In Part 3 of our CHENGDOO Museum Special we focus on museums in Sichuan, excluding museums in and around Chengdu.
Click here for Part 2, Museums around Chengdu, and
here for Part 1, Museums in Chengdu.
here for Part 4, Museums in Chongqing
Dashanpu was an unknown town a few kilometers north of Zigong until the early 1970s when dinosaur remains were unearthed. Since then, the region has become known for an area rich with dinosaur bones and skeletons and the focus on much archaeological study. Opened in 1987, the Zigong Dinosaur Museum's claims to be one of the world's top three dinosaur museums. Whether that's true, it does offer some pretty big and pretty intact dinosaur skeletons for viewing. The 25,000 sqm plot of land that the museums stands on is mostly outdoor space; the two-story building itself houses the dinosaur skeletons and other natural-history displays and the obligatory gift shop hawking dinosaur figurines, toys, cardboard cut-out models, and puzzles to giddy young dinosaur enthusiasts.
Perhaps most interesting are the names of the dinosaur species—most of which have been named after places in Sichuan: Szechuanosaurus, Zigongosaurus, Chungkingosaurus (relative of the Stegosaurus), Huayangosaurus, Dashanpusaurus Dongi, in honor of the Dashanpu site and paleontologist Dong Zhimin. There's also the Gasosaurus, named in honor of the gas company that unearthed it—the first fossil at the Dashanpu site in 1972.
The Salt History Museum is housed in a distinct, eighteenth-century building that was originally a guild hall and meeting space for salt merchants, who, in centuries past, fueled the local economy and made Zigong one of the country's most prosperous cities. Apart from the architecture of the building, the museum is nothing extravagant—rundown displays of salt-mining machinery and utensils and some interesting fact boards (salt drilling in Zigong dates back 2,000 years and the region is the birthplace of some important salt-mining innovations). Those less keen on the scientific and historic aspects of the region's salt mining might be more interested in heading just downriver of the city into the ancient salt town of Xianshi.
China Color Lantern Museum
(Zigong Lantern Park)
This is an effort focused on the collection and conservation of China's historic paper lanterns. Open during normal daytime hours, but colorful lantern displays come on at night. Zigong is also home to a spectacular lantern display during the Lantern Festival each year.
Dinosaur Museum (自贡恐龙博物馆), Salt Museum (自贡盐业历史博物馆), and China Color Lantern Museum (中国彩灯博物馆自贡市彩灯公园). From Chengdu's Beimen Bus Station, buses run to Zigong frequently from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (3 hours, RMB90). One Zigong-bound train runs daily from Chengdu.
The Ya'an city museum's focus is on the ancient trade routes Southern Silk Road and Tea Horse Road and includes Han and Tang Dynasty relics.
Tuesday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free entrance. 雅安市博物馆 Tel. 0835-2352339
Xichang Youth Education Museum and Slave Society Museum
The Youth Education Museum (西昌知青博物馆, free entrance) opened relatively recently on the site of a former youth education site in Xichang and features artifacts and photos dating from the Cultural Revolution. The Slave Society Museum (彝族奴隶社会博物馆) is in Lushan (泸山), near Xichang, and showcases the originally matriarchal Yi caste society.
Beichuan Earthquake Museum
This RMB2.3 billion project stretches over 27 sqkm and was built to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives were affected indelibly by the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. The grounds are divided into three parts: the museum, focusing on education (on the site of the former Beichuan Middle School, which collapsed in the quake), the massive memorial, and Tanjiashan Lake, which was formed by landslides during the quake and its aftershocks.
Free entrance. Brightly colored clothing is discouraged. 北川国家地震遗址博物馆 Tel. 0816-4831198
Langzhong Folk Museum and Fengshui Museum
The 4,000 sqm folk museum is a privately financed museum focusing on Bashu culture and history with relics that were collected and saved during the Cultural Revolution. The fengshui museum teaches the principles and history of fengshui design and features a model of the Langzhong old town layout.
Daily, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entrance: RMB20 each. 阆中民间博物馆 and风水博物馆 From Chengdu's Beimen Bus Station, buses run directly to Langzhong (5 to 6 hours, RMB89).
This article was first published in CHENGDOO citylife Magazine, issue 54 ("museums"). Photos by Leo Chen, Joe