During my two-day excursion to western Liaoning Province in the company of colleagues Dr Zhou Zhonghe, Dr Ni Xijun and Dr Yu Xiabo from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing, we visited - as has been mentioned - the city of Chaoyang. On the outskirts of that town is a truly magnificent and brand new museum of palaeontology, set in a large park. We went to explore.
The first thing that greets you is an enormous, swooping gateway - so enormous that one first assumes it is the museum. Here it is, from inside the museum grounds, as it were. (Something I never quite got used to - everything in China - but everything - is conceived on a stupendous scale).
described the species in the first place. But the animatronics are, literally, a sideshow. Elsewhere in the park is a concrete-and-glass pavilion which covers something much more real - and much more breathtaking - an excavation, in which a chunk of ground has been removed to reveal the fossil wonders that underlie not just this museum, but enormous swathes of the region. This is what this pavilion looks like from the inside:
TM mock-up of an exposure from somewhere else. This is a slice of Liaoning fossil beds, in situ, straight outta the Lower Cretaceous. It's real. As real as the skeletons of fossil birds, dinosaurs, fishes and plants that litter the floor wherever you look, casually pointed out for our stupefied perusal. Oh look, here's one, a fossil bird, Cathayornis ...
But wait - there's more. We've yet to enter the museum itself. Here is its imposing façade. See if you can spot the word for 'fossil' in the signage.
First of all, the plants are lovely. Not just the odd leaf, but whole plants, including fruiting bodies and flowers.
flowering plants in the world.