Scattered between the sprawling residential gardens and bustling storefront factories of Dongguan are storehouses of discovery. It is here that triumphs are showcased, knowledge is bestowed and creative visions are exposed.
Across the globe, museums remain the premier tool for preserving artifacts and many other objects of artistic, cultural, historical or scientific importance, which would otherwise disappear as a society develops. In theory, the more urbanized and economically healthy a city, the more developed museum community it should have to explain where it has been and where it plans to go.
Although Dongguan is not especially renowned for rich artistic or cultural heritage, the local government sees differently. Envisioning potential is everything.
Since 2005, various projects have been launched to excavate hidden cultural and historic resources in an effort to boost the city’s sophistication.
From 2006 to 2010, the government had provided roughly six million RMB each year for construction and encouraged private investors to set up their own institutions by offering preferential policies, additional funding and general planning access. Museums quickly began to flourish: from just five in 2005, to 31 in 2014 and 49 in 2016. Today, over half of the city’s museums are privately owned.
More than cultivating abstract knowledge with a dense museum economy, the underlying strategy also intends to help companies gain brand reputation and boost creativity.
Companies like Wonderful Group built the country’s first Architecture Ceramics Museum, which displays China’s ceramic history, while subtly showcasing their own products and innovations, as well. Other enterprises have followed suit: a coin museum was founded by a bank, a cake museum was built by a pastry company, a food cultural museum was opened by a restaurant and a tea museum was set up by a tea producer.
Today, the city hosts a small collection of regionally respected museums. The Opium War Museum, for all of its value that draws four million visitors each year, largely overshadows lesser known gems like the Artes de Chine in Hengli (page 16) and 21 Space Art Museum in Guancheng (page 19).
The exploration of any city starts on the streets in transit to museums. It makes you wonder: how much of Dongguan have you been missing?
See Arts de Chine Museum here
See Haogang Site Museum here
See Dongguan Exhibition Center here
See Lingnan Museum of Fine Art here
See Shilong Museum here
See Dongguan City Planning Exhibition Gallery here
See Shilong Weightlifting Museum here
See 21 Space Art Museum here