Highlighted relics on display at the exhibition include part of a sculpture of yaoqianshu ("money tree") from the third century. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The National Museum and China Three Gorges Corp are jointly presenting an exhibition on the Yangtze, Lin Qi reports.

Navigating through The Mighty Long River, an ongoing exhibition themed on the Yangtze River at the National Museum of China, feels like embarking upon a journey trespassing time and space.

Verses from Lin Jiang Xian, a well-known poem hailing the Yangtze by Yang Shen from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), come to mind: "Toward the east the Yangtze River runs; like the rising and swelling currents, heroes emerged and disappeared into the depth of history."

He Xin, the exhibition's chief designer in layout, and her team created a visitor route of smooth curves to connect people with the objects of various kinds on show, narrating a grand tale of the world's third-longest river along which Chinese civilization thrived.

By doing so, they hope to immerse the audience in "an atmosphere of sensibilities and romance", she says.

The Mighty Long River, scheduled to run until March 23, is a collaboration between the museum in Beijing and the China Three Gorges Corp in Hubei province to celebrate the Yangtze's history, natural beauty, cultural diversity throughout centuries and the course of environmental protection, by bringing together over 300 objects primarily from the museum's collection.

"The exhibition encompasses a range of objects and when reaching the end of it, people may feel that they have seen four shows-on artifacts, paintings, technology (models of major projects, such as Three Gorges Dam) and natural history (specimens of rare plants and fish)-all of which present the many dimensions of the story of the Yangtze River," He says.

The exhibition begins with several ink-color scroll paintings made centuries ago, re-creating the perspectives of ancient Chinese who enjoyed the overall views of the Yangtze in the way of woyou, which translates to "traveling while lying down".

Intellectuals living centuries ago invented the term to describe the semi-realistic, semi-imagined approach of classical Chinese paintings to presenting landscapes. The style allowed people an idealized vision to connect with nature while at home.

Highlighted relics on display at the exhibition include a bird-shaped bronze vessel from the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24). [Photo provided to China Daily]

Zhao Yong, the exhibition curator, says some landscape paintings on show are precious and rare for public viewing, including Map of the Yangtze River.

The painting, one on silk by Qian Weicheng, an eminent painter and court official from the 18th century, is recognized as an important piece with delicate brushwork and orderly composition. It depicts the city scales and water systems along the Yangtze's middle and lower reaches in the mid-Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The paintings reflect people's exploration with the origins of the Yangtze.

The Great Yangtze River, a landscape on paper produced in 1861, shows the river scenery from the Minshan Mountain range to the estuary. Minshan, stretching from north to south in Gansu and Sichuan provinces, used to be considered the source of the Yangtze, till Xu Xiake, a renowned Ming explorer and geographer, found, after expeditions to Sichuan, that the Yangtze should be flowing out of somewhere more westward.

Next to The Great Yangtze River is The Complete Map of the Qing Empire from 1905 which pinpoints Mulusuwu, now called Gaerqu River in Qinghai province, as the main source. This, as Xu suggested, was actually further west. The headwaters of the Yangtze were confirmed as flowing from glaciers at the foot of Mount Geladandong in Qinghai as expeditions carried out in the late 1970s concluded.

Visitors examine a scroll at The Mighty Long River exhibition at the National Museum of China in Beijing. [Photo by Jiang Dong/China Daily]

Another feature of the exhibition is a summary of the ancient cultures arising from the Yangtze River basin to glorify the Chinese civilization.

Artifacts from cultures along the upper, middle and lower stretches are on show, such as a stone scraper made about 240,000 years ago, which was unearthed from the Guanyindong site in Guizhou province-the largest early Paleolithic site ever found in the southern part of the Yangtze-and a stone slab from the Neolithic age which was engraved with a human figure, under a sun with 23 rays of light and four stars.

Zhao says the exhibition is not merely to praise history and beauty of the Yangtze, the cultural accumulation as well as its significance as "a golden waterway" for economic and social development-equally important is "an intention to raise people's awareness of the ecological protection of the river".

At the exhibition, a wall of plant specimens shows the restoration work carried out in the Three Gorges Dam area by the Yangtze River Rare Plant Research Institute affiliated to China Three Gorges Corp.

Also on display are specimens of fish found in the Yangtze, some of which are critically endangered, such as the Chinese sturgeon, pressing the need to continuously improve the ecology of the river.