New York City Travel
Chinese exhibits and permanent collections in the museum. Guide and description for visitors.    
American Museum of Natural History.


The Chinese collection of the American Museum of Natural History illustrates the home industries and social life as they existed among the common people of China fifteen or more years ago, before the transformation of the empire from a patriarchal system of government into a modern commonwealth. Excellent examples of porcelain, terracotta and glass work in the form of ornaments, utensils and other articles of everyday use, together with objects of bamboo, palm fiber, cane and basketry, will be found in cases in the eastern end of the hall. Attention is directed to the horn lanterns made by welding softened layers of ram's horn into one mass. One case contains specimens of trays, boxes and panels inlaid with mother-of-pearl, ivory and various woods.

Another case contains an exhibit of chinese cloisonne and cinnabar lacquer work, shown by boxes, vases and trays, together with the material used in its manufacture. Other cases contain rugs, stone, wood and ivory carvings, decorative panels, household utensils and implements used in various occupations.

In the Tower Room is a rare and valuable collection of ancient chinese pottery and bronzes, including mirrors, gongs, flower vases, libation cups, censers, bells, dishes and other objects from the Han Dynasty, 206 B.C.–220 A.D., Leuch'ao or Six Dynasties, 220–618 A.D., T'ang Dynasty, 618–905 A.D., Sung Dynasty, 960–1278 A.D., Ming Dynasty, 1368–1628 A.D., Last, or Manchu Dynasty, 1644–1912 A.D. From the Sung Dynasty, 960–1278 A.D., is a flower vase of 100 rings; only three of these bronze vases are in existence. From the Chou Dynasty, 1122–255 B.C., may be seen a temple bell inlaid with gold and silver, which when struck on the different knobs produces a different musical sound for each, and an unusual type of vessel in one casting, and from the Shang Dynasty, 1766–1154 B.C., a libation cup for offering wine to deceased ancestors.

Other specimens, illustrating the religious and home life, including a large image representing the Buddhist God of Mercy, which has eleven heads and forty-two arms, masks, images, altar sets, cosmetics, clothing, and tobacco and opium pipes, are installed in the cases on the west side of the hall.

From Siberia numerous specimens of chinese clothing, weapons, household utensils, fishing and hunting implements, religious objects, carvings, musical instruments and toys illustrate the home and social life of the Chukchee, Koryak, Lamoot, Yukaghir, Yakut and Russianized natives. Among the specimens obtained from these remarkable peoples, the visitor should examine the fishskin garments from the tribes of the Amoor River, decorated with elaborate conventionalized designs and geometric patterns, the beautiful bead and embroidered work, armor worn in warfare by the Koryak, utensils used in manufacturing kumyss by the Yakuts and the many remarkable pieces of inlaid fur work in the form of rugs and articles of dress. Chinese metal work is also well illustrated by elaborately engraved objects of beaten silver, consisting of girdles, neck pieces, bracelets, earrings and silver-decorated saddles.

From the ceiling is suspended a walrus-skin boat made by the collectors of a Siberian expedition of this Museum and used by them for thirty-two days in traveling and trans-porting their material from Indian Point to Mariinsky Post, a distance of more than 1,200 miles. Enter the

Here in the west wing of the 4th floor of the
American Museum of Natural History the visitor will find a fairly exhaustive collection of marine, fresh-water and land shells, showing remarkable contrasts of form and great diversity of ornamentation in the nearly 25,000 species represented.
Facing the entrance are shells of the giant clam, Tridacna gigas, measuring forty-three inches by twenty-seven inches and weighing 579 pounds. These were found near the Philippine Islands. They are used as holy-water fonts and bird baths. Formerly axe-heads and chisels were made from the thicker portions.

The wall cases on the south side contain a series showing the classification of mollusks; the eight table cases at the south and north ends of the hall, the land shells; the rail cases on the north, east and west, the bivalves, or mollusks with two shells, like the oyster, clam and scallop; the individual metal cases, univalves, those mollusks having but one shell or valve.
The south section of the rail cases, behind the "big shells," Tridacna, contains a series of unusually large and fine examples of the various species represented and also a typical collection of the cyprxas or cowries.

At the rear of this hall of the American Museum of Natural Historyis a number of shells showing ornamental and decorative uses, together with a number of deformed, abnormal and curious shells, the deformations of which are attributed to internal (physiological) or external (physical) causes. Other cases contain specimens illustrating the anatomy and habits of mollusks.

Maps and labels on the walls show the distribution and importance of the many families of mollusks exhibited.


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