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Nanjing University History Museum and Art and Archaeology Museum

(China Daily)

10:59, May 18, 2012

(An antiquated building at Nanjiang University, which will celebrate its 110th anniversary on May 20. Zhen Huai / for China Daily)

Running one's eyes around the exhibit galleries of Nanjing University History Museum is as good as getting a bird's eye view of the making of Nanjing as it is today.

Founded in 1902 (it was then called Sanjiang Normal School and subsequently went through several name changes before getting its present), the university witnessed the momentous events in Nanjing's history - snapshots are preserved in its archives.

Take the sepia-tinted photograph of the first batch of eight female students admitted to the university in 1920 - the girls appear somewhat pensive, dressed in identical long, dark skirts and shapeless blouses. It marks a moment in the history of co-education in China - Nanjing University being one of the very first institutions to admit women in their hallowed portals.

In an image from 1947, students of the university are seen swarming against a barricade of mounted soldiers. This was the historic May 20th Patriotic Students Movement, when demonstrations were led against the heavy-handed policies of the Chiang Kai-shek government, demanding an end to "hunger, civil war and persecution". May 20 is now observed as Nanjing University's anniversary day.

Unknown to many, Nanjing University has an impressive gallery of art objects - nearly 10,000 cultural relics from as early as the Neolithic age - stashed away in its Art and Archaeology Museum.

Most of the pieces in the collection were, in fact, sourced from the university campus area. Prehistoric ornaments made from animal bone were dug out from Beiyinyangying - where the university's staff quarters are located. Funerary objects were unearthed during the excavation of the tomb of an Eastern Jin Dynasty (AD 317-420) emperor, in the university's north campus at Pukou.

The collection also includes kilns from Song (960-1279) and Tang dynasties, intricately carved jade and ancient paintings by ethnic groups from Southwest China.

The signature brush and ink horses by the noted painter Xu Beihong are also featured in the collection. Xu - one of the first Chinese artists to attract international fame - taught at the university. A largish sculpture of his, hewn out of red stone, stands outside the building that houses the art museum, rather self-effacingly, hidden partially, behind the trees.

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