On May 10, 2014, China arrived at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis with the opening of the exhibit Take Me There:® China.
It is the second in the museum’s popular series of Take Me There exhibits, which immerse visitors in the modern life of a single world culture. The first was the highly successful Take Me There: Egypt, which ran from 2009 to 2013 in the Take Me There gallery on Level 2. As with Take Me There: Egypt, the big idea behind Take Me There: China is that by learning about similarities between cultures we develop awareness, acceptance, and respect for people from other societies and traditions.
Developed in collaboration with international, national, and local partners, Take Me There: China is the result of a decade of planning that included multiple trips to China to gather artifacts, take photographs, record video, and more. Staff members and museum supporters and advisors visited major cities, museums, marketplaces, tea houses, calligraphy shops, the Shaolin Temple, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, and ordinary homes and apartments, to ensure that Take Me There: China would truly immerse visitors in the daily life of the world’s longest continuous culture and most populous nation.
A two-minute simulated flight from Indianapolis to Beijing (rather than the actual 13 hours) takes visitors past the Great Wall and more of China’s manmade and natural wonders before “touching down in Beijing.” Visitors are introduced four generations of the Wang family, including 11-year-old Jackie, and witness the profound differences in their lifestyles, from Jackie’s life in a modern urban high-rise to his great-grandmother’s traditional home.
Then children and families can enjoy other immersive areas and experiences including:
- The Giant Panda Research Base
Children can investigate the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and learn the challenges that conservationists face, including how to care to care for pandas and a chance to practice feeding toy baby pandas.
- The Restaurant
Visitors can pretend-play preparing traditional Chinese foods found on the restaurant’s menu, trying their hands at chopsticks, making dishes in woks, and serving friends and family a meal.
- The Opera
Children and families see real Chinese opera costumes and try on opera costumes sized for children and adults. The area also features video and information about Biàn Liǎn, the art of mask-changing!
- The Teahouse
Visitors are introduced to the Chinese art of brewing and serving tea and learn about other Chinese art forms, including calligraphy and shadow puppetry.
Two young teachers from China who specialize in music, calligraphy, and Chinese as a second language share their talents with visitors inside Take Me There: China.
- Chen Lin is the museum's Calligrapher-in-Residence. Using everything from the tiniest of calligraphy brushes and ink to a giant brush and water to demonstrate "street" painting, Chen Lin draws delicate, complicated and beautiful Chinese characters.
- Ma Lan is the museum's Musician-in-Residence. Like Chen Lin, Ma Lan's area of academic study is teaching Chinese as a second language, but her passion is traditional Chinese music. In the exhibit space, she plays (and demonstrates how to play) the hulusi, a gourd flute, or the guzheng, a long stringed instrument, and she invites visitors to play them too.
Museum staff members also offer special interpretive programs to children, families, and school groups that change seasonally, including kung fu basics, shadow puppet theatre performances, and more.
Take Me There: China was made possible by many generous donors. Learn more about the museum’s transformational donors.