Asian museums’ 360° virtual online tours


For those of us who aren’t used to staying at home for long periods of time, the quarantine may have been taking a toll on our wanderlust, making us feel stuck within the walls of our homes.

Fortunately, we can still satisfy our desire to explore the world through each country’s history and culture, displayed in these 10 online museum virtual tours. Here are 10 museums in the Philippines and the rest of Asia with 360° virtual tours you can hop on from the comfort of your own home. 


Philippines



1. Presidential Museum and Library – artworks and books dating back to Emilio Aguinaldo’s time


Inside Malacanang museum
Image credit: Google Arts & Culture 

Housed in Kalayaan Hall, the oldest building of Malacañang Palace, the Presidential Museum and Library pays tribute to the rich political history of our country – and in general, of who we are as Filipinos.

Inside Malacanang museum
Image credit: Google Arts & Culture

The 6 state rooms and 3 historic rooms of the Kalayaan Hall are now home to sculptures, portraits, paintings, photos, books, and memorabilia of the Philippine presidency that date as far back as the time of Emilio Aguinaldo. 

For a virtual tour of the museum, click here.


2. Ateneo Art Gallery – marvel at the works of Philippine contemporary artists


Ateneo Art Gallery
Image credit: Ateneo Art Gallery 

Recognized as the first museum for Philippine modern art, the Ateneo Art Gallery was founded in 1960 through the initiatives of artist, businessman, and collector Fernando Zobel. Through the years, the gallery grew with the help of other artists and philanthropists, and now oversees collections representing various Philippine art movements in the postwar period. Works by Fernando Zobel and Vicente Manansala are among the contemporary artworks it houses. 

Jose Joya’s Granadean Arabesque (1958)
Jose Joya’s Granadean Arabesque (1958)
Image credit: Ateneo Art Gallery

Jose Joya’s Granadean Arabesque is situated at the foyer, and is one of the most important works in the gallery. It showcases the painter at the peak of his Abstract prowess, featuring an Abstract artwork consisting of bold brushstrokes and controlled drips inspired by Philippine landscapes. 

For a virtual tour of the museum, click here.


China



3. Forbidden City (aka The Palace Museum, Beijing) – experience the museum in virtual reality mode


The Forbidden City’s Meridian Gate
The Forbidden City’s Meridian Gate
Image credit: You Visit 

Live out your Karate Kid fandom by virtually traveling to The Forbidden City, also known as The Palace Museum, located at the heart of Beijing. The museum, established in 1925, is a living tale of China’s centuries-old history, and was once the imperial residence of the Ming and Qing dynasties. 

Gallery of Clocks
Inside The Gallery of Clocks
Image credit: The Palace Museum 

It’s home to over 1.8 million pieces of imperial collections such as paintings, calligraphy, ceramics, and antiquities. Some of its galleries can be visited online – the Treasure Gallery, once the home of imperial concubines, displays fine palatial ornaments, while The Gallery of Clocks highlights the beauty of historical English, French, Swiss, and Chinese clocks.

The Hall of Supreme Harmony
The Hall of Supreme Harmony
Image credit: Daniel Case/Wikimedia Commons

The grand architecture of the Forbidden City can also be visited online in virtual reality mode, via the website You Visit that showcases VR depictions of The Meridian Gate, The Hall of Supreme Harmony, and Tianhedian Square, among others. 

For a virtual tour, click here.


South Korea



4. National Museum of Korea – largest museum in South Korea


Entrance to National Museum of Korea
Image credit: Google Arts & Culture 

If you’re a major fan of historical K-dramas, then a virtual trip to Korea’s National Museum should take you out of your quarantine boredom. This museum is the largest in all of South Korea, and houses cultural artifacts from their ancient dynasties to the present. 

Ten-Story Pagoda from Gyeongcheonsa Temple
Ten-Story Pagoda from Gyeongcheonsa Temple (approx. 1348)
Image credit: Google Arts & Culture

One of the most prized South Korean artifacts to be found here, that’s also listed in Korea’s National Treasures, is the Ten-Story Pagoda from Gyeongcheonsa Temple of the Goryeo Dynasty – and you can marvel at it online. 

Ten-Story Pagoda from Gyeongcheonsa Temple
Image credit: Steve46814/Wikimedia Commons

This pagoda is special because unlike most Korean pagodas made from granite, it is made from marble – and is also the country’s first marble-made pagoda. 

For a virtual tour of the museum, click here.


5. National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea – Korean modern art


MMCA Seoul
Inside MMCA Seoul
Image credit: Google Arts & Culture 

The OG institution for Korean modern art, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea (MMCA) represents the intersection of different fields of art, science, and humanities in its four museums across South Korea. 

Two out of the four can be explored via an online virtual tour: the Deoksugung branch that encompasses Korean modern art from the 1900s to the 1960s, and the Seoul, branch that  focuses on global contemporary art. 

Its main museum is situated in Gwacheon, and is devoted to showcasing visual arts such as architecture, photography, and painting. MMCA Cheongju is dedicated to the art of preservation. 

For a virtual tour of the Deoksugung and Seoul museum branches, click here.


Taiwan



6. National Palace Museum, Taipei – largest collection of ancient Chinese artworks in the world


National Palace Museum
Image credit: National Palace Museum 

The National Palace Museum in Taipei is often touted as the Louvre of Chinese art, for it has the largest collection of ancient Chinese artworks in the world, comprising over 700,000 pieces of art spanning 8,000 years from the Neolithic to the modern era.

Location of the Jadeite CabbageLocation of the Jadeite Cabbage
Image credit: National Palace Museum

Curiously, while the museum boasts a vast array of collections, one of the “three treasures” of the National Palace Museum is a tiny cabbage carved from jade. 

Jadeite Cabbage
Image credit: peellden/Wikimedia Commons 

The Jadeite Cabbage (from the Qing dynasty) is said to symbolize purity and fertility. It’s inside the Gallery of A Gathering of Treasures in the National Palace Museum North and South, and is one of the most prized possessions of the NPM.

Location of the Meat-Shaped StoneLocation of the Meat-Shaped Stone
Image credit: National Palace Museum

The Meat-Shaped Stone (Qing dynasty) is also famous in the NPM, displayed alongside the Jadeite Cabbage.

Meat-Shaped Stone
Image credit: Chi-Hung Lin

It’s made from banded jasper, celebrated for its realistic craftsmanship of layers of meat that resembles a dish called Dongpo pork.

For a virtual tour of the museum, click here.


Japan



7. Tokyo National Museum (Ueno Museum) – the oldest and largest museum in Japan


Entrance to Tokyo National Museum
Image credit: Google Arts & Culture 

The Tokyo National Museum is Japan’s oldest and largest museum, founded in 1872. The museum highlights ancient and medieval Japanese art, as well as Asian art in general. 

Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji: The Great Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa (middle, 19th century)
Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji: The Great Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa (middle, 19th century)
Image credit: Google Arts & Culture 

One of the most popular artworks here is Katsushika Hokusai’s The Great Wave woodblock print, taken from his series of Mount Fuji prints.

The Great Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa
Image credit: DcoetzeeBot/Wikimedia Commons

The print offers us a brief glimpse of Mount Fuji amidst the tussling of boats with the spidery foam of waves. 

For a virtual tour of the museum, click here.


8. The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo – foremost museum for Japanese modern art


The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Image credit: Google Arts & Culture 

Established in 1952, the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo is packed with Japanese modern art dating back from the Meiji period (1868-1912) to modern-day Japan. Its artworks show you the history of the country from wartime to modernity.

Harada Naojiro’s Kannon Bodhisattva Riding the Dragon (1890)
Harada Naojiro’s Kannon Bodhisattva Riding the Dragon (1890)
Image credit: Google Arts & Culture 

Look out for Harada Naojiro’s Kannon Bodhisattva Riding the Dragon painting. Due to its vivid execution, the painting actually generated debate when it was first shown, because deities were usually not painted in a true-to-life manner. 

Harada Naojiro’s Kannon Bodhisattva Riding the Dragon (1890)
Image credit: Maculosae tegmine lyncis/Wikimedia Commons

It has since been designated as one of the museums’ 15 “Important Cultural Properties” by the Japanese government.

For a virtual tour of the museum, click here.


India



9. National Museum, New Delhi – covers 5,000 years of Indian history


National Museum, New Delhi
Image credit: Google Arts & Culture 

The National Museum, New Delhi is one of the must-visit cultural institutions in India, featuring a massive collection of artworks – from religious sculptures to jewelry – spanning 5,000 years of Indian history.

Standing Buddha (200 AD - 300 AD)
Standing Buddha (200 AD – 300 AD)
Image credit: Google Arts & Culture 

As religion has always been a significant part of India’s heritage, you shouldn’t miss observing the museum’s various relics of Buddha visible on its online tour.

Standing Buddha (200 AD - 300 AD)
Image credit: Anwaraj/Wikimedia Commons 

For instance, the Standing Buddha is so ancient, dating back to 200-300 AD, that historians weren’t able to identify the creator of the piece. 

For a virtual tour of the museum, click here.


Singapore



10. National Gallery Singapore – largest collection of Singaporean and Southeast Asian modern art


National Gallery Singapore
Image credit: Google Arts & Culture 

The National Gallery Singapore has the largest collection of modern art in Singapore and Southeast Asia, comprising over 8,000 artworks from the 19th and 20th centuries. 

Chua Mia Tee’s National Language Class, 1959
Chua Mia Tee’s National Language Class, 1959
Image credit: Google Arts & Culture

One of the must-see paintings of the gallery is Chua Mia Tee’s 1959 painting National Language Class. 

Chua Mia Tee’s National Language Class, 1959
Image credit: Jack at Wikipedia 

More than just depicting a group of Chinese students studying the Malay language in a classroom, the painting also shows how young people in Singapore were taking on a new national identity at a time when the country became independent from British rule. 


Asian museum virtual tours you can visit online in the time of COVID-19


As most public places are closed due to the current pandemic, virtual museum tours are one of best alternatives we can turn to to cure our culture cravings, offering an interactive experience at a time when social distancing is the norm. 

Also check out:

 


Cover image adapted from (clockwise from top left): Ateneo Art Gallery, Google Arts & Culture, Google Arts & Culture, The Palace Museum