The Kunming Natural History Museum of Zoology, which opened its doors earlier this month, is a good introduction to the incredible diversity of fauna, past and present, of Southwest China.
A trio of looming dino-skeletons dominate the prehistoric exhibit on the first floor. These plant-eaters stomped around Yunnan about 200 million years ago. Though the biggest of the three is a cast, the smaller ones are genuine bones, exhumed from Yunnan's Lufeng Basin in the 1980s.
With flat-screen TVs and touchable exhibit guides, the museum is fully modern and interactive. Press a red button and hear a rumbling bellow from a Brontosaurus. Piece together a Tyrannosaurus skeleton on a computer screen. Touch the "scales" of Triceratops.
Though the prehistoric exhibit is the most impressive, there are plenty of animals to be seen on all of the museum's three floors. An array of taxidermied mammals and birds lines the display cases of the second floor. Up another flight of stairs reveals a "Rainforest Adventure," which walks visitors along a path through synthetic trees, bird calls and a darkened cave.
Also, if you're feeling nostalgic for high school biology class, there are rigid fish and snakes entombed in formaldehyde jars.
The displays are both in Chinese and English and the museum offers 40-minute guided tours in English and Chinese which can be tailored to visitor interests.
Because of the museum's affiliation with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, it is well positioned as both a tourist attraction and a home to future zoological scholarship. "Most of the visitors come with a scientific background," said Qian Yamin, associate director for the museum, "but kids also love to visit."
Kunming Natural History Museum of Zoology
32 Jiaochang Donglu
Tel: (0871) 5125223
Contact: Qian Yamin, Associate Director, Tour Guide
Open: 9:00-5:00 daily (closed Mondays)
General Admission: 40 yuan. Students with ID: 20 yuan.
Getting there: Take No. 115 bus from Di Tai Si stop (near Jian She Lu and Yi Er Yi Dajie intersection). Take the bus north and get off at Wushiqi Yiyuan (No.57 Hospital). The museum is the large red brick building on your right.