Chongqing: Beibei (dinosaurs!)

This is probably part 1, because there’s a surprising amount of things to do in Beibei, one of the northern districts of Chongqing. Beibei is at the very northern end of subway line 6, and it will take about an hour to reach from downtown. Beibei has wider (and cleaner) streets, the air is fresher, there is a pedestrian shopping street (!!!) unlike downtown Chongqing which is filled with cars even in places where no car should enter, has a famous mountain park AND a natural history museum. Oh, and hot springs. So definitely expect a part 2 at some point.

In this post I will talk about the local district office because it is a fine piece of architecture I would expect to see in Beijing instead of Chongqing and the Museum of Natural History. The Jinyun county/district office is near Zhuangyuanbei station, just go out of exit 1c or 2c, and walk straight up. It’s the huge building on the other side of the road. There is a plaza or a square in front of the building with and interesting blend of Chinese garden architecture and communist art.

Jinyun county hall. The building is very grand compared to the surrounding buildings and almost European in style.
Jinyun county hall. The building is very grand compared to the surrounding buildings and almost European in style.
In case you didn't know this is Jinyun Square, they will remind you.
In case you didn’t know this is Jinyun Square, they will remind you.
I kind of like communist art, it's very distinctive and simple. You instantly know what is going on when you see some.
I kind of like communist art, it’s very distinctive and simple. You instantly know what is going on when you see one.
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The Chinese part of the square.

You can take several different buses from the metro station to the Natural History Museum, or take a taxi. The museum’s about 3km away from Zhuangyuanbei station. Entrance is free, but there is usually one paid exhibition on top of all the regular exhibitions. When I went the temporary one was about dinosaur art (didn’t pay even though I love dinosaurs). The museum itself if on three floors, and it has 5 different exhibitions if I remember right. On the first floor is a journey around the world through animals in their natural habitat, and the first part of the dinosaur exhibition.

Our trip around the world started in Africa, with elephants.
Our trip around the world started in Africa, with elephants.

There are also exhibitions on evolution, space and all the minerals that Earth is made of, and one on conserving the environment. The last one is utter nonsense though, it’s just more stuffed animals and pictures of the Earth and slogans to tell you to conserve energy etc. But nowhere does it give you tips on HOW to conserve the environment, it just tells you to do it. The evolution gallery is cool if you’re into ancient life forms in the form of bugs and fish. The exhibition about the Earth and space is really cool as well. In all the galleries the placement and design is very well thought-out, so it’s interesting to watch even for those who generally do not like science. Museums in the West, take note! Less boring white boards of text, more actual sculptures of the Earth and interactive screens, please. There was even a corner where they made the floor look like molten lava. Now that was cool.

Huge dinosaur skeletons excavated near Chongqing.
Huge dinosaur skeletons excavated near Chongqing.

The highlight for me personally was the dinosaur exhibition. It covers two floors, and there is a lot of information available. The only problem is that all the text is in Chinese, and as far as I know there is no English audio tour available either. All the titles were in English, just not the text itself. I was a little disappointed by this, as I would genuinely have liked to know about the excavation process and all the theories on why dinosaurs died out. But no, Chinese only. But the exhibition had several species on show, and information from excavation techniques and different attributes and species of dinosaurs to their evolution into birds and other modern animals. They even have dinosaurs named after Chongqing and Sichuan! There is so much information available in this space and I could read none of it (cries softly).

Not sure if scientists actually use this labratory, or if it was just for show.
Not sure if scientists actually use this labratory, or if it was just for show.

But yeah, the museum is worth a visit I think, even if just for the innovative displays. If you want to understand all the information available, come with a Chinese friend who can translate for you.

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