The Beijing Art Museum is, fittingly, housed in the Temple of Longevity (Wanshou Si), a remarkable complex that has survived neglect and desecration at the hands of Red Guards, invasion and occupation by the Japanese and European colonial powers, the fall of the Ming and Qing dynasties, and various other historical calamaties (including a 1937 fire that destroyed the main hall) since it was completed in 1578 under the direction of Ming Empress Dowager Li.
Today, over 70,000 classic paintings, jade carvings, porcelain artifacts, handicrafts, furnishings, ancient coins and other relics salvaged from China's tumultuous past are safeguarded behind red walls that once protected an extensive library of Buddhist scriptures.
Declared a preservation-worthy cultural landmark in 1979 following a stint as makeshift barracks during the Cultural Revolution, Wanshou Si has been largely restored in years since. In 1985, the Beijing Art Museum was established, making use of this "mini-Forbidden City" and its extensive halls to create a unique museum where the building itself is of as much historical interest as the treasures it houses.
Of particular interest are the Buddhist artifacts on display, including a stunning series of statues collected in the "Buddhist Art Exhibition of Ming and Qing Dynasties."
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