Yellow River Museum, Zhengzhou, China

Founded in 1955, the Yellow River Museum is the first river-themed museum in China concerning the Yellow River with its natural evolution, sociocultural development, progressing harnessing and regulation.

Run by four departments (the General Office, Exhibiting and Preserving Section, Education and Publicity Section and Culture and Study Section), the Yellow River Museum has evolved from a temporary river-harnessing expo over 60 years ago into a modern museum with multiple functions of collecting and preserving cultural relics, holding exhibitions and lectures, serving and enlightening the public, developing scientific research and academic exchange, offering sightseeing and recreational facilities etc. In June 2016, a new Institution officially affiliated to the Museum, the Institute of Cultural Research and Exchange of the Yellow River.

The permanent exhibition of the museum consists of six parts:

  • The Preface, where visitors can be greeted by a splendid scenic construct of the Hukou Waterfall, which is the most beautiful view of the Yellow River.
  • The Basin Geography with the natural landscape, geographical features, basin climate and products of the Yellow River supplemented with scientific knowledge like the river’s formation and ecology in the ancient times.
  • The Cradle of China, where visitors can explore the exotic Yellow River civilization and appreciate the cultural highlights during its continuous development for thousands of years.
  • The Harnessing for Centuries, that presents the river’s running state throughout history including disasters it caused and people’s struggles against them.
  • A New Chapter of River Harnessing and Way to Harmony, where visitors can learn about river-harnessing practice since 1946, the achievements of river protection and utilization under the administration of the Yellow River Conservancy Commission and river regulation in the new era.

As a non-profit organization, the museum has been working on getting people to know the Yellow River, popularizing scientific knowledge, promoting Chinese cultural prosperity, publicizing the accomplishments in river regulation, reminding the public to pay more attention to environmental protection and keep from natural disasters caused by out-of-control water.

With the hope of being a competent storyteller of the Yellow River, the museum will be fully exerting itself as it always does, trying to play a significant role in river protection and utilization, explore the value of the Yellow River culture in modern times and make greater contribution to its development and prosperity worldwide.

 

Temporary exhibitions

Exhibition of Calligraphy and Paintings for the 70th Anniversary of River Harnessing (1946)
An exhibition of calligraphy and paintings was held in the Yellow River Museum in October, 2016. Covering calligraphy, traditional Chinese paintings, oil paintings by Chinese contemporary eminent painters and calligraphers like Wu Zuoren(吴作人), Fan Zeng(范曾), Ouyang Zhongshi (欧阳中石)etc. , 55 Yellow-River-themed works selected from the collection of the museum were on display to celebrate the 70th anniversary of river harnessing since the establishment of the Yellow River Conservancy Commission in 1946.

Exhibition of Folk Treasures Along the Yellow River
The exhibition opened in the Yellow River Museum in September 2020. About 30 regional art antiques collected and shared by private collectors, including pottery, porcelain, jade, paintings, were showcased, meeting and greeting the public for a month.

SERs

Research activities at Yellow River Museum

In June 2020, An Overview of the Yellow River Museum was published. Emphasizing on displays, collections, important visits, events and activities etc., the book is more like a presentation of the museum’s growing changes and honors it has earned since it was born with about 600 photographs short-depicted in words. Another book, The Yellow River in the Museum, was published in August of the same year. Compiled by several collaborators, the book is conceptualized as a brochure focusing on the Yellow River and popularizing it in accordance with the permanent exhibition in the Yellow River Museum for students of all ages and those who are interested in and care about the river.

Over recent years, the Yellow River Museum has been working on preserving and promoting The Yellow River Chant, a national intangible cultural heritage emerging from the Yellow River basin. Much research has been done on this topic and its thematic exhibition opened in the museum in 2017 to the public. Besides, research activities about the shipping history on the Yellow River, the evolution of river-harnessing agencies and river-harnessing technologies in the past days etc. are being carried out by the museum lately.

Educational activities at Yellow River Museum

As National Water Knowledge Imparting Site and National Study and Practice Site for Primary and Middle School Students, the Yellow River Museum has been carrying out a series of educational activities regarding water knowledge and the Yellow River culture.

According to various target groups, different activities equipped with corresponding schemes and related aids are designed. Through non-stop modification and upgrades, the public-serving-oriented activities containing interactive games such as jigsaw puzzles, manual rubbing,  pottery making and coloring etc. are now spoken highly of by participants of all sorts and have become the flagship guided-touring programme combined with the exhibition-visiting itinerary.

Meanwhile strings of outdoor events titled Ode to the Yellow River are organized in neighborhoods, schools and workplace for publicity regularly.
Currently there are two principal educational activities developed and conducted by the Yellow River Museum.

 

  1. Precious Water Resources

In this activity, a lecture concerning water conservation and river protection is given to arouse the awareness of valuing and safeguarding “the precious water”.

The annual average runoff of the Yellow River accounts for only 2% of the country’s total, ranking fifth among the seven major rivers in China. However, with such limitation of water available, the Yellow River has to take the responsibility of water supply to more than 60 large and medium-sized cities as well as other regions across basins, supporting 12% of the population and 15% of the farmland nationwide, which is far beyond its capability to bear.

What is worse, in the late 20th century, the Yellow River began to suffer from drying-up, severe pollution and aqua-ecosystem damage as consequences of unrestrained exploitation. More and more serious problems made it gradually recognized that river protection is as important as river exploitation. Since the beginning of the 21st century, plenty of water-conserving and river-protecting efforts have been made to realize the harmony between human and water and keep the river as a sustainable source.

 

  1. The Enjoyable Yellow River Clay

This activity provides the participants with an exploring interaction to design and make pottery with Yellow River clay, through which they can thereby get close to the Yellow River culture.

In its middle reaches, passing through the Loess Plateau where severe soil erosion takes place, the Yellow River has to carry a great deal of silt and becomes the most sediment-laden river in the world. The silt from the middle reaches is deposited higher and higher on the riverbed of the lower reaches, turning the river into the well-known “suspended river”. The deposited silt mixes with sand, mud etc., forming the Yellow River clay, which is fine, sticky and plastic well to make pottery.

With a long developing history in the Yellow River basin, pottery is an indispensable part of the Yellow River culture. As early as the Neolithic period, inhabitants in the middle reaches of the Yellow River learned to make coloured pottery as food containers. During the prosperous Yangshao Culture Period (5000-3000 B.C.), pottery was flourishing as well when the painted pottery was created with rich and varied patterns on its surface, which were one of the origins of Chinese characters. Pottery became daily necessity in the Xia and Shang dynasties (2070-1046 B.C.) and has been handed down from generation to generation.