Day At The Museum
I’ve been in Liuzhou for about a year and a half now. Yesterday, after many half-hearted false starts I finally made it by the Museum. It was a good visit, as the place is chock-full of some cool stuff. In my all too typical way I made some mistakes though. First off, I went way to late in the day, not arriving until about 3:30 and that didn’t allow near enough time to do the place justice. In fact, I was still only on the second floor (of 3) in the main exhibit hall when I got the bum’s rush at about 5:15. Secondly, I was not at all prepared to take notes AND I brought no Chinese – English interpreter with me. Since none of the staff spoke English and nearly everything was written in Chinese, I often had no real idea what I was looking at. It’s true that I often don’t have a clue but this was even more so than usual. I knew abut the Chinese only thing going in (from a friend’s post) but for some reason, I didn’t really think about it beforehand as being important. Of course I was wrong. I’ll have to go back some time before the holiday is over. I hope I can fit it in sometime over the next four weeks!
The museum has a free section and a paid exhibit hall but I gather it’s all going to be free come May. Still, at 15RMB, it wasn’t exactly pricey. On the first floor there are a lot of fossils that were discovered in and around Liuzhou, with the big feature being the dino room. There was a T-Rex and a Mamenchisaurus on display. The room is quite dark and not really conducive for viewing the beasts but, you know, dinosaurs are cool so … it was cool.
The Mamenchisaurus species was first discovered in Sichuan Province in 1952. A plant-eating four-legged dinosaur, Mamenchisaurus is know mostly for its remarkably long neck.
The second floor features a collection of artifacts from prehistoric times uo until around the time of the Tang Dynasty. One of the most important anthropology discoveries in history was found about 16 kilometers away from where I now sit as I type this entry. In September 1958, a fossilized human skull was found in a cave southeast of Liuzhou. The fossil was named Liujiang Man by the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Lijiang Man is the earliest trace of modern Homo sapiens found to date in China and Southeast Asia.
Unfortunately, this is NOT that skull, but rather a replica. I haven’t been able to find out where exactly the original skull is these days. No doubt someplace promoting harmony.
Liujiang Man – Not
There’s a bit of uncertainty over its age. A uranium series gave a date of 67,000 years, give or take 5,000; but the flora and fauna in the cave seem to indicate an older date. There are also some modern human teeth that were found in the same area with a very old date of 94,000 years. I’ve seen references also to 30,000 and 50,000 years. Suffice to say the skull is very old.
I would love to tell you something about this mask but I’m afraid it’s one of the casualties of my weak-ass Chinese. I figure it must have some sort of significance since it was in a display case by itself. The second floor was full of “stuff” but again, I’m not sure what most of it was!
UPDATE: From Liuzhou Laowai …“The ritual mask is labelled “Talcum Mask – Liujiang County – Han Dynasty”. The Han dynasty ran from 206 B.C. – A.D. 220, so pretty old. Like us!”
Talcum Mask – Han Dynasty
Liu Zongyuan (773-819), was one of China’s greatest writers. He lived during the Tang Dynasty and was dismissed from his official post in the central government and demoted to be the magistrate of Liuzhou because of his reformist ideas. Liu is well-remembered in Liuzhou, with statues and even a tomb for some of his clothing in Liuhou Park.
Liu’s political setbacks allowed his literary career to flourish and he produced poems, fables, reflective travelogues and essays synthesizing elements of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. He is remembered as one of the eight great masters of the Tang and Song Dynasties. School children across China still memorize his poetry. Some of the displays on the second floor were pretty cheesy but this one was so realistic it was a bit creepy. Choices, cheesy or creepy. Better than cheesy AND creepy I suppose.
As I mentioned, I never made it to the third floor of the exhibition hall nor did I see any of the free stuff, so I’ll have to go back. You can read more about the museum and see a video at the Liuzhou Laowai site. You can also check out a cool photo-video presentation on Liuzhou that Ken recently put together here.
I have more coming on the search for Asian mannequins as well as an update on my love-hate relationship with University of Kentucky basketball.
Until then … hasta!