Get ur geek on

In my continuing quest to see everything there is to see in Beijing, today I checked off another of the city’s museums. This time it was the Natural History Museum (北京自然博物馆), which is located near the Temple of Heaven. It took me around an hour to get there on my bike. When I waled up to the ticket office, I was confronted with a confusing sign about how the tickets are free, but you have to call to reserve them five days in advance, and those without reservations will not get tickets. So I rode all that way for nothing?

Well, there was a second ticket office for the Special Exhibit: Mammoth China Tour. I bought a Ұ40 ticket for that, and the kid selling tickets told me I could buy a ticket for the regular museum around the corner. Yes, a third ticket office, this one with no signs pointing you to it, and I know the characters 售票处. The regular museum ticket was Ұ10.

The mammoth show started out rather unpromising.
There were several little souvenir booths and refreshment stands along the outside of the museum building. Note the little toy elephant wandering around in front of the booth.

Inside, you are greeted with a life-size mammoth.
There are some displays about the evolution of the different kinds of elephants that have lived, illustrated with little models or paintings.
You get to see some mammoth bones and tusks, as well as saber tooth cat and other creatures of similar vintage.
The highlight of the exhibit is a display of some actual mammoth parts, with skin and hair still on them.
It’s too dark in this area to get a picture, and anyway there’s a sign that says no photographs along with a guard to enforce it. The guard didn’t look a day over 14, but whatever. I took a picture of the sign as a replacement. The remains are in a glass-walled cold room to preserve them.

And that’s what you get for Ұ40. You exit out the back of the building and go around to get to the main museum.
Outside, they’ve got a couple of small dinosaur statues.
When you walk into the entrance, there are three halls you can go into. I went to the right.
This section mainly had old taxidermy and corny displays about our animal friends.
The part about insects reminded me of a low budget version of the Bug’s Life feature at Disneyland.

The dinosaur part of the museum is much better.
There’s a big central room with a bunch of reconstructed skeletons.
These are mostly dinosaurs that lived in the area that is now China, like the Szechuanosaurus.

Then you go through a dark hall to the other big room...
...where they have some big plastic dinos.
Note that the L and A from __TE have fallen down and are resting on a little shelf of the fake rock. Maybe the missing R from T_IASSIC is there too – can’t tell.

When I saw this one:
...I realized that they’re supposed to be motorized in some way and move, but are either broken down or on a coffee break.

There was a little kiddie arcade and refreshment stand in the area below the dino world.

The steps up from there took me to the earliest life on Earth. The most interesting part here was the part about the Chengjiang Fauna.
This is the name given to a bizarre group of fossils dating from the Cambrian Period found in Chengjiang County of Yunnan. They are similar to the Burgess Shale creatures found in Canada.
They’ve even got a sculpture with giant versions of some of the creatures.

After that they’ve got some pretty nice fossil displays.
And then a room with Pleistocene megafauna, including mammoths.
That one’s a megatherium, I think, though its neck seems too long.

I guess I was spoiled by the wonderful new museums in Chengdu, but this one mostly seemed kind of old and run-down. As a dinosaur enthusiast, it was cool to see the Chinese species instead of the ones we always see in North America. I’d say the Ұ40 for the mammoth exhibit was a rip-off, but Ұ10 for the main museum was fair – especially considering it works out to US$1.77 or so. And yes, there were some items “borrowed” from the Ice Age movies.

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