First built in 1984, the Exhibition of Ancient Warfare began to be open to the public in 1988. And it was renovated in 1998 and reopened in 1999. Located in the west part of the third floor of the exhibition building, the exhibition occupies an area of 3,300 square meters and houses over 1,600 exhibits, including cultural relics, photographs, models, charts and tables, paintings and sculptures. The Exhibition of Ancient Warfare was removed in May 2012 when the Museum’s reinforcement and renovation project began.
Following the history of wars, the Exhibition of Ancient Warfare presents weaponry, military systems, armies and military thoughts against different political and economic backgrounds in ancient China. The exhibition is arranged into six parts along the timeline of China’s history, namely the pre-Qin era (before 221BC); Qin (221BC-206BC) and Han dynasties (206BC-220AD); the period of Three Kingdoms (220-280), Jin Dynasty (265-420) and Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589); Sui (581-618) and Tang (618-907) and Five Dynasties (907-960); Song (960-1279), Liao (907-1125), Xia (1038-1227), Jin (1115-1234) and Yuan (1206-1368) dynasties; as well as Ming (1368-11644) and Qing (1616-1911) dynasties. The exhibition focuses on important wars, famous battles and preeminent military strategists, commanders and generals in ancient China; the bronze weaponry of Xia (c. 2100BC-c. 1600BC), Shang (c. 1600BC-c. 1100BC) and Western Zhou (c. 1100BC-c. 771BC) dynasties, of the Spring and Autumn Period (770BC-476BC) and of the Warring States Period (475BC-221BC) that holds a significant place in the world’s military history; as well as firearms and well-known literature on military theories such as The Art of War since Tang and Song dynasties.
In the Exhibition of Ancient Warfare there are many precious military relics, including the halberd inscribed with “xue shi” of the Western Zhou Dynasty unearthed in Shandong Province, the bamboo bow of the Spring and Autumn Period unearthed in Hunan Province, the intact dagger-axe of Chu State during the Warring States Period unearthed in Anhui Province, the terracotta warriors of the Qin Dynasty unearthed in Shaanxi Province, warrior figures of the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-25AD) unearthed in Jiangsu Province, and the brass blunderbuss inscribed with “Zhizheng Xinmao” of the Yuan Dynasty unearthed in Jilin Province. The exhibition also represents the military history of ancient China with models, wax figures and other artworks such as paintings and sculptures. The mural titled History of Warfare of China on the wall of the circular-shaped lobby measures five meters high and 52 meters long. With concise yet vivid brush strokes and scenes, it shows the features of chariot warfare, water warfare, horse warfare and offensive and defensive battles. In addition, the exhibition represents the characteristics and development of weaponry, armies and warfare in ancient China with models, such as the large reconstructed model of the four-horse chariot with three soldiers, the man-made spectacle recapturing the Battles at Luoyang and Hulao and representing the bravery of the Tang cavalries, and the models showing city defense and weaponry of the Song Dynasty as well as the magnificent displays of firearms and huge warship models.