Beijing has hundreds of museums catering to almost all interests. Though most guide books lead you to the obvious museums, there are also those which you may never even have thought of. Water melons, tap water, bees, sandalwood, even an entire underground city lies in Beijing just waiting to be explored. Read on for a list of five unusual museums in China’s capital.
1) Water Melon Museum西瓜博物馆 View In Map
That’s right, Beijing has a museum especially dedicated to the watermelon. Located within the Watermelon Research Institute (watermelons are very interesting to research it seems) in China’s watermelon capital Daxing District, this museum exhibits 170 different types of watermelons and teaches you all about the history of this summer fruit in China. Visitors will also walk away knowing about the planting processes of melons and the knowledge that even the most obscure things are worthy of having their own museum.
Add: Pangge Zhuang Town, Daxing District, Beijing
Tel: 010 8928 1660; 8928 1181
Opening hours: 9:30-17:00 daily
Getting there: Take bus No. 937 or 943 to Pangge Zhuang 庞各庄
2) China Red Sandalwood Museum中国紫檀博物馆 View In Map
If you’re expecting to see lumps of different sized timber on display here then you’ll probably be disappointed. Though red sandalwood is indeed red coloured wood, as the name suggests, this museum displays art works and classical furniture made of the wood. With a whopping investment of 200 million RMB and spanning 10,000 square metres, the private museum is the first and largest one of its kind in China. If the magnificent wooden carvings and artworks don’t leave an impression then perhaps the fact that you went all the way out to Gaobeidian to see artistic sandalwood will.
Add: 23 Jianguo Lu, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Tel: 010 8576 7320
Opening Hours: 8: 30-17: 00 (last tickets sold at 16: 30), closed on Monday
Price: 50 RMB, 30 RMB for students, senior citizens and group visitors
Getting there: Bus No. 312, 666, 516, 649 or 728 to Gaobeidian stop
3) The Bee Museum of China中国蜜蜂博物馆 View In Map
Bees should not only have more museums dedicated to them, but churches and altars too! Though most of us sadly only associate the little creatures with honey, bees actually play a critical role in the world’s food supply. In fact, without bees we’d probably be starved of hundreds of types of nuts, vegetables, fruits and flowers we take for granted on a daily basis. Apples, tomatoes, pears, cucumbers, broccoli and even melons would deplete if it wasn’t for these little pollinators. It is estimated that bees produce about 30% of our food supply but for reasons unknown to us, bee colonies are disappearing and dying out throughout the world. With this background knowledge, a museum dedicated to the bee does not sound that strange after all. The Bee Museum of China is located in the picturesque settings of the Beijing Botanical Gardens in Haidian District near Fragrant Hills Park. Featuring three exhibition halls, the museum chronicles the history of the bee and its connection with human beings. The museum also houses a total of 475 pictures and diagrams and over 600 specimens. Also on display are bee fossils and rock drawings recording scenes that show how people would climb cliffs to collect wild honey 6-7000 years ago.
Add: Beijing Botanic Garden, west of Sleeping Buddha Temple, Fragrant Hills, Beijing
Tel: 010 8259 4910, 8259 0094
Opening Hours: 08:00-17:00 (except November 15-March 5 2010-2011)
Price: 2 RMB, 1 RMB (for students)
Getting there: Bus No. 331, 904, 833, 733, 360, 318 to the bus stop of Beijing Botanical
Gardens (北京植物园) or Sleeping Buddha Temple (卧佛寺)
4) Beijing Museum of Tap Water北京自来水博物馆 View In Map
Though water is the cradle of life, “Beijing Museum of Tap Water” has a strange ring to it. Like our good old friend the bee, water (whether it be tap, rain, river, sea or any other type) is also worthy of temples and shrines. And like the bee, clean drinking water is depleting worldwide with potentially catastrophic effects. Unfortunately, the focus of this museum has less to do with how we owe everything to water and yet blindly pollute our main life resource, but focuses primarily on the development of tap water in Beijing since the establishment of the Jingshi Tap Water Co. LTD in 1908. One can also learn all about complicated tap water manufacturing techniques, the distribution of underground tap water tunnels, water quality monitoring measures and more.
Add: No.6 Courtyard (Qingshuiyuan Neighborhood), Dongzhimen Beidajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Opening hours: 09:00-16:00 Wed-Sun
Tel: 010 6465 0787
Price: 5 RMB for adults, 2 RMB for students
Getting there: Bus No. 44, 106, 117, 123, 800 or subway to Dongzhimen, walk north along the second ring road, the museum is 500 meters east of the road
5) Beijing Underground City 北京地下城 View In Map
The most mysterious of the bunch, an entire underground city composed of a complex network of tunnels crisscrossing the city lies beneath our feet. Nobody knows how long the tunnels actually are and photos are prohibited. The tunnels were built between 1965 and 1975 when strained Sino-Russian relations spurred Chairman Mao to prepare for a potential nuclear war. Visitors are always guided by a member of staff and its existence remains largely unknown amongst the native population, despite its popularity among foreign tourists. It is believed that the mostly hand-dug tunnels wind around Beijing’s for about 30 kilometres, supposedly linking all areas of central Beijing, from Xidan to Xuanwumen and all the way out to the Western Hills. Of course, no-one really knows for sure because only a small portion of the tunnels are opened for viewing. There used to be hundreds of entrances to the tunnels, most of them hidden in little shops in Qianmen, many of them not known to the public or blocked altogether. The most widely known ones are listed below, though most have been blocked or now house shops. There is very little information on how to get in or opening hours which adds to the mystery and appeal of these “hidden” tunnels all the more.
Add: 62 Xi Damochang Jie, Qianmen (though it has been blocked off due to construction for a while) 18 Dazhalan Jie in Qianmen (which now houses a camera shop), Beijing
地址: 北京市前门西打磨厂62号 or 前门大栅栏街18号
Reservation: 010 6702 2657
Price: 20 RMB
Getting there: Take Subway Line 2 or Bus No. 22, 44, 48 or 88 to Qianmen
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