China: 5,000 Years is the result of a collaboration between the Guggenheim Museum and the Ministry of Culture and the National Administration for Cultural Heritage of the People's Republic of China. About 500 works of art were borrowed from over fifty institutional lenders in seventeen provinces and regions in China. These include many major recent archaeological discoveries and range in date from the Neolithic period to the present. In the Guggenheim Museum uptown are displayed the traditional arts of China, while modern art is presented in the Guggenheim Museum SoHo.

 Selected to demonstrate technical innovation and conceptual transformation, the traditional works of art are organized into seven major categories: jade; bronze; grave goods, including low-fired ceramics; high-fired ceramics, including porcelain; sculpture; and painting and calligraphy. Important examples of lacquerware and textiles are also on display. Significant technical developments in each of these groups are illustrated by works of great aesthetic value, which also demonstrate a shift in conceptual focus over time from the supernatural to the human and finally to the natural world.