Beijing Museum of Natural History

The Beijing Museum of Natural history is housed in an unpretentious building in the Yongdingmen area in the southern part of the city, just opposite the Tianqiao Department Store. The first museum of its kind in China, it houses more than 5,000 specimens, which are displayed in the Halls of Paleontology, Zoology and Botany.

Featured in the Hall of Paleontology are fossil remains from the Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras, forming a wordless chronicle of prehistoric life that flourished between 500 million and one million years ago. Among the exhibits is a piece of ocher marble with a cloud-like pattern on its surface formed by fossilized seaweed. This is all that remains from a period of floods dating back some 500 million years when algal life dominated the earth. When the floods receded, the algae had to adapt to a more terrestrial existence and pteridophytes (early ferns) and gymnosperms, the predecessors of terrestrial plant life, came into being.

Aquatic plant life was soon followed by primitive animal life, and trilobites became the dominant animal species in the seas of the Cambrian era. It was not, however, until millions of years later that fish-the earliest vertebrates-appeared on earth. Their fossilized remains, such as that of the bothriolepis are on display in the Hall of Paleontology. Here is also a chart suggesting the life cycle of the crossopterygii, the purported ancestor of the reptiles and other terrestrial animal life. In the center of the hall is a large petrified skeleton of a high-nosed Qingdaosaurus, so called because it was found at Qingdao, Shandong Province, and has a nose with a large bump on it. Twice as large as this is the skeleton of a Mamenchisaurus unearthed at Mamenxi Village in Sichuan Province. As a contrast to these giants the remains of a Lufengosaurus from Yunnan Province, no more than two meters high and six meters long, and those of a parrot-beaked dinosaur no larger than a cat are also on display.

The Hall of Zoology houses more than 2,000 specimens arranged to show the course of evolution from simple aquatic to complex terrestrial forms. These include a vast range of Chinese fauna, from the lynx and otter of the northeast to the peacock and parrot of the southwest; from sea dwellers such as the whale and giant clam to such terrestrial creatures as the giant panda. There are also enlarged models of protozoa and finely colored models of jellyfish and coral.

The fish specimens number in the hundreds, representing both sea and fresh-water aquatic life. Among the reptile specimens, two items catch the visitor' s eye: an enormous leatherback sea turtle (Dermochely' s coriacea) and a Chinese alligator. Equipped with a vocal cord-like organ, the latter growls in stormy weather and during fights.

The museum also houses a rich collection of specimens of avian life. The hornbill, for instance, is a rare species in China. Its long scythe-like bill surmounted by a horny casque gives it its Chinese name, "rhinoceros bird."

The mammal section houses a specimen of a three-year-old sei whale, which weighed over seven tons when it was caught.

In the Hall of Botany, the aquarium contains a collection of various forms of algal life, including kelp, laver and agar in a range of strikingly beautiful colors.

China has a rich variety of plant life, including almost every one of the 300,000 known species of seed plants. The dawn wood (Metasequoia), for instance, long considered extinct, is found in China' s Sichuan and Hubei procinces. Among other rare species on display is the Lingzhi Cao (Glossy ganoderma), considered by purveyors of traditional Chinese medicine to be a potent elixir of life.

Principal Sites Around the Forbidden City
Major Historical Sites
Tales of Streets and Hutongs
Public Parks and Former Gardens
Places Commemorating Famous People
Museums, Schools and Cultural Institutions
Temples, Mosques and Churches
Scenic Spots on the Suburbs of Beijing
A General Survey of Beijing
Facilities and Infrastructure
Shopping, Eating and Accommodation
Copyright �China Internet Information Center. All Rights Reserved
E-mail: Tel: 86-10-68326688