An extensive collection of Chinese art is packed inside this boxy tiled building on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront in Kowloon. The collections contain a heady mix of Qing ceramics, 2,000-year-old calligraphic scrolls, and contemporary canvases. It's all well organized into thematic galleries with clear, if uninspired, explanations. Hong Kong's biggest visiting exhibitions are usually held here too. The museum is a few minutes' walk from the Star Ferry and Tsim Sha Tsui MTR
The Chinese Antiquities Gallery is the place to head if ceramics are your thing. A series of low-lit rooms on the third floor houses ceramics from Neolithic times through the Qing dynasty. Unusually, they're displayed by motif rather than by period: dragons, phoenixes, lotus flowers, and bats are some of the auspicious designs. Bronzes, jade, lacquerware, textiles, enamel, and glassware complete this collection of decorative art.
In the Chinese Fine Art Gallery you get a great introduction to Chinese brush painting, often difficult for the Western eye to appreciate. Landscape paintings from the 20th-century Guangdong and Lingnan schools form the bulk of the collection, and modern calligraphy also gets a nod.
The Contemporary Hong Kong Art Gallery showcases a mix of traditional Chinese and western techniques. Paintings account for most of the pieces from the first half of the 20th century, when local artists used the traditional mediums of brush and ink in innovative ways. Western techniques dominate later work, the result of Hong Kong artists' having spent more time abroad.
Traditional Chinese landscape paintings are visual records of real or imagined journeys—a kind of travelogue. Pick a starting point and try to travel through the picture, imagining the journey the artist is trying to convey.
There is a collection search system on the first floor, as well as a research center.
Guided tours can help you understand art forms with which you're not familiar (in English Tuesday through Sunday at 11 am). Check the website for the schedule of more detailed visits to specific galleries—they change every month. If you prefer to tour alone, consider an English-language audio guide: it's informative, if a little dry, and it costs only HK$10.