the Military Museum in China she nonchalantly said it’s not far from the Capital Museum, “it’s a short walk”. I took her at her word, but after walking for about 45 minutes I realised there is a difference between the concept of a “short walk” in Chinese and Western culture.
The Military Museum is situated 6 stops from Tianmen East Station and in a much protected area…Most of the buildings are military offices guarded by scary men either in plain clothes or uniform, but neither of which stopped a Chinese gentleman trying to sell me an original military watch just outside the ticket office.
Entrance to the Museum is RMB5 with any form of ID, preferably a passport. I arrived at noon and the Museum was very busy with huge Chinese groups. The average age of visitors was 75 and I was the only foreigner. There are no catalogues on sale to get any information before entering the building. At the front of the Museum are tanks, which to me, being brought up on WWII when I was a child in central Europe, and looked like German tanks but were actually Japanese. To the right of the tanks you can see planes from WWII, probably Russian made.
The building is very imposing with a high ceiling, the entrance decorated with statues of the Worker, Soldier and Nurse. Inside the Museum there is an inhumanly tall statue of Mao Tze Tung made of marble, with a long queue waiting for a photo to be taken with Mao in the background – but I was reluctant to take any as I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to take photos in China’s Military Museum … I could see myself doing time in some obscure village in a far corner of China… But after seeing the first floor I released there were no secret weapons on display and they mostly dated from 1980 so I switched on my camera and start taking pictures.
On the first floor, officially called Revolution Hall, there is a huge exhibition of guns – officers’ guns, Russian guns, guns made in China, machine guns…all old. There are no descriptions next to the exhibits in English – but there are none in Chinese either. The building goes into an atrium and in the middle there is a huge rocket which could be seen on the third floor, it’s slim, tall and without any explanation .On the left side of the first floor you can see military knives then suddenly this sections turns into old swords and some of them are very nicely decorated making me thinking they come from the Middle East. Then after a few showcases the exhibition turns to missiles. They take up lots of space, they are outdated and again without any description. By this time my concentration was plummeting and i just wanted to finish the visit. After running quickly through the rest of the first floor I went up to the second floor to meet all the important people in the communist world: Marx, Lenin, Mao Tze Tung, all like Chinese generals neatly lined up, and some at their natural height. I was puzzled why there was no statute of Engels and rest of the international brigade like Tito, Stalin, Castro…Maybe they ran out of space…The next section was dedicated to the Sino-Japanese war which I didn’t understand and as everything as in Chinese I had no chance to learn either. The third floor promised an insight into new technology but it turned out to be lots of documents and photography of these new achievements in China…Had a quick look from the entry door and decided to quit. .
Took a lift back to the ground floor and went outside, meeting a group of young school children spending the afternoon at the Museum. I went to Tiananmen Square to take some more shots.
Address : 9 Fuxing Road, west of Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.
Opening hours : 8:30 – 16:30 daily.
Telephone : 010-66866114