Dr. Arthur M. Sackler expressed his interest in helping China
preserve its rich cultural heritage by offering to provide a teaching museum incorporating
all elements of modern museology, such as modern display techniques, climate control,
conservation facilities, storage and security, as well as a training program for
archaeologists and museologists. Discussions about the construction of such a
museum were officially entered into in 1984 with the Secretary General of Peking
University, Mr. Wen Zhong. Peking University is the logical choice for the museum
because of its extensive archaeological collection and because it has been a leader in
training Chinese archaeologists since the nineteen-thirties.
A Declaration of Intent was signed by Dr. Sackler and Dr. Ding
Shisun, then President of Peking University, to build the museum, on September 8, 1986,
the day of the groundbreaking ceremony. The actual construction of the museum and the
completion of the museum project had been overseen by Dr. Sackler's widow, Jillian
The new museum is located on a beautiful site near the West Gate of Peking University
campus and its architecture takes the inspiration from buildings that already exist on
campus. The firm of Prentice & Chan, Ohlhausen, of New York City, was hired to design
the museum in July, 1986, with Lo-yi Chan, working closely with the Peking University
staff and in consultation with Dr. Sackler, as the supervising architect for the project.
The new museum was designed to conform to Ming Dynasty style structures, around a central
In May 1987, Jillian Sackler, on behalf of the AMS Foundation for the Arts, Sciences
and Humanities, signed an additional agreement that provided for the expansion of the
project to include the extensive but long abandoned gardens that lay to the west of the
site. These had formerly been part of the grounds of Yuanming Yuan, the Old Summer Palace,
that had been destroyed in 1860, and were called the Singing Crane Gardens. These gardens
have been beautifully restored and provide a future site for the placement of sculpture to
create The Jillian Sackler Sculpture Garden.
The Opening Ceremonies took place on May 23, 1993, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and
festivities including an indoor/outdoor gala dinner with traditional cuisine from China,
Japan, the Middle East and The United States of America.
In honor of the occasion, a four-day scholarly conference, titled Chinese
Archaeology Enters the Twenty-first Century took place from May 28 through
May 31, 1993. This was the first meeting of Eastern and Western archaeologists in decades. It served as a forum to discuss new scholarship and advances in the field of
Chinese art and archaeology, and to set the agenda for future collaborative research in
Chinese archaeology. Archaeologists from the United States, Europe, Japan, Hong Kong,
Taiwan, Macao and Singapore were invited to participate with colleagues from all regions
of China. The conference, which over one-hundred scholars attended, was conducted in
Chinese and English and ended with a special visit to an archaeological site within the
vicinity of Beijing. It was sponsored by the AMS Foundation for the Arts, Sciences and
Humanities, and co-organized with the Department of Archaeology of Peking University.
The Publication of this conference, entitled "Proceedings of the
International Conference on 'Chinese Archaeology Enters the Twenty-first Century'"
is available through this site.