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Nantong Museum keeps Zhang Jian's vision alive

By Li Yingxue | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-04-21 21:49

In Nantong Museum, the Haonan Villa stands as Zhang Jian's former residence, constructed in 1914. [Photo by Li Wensha/chinadaily.com.cn]

In 1905, amidst the tranquil banks of the Haohe River in Nantong, Jiangsu province, a remarkable tale unfolded — a visionary named Zhang Jian founded China's very first public museum, the Nantong Museum.

Over a century later, it still embodies his vision and commemorates his dedication to the ideals of "education for the nation" and "industry for the nation”.

Zhang, the renowned industrialist, educator and social activist, believed that museums should serve multiple purposes, including exhibitions, collections, displays and research, according to Du Jiale, head of Nantong Museum.

"Zhang's approach to museum management offers valuable lessons for today's museums striving for excellence," Du commented.

Zhang creatively blended modern museum ideas with traditional Chinese garden aesthetics, ensuring that visitors not only learn from the exhibits but also enjoy the tranquil beauty of Chinese gardens, Du added.

Within the walls of Nantong Museum, the Haonan Villa stands as a testament to Zhang's legacy. Erected in 1914, this villa now serves as a poignant showcase of Zhang's remarkable life journey, illuminating his profound contributions to industry, education and beyond.

As Du explained, meticulous efforts are underway to curate Zhang's personal artifacts while carefully crafting the ambiance of the villa's second floor. “We aim to authentically recreate Zhang's living quarters, offering visitors a vivid glimpse into his daily existence,” he said.

In recent years, educational activities have become a big part of what makes Nantong Museum special. This May, the museum will team with the Nantong Kite Museum to offer a fun program called "Exploring Nature's Wonders: A Journey through the Museum."

Kids who join this program get to learn about the museum's exhibits and even train to become mini guides. Additionally, they will immerse themselves in kite-making, botanical garden visits and nighttime stargazing sessions.

"Last year, we offered over 20 research-based learning routes and developed a variety of educational courses, as well as materials and online programs," said Du.

Furthermore, Du mentioned that they are currently crafting educational tours centered around the theme of Zhang's educational legacy. As a pivotal figure in China's modern education reform, Zhang played a crucial role in shaping Nantong's comprehensive education system.

"Our plan is to take students on guided visits to a selection of prestigious universities co-founded by Zhang Jian, such as Fudan University, Nanjing University, and Tongji University. Through these visits, students will gain deeper insights into the rich cultural heritage of these esteemed institutions," Du elaborated.


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