In an effort to be more harmonious, and to celebrate both 5,000 spam comments and 5,000 years of ‘Culture’, I’ve decided to give the Wet Pussy Award a facelift. That’s right folks, instead of focusing on those traitorous laowai who have gone over to the Dark Side, we will from now on be looking more closely at the rich tapestry of Chinese Culture. I will, every month, review a major Chinese contribution to the World.
Oh, and there’s a new name, too: The Falling Cow Award. Nice.
I will start with one of the finest museums in the country, the Shanghai Natural History Museum.
According to the official blurb,
The Shanghai Museum of Natural Sciences is one of the largest museums of natural sciences in China. Located at downtown Shanghai, the museum features some British traditional style and covers an area of 12,880 square meters.
Prepared in November 1956, the Shanghai Museum of Natural Sciences opened the Division Museum of Animals to the public in 1960, and the Division Museum of Plants in 1984. The building for exhibition of samples covers a floor space of 3,053 square meters. The exhibition halls of the museum are situated in the Shanghai Botanic Garden and cover a total space of 4,726 square meters.
The museum has a collection of 240,000 samples, including over 62,000 pieces of animal specimens, 135,000 plant specimens, 700 specimens of the Stone Age, and 1,700 specimens of minerals, which are of high value to research on natural evolvement.
The largest exhibit is a dinosaur skeleton of over four storeys high. There are also some rare species, which cannot be found elsewhere outside China, on display, such as a Yellow River mammoth, a giant salamander, a giant panda, and an alligator from the Yangtze River. Besides, the museum boasts more than 60,000 volumes of documents and books on scientific research.
The museum features four exhibition halls: the Hall of the History of the Ancient Animals, the Hall of History of Ancient Anthropology, the Hall of Animals and the Hall of Plants.
It’s a load of hooey, of course. A dilapidated falling down building that hasn’t seen any basic maintenance since the British had it stolen from them by Communist rebels, with a few bits of rocks and a tatty stuffed animal or two on display, hardly qualifies as a museum in my book. That said, it actually is “one of the largest museums of natural sciences in China“, which just goes to show the value Chinese people put on education and science.
There’s a wonderful walk-through exhibit that shows the evolution of Man, from terrible ape-like Africans, to the classical-Greek Caucasians, to the Han Chinese. It’s not only guaranteed to offend, it’s ‘Historically Accurate’ as well. The best part is the signs that explain it all from start to finish. Here’s what they say:
About 10-20 million years ago and after having undergone many vicissitudes and frustrations, the natural selection, the adaption and arduous labour, one branch of extremely highly-developed apes, known as early apes, finally brought about their gradual transition from Ape to Man.
As soon as human beings appeared, the human society took shape.
As early as 5,000 or 6,000 years ago, there were ancients living and multiplying in the Shanghai District. Scientists have unearthed more than twenty-five ancient sites ranging from the Neolithic Age to the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States Period, obtaining large numbers of precious cultural relics. This is a splendid local history created by our Shanghai ancients.
F-F-F-Fantastic! But not nearly as wonderful as my personal favourite, the Vertebrates Hall. On display was a sampling of the various ways in which Chinese people prepare for consumption many of the unique animals and plants to be found throughout China, for example:
Following that, you walk past a few moth-eaten stuffed mammals and birds, and see before you an enormous map of China, Tibet, East Turkestan, Inner Mongolia and Taiwan. This map has marked on it many of the species that Han Chinese have eaten to extinction during the last hundred years:
For a ‘developed modern city’ with a population of over twenty million citizens, the showcase of and richest city in a nation of one and a half billion citizens, a nation that can put people into space and can afford the world’s largest standing army, it’s all quite frankly a bloody disgrace. Granted, it only cost me five kuai to get in, but even so I felt ripped off. Chinese people, get your arses to the British Museum at once and see what Culture actually looks like. Alternatively, try any of the Smithsonian sites. Or take a look at some of your neighbours such as Japan or Thailand and see how they do it there. I didn’t see 5,000 years of culture reflected in “one of the largest museums of natural sciences in China“, what I saw was far nearer the 5,000 spam comments I’ve deleted from this blog.
And for that reason, I award the Shanghai Museum of Natural Sciences the inaugural Falling Cow Award:
Shanghai Museum of Natural Sciences – Falling Cow Award September 2008