We followed the signs to an unobtrusive front door, bought tickets, 5RMB, from the hole in the wall, climbed the steps and pushed through the heavy double glass and wood front doors. The lobby was reminiscent of the 20's with a mosaic tile floor and grimy stained glass windows. The former cotton exchange, still carries echoes it's previous inhabitants with drapped silk and fox furs crossing into the grand atrium with it's domed glass ceiling and moulded architraves. It's current collection of stuffed, ripened and potted specimens, largely donated by the British Museum in the mid 1950's sits gathering dust in grimy cabinets along peeling walls tagged with bilingual (Chinese and Latin) labels typed on an old manual typewriter.
The most exciting bit, the raison d'etre, is back downstairs in the huge atrium where a complete, four storey tall, 145-150 million year old dinosaur skeleton stands it's head tucked into the corner of the dome. The Mamenchisaurus (which looks like a brontosaurus to me)was discovered in 1952 on a highway construction site in Sichuan, China and named after the place it was found.
Beside the giant, sharing it's stage, are two more Chinese dinos; the 12 foot tall herb eating Tsintaosaurus with characteristic duck bill snout is posed reared up on back legs and the lumbering Tuojiangosaurus also from Sichuan with it's fiercesome spiked tail.
And as if thats not enough beside the dinosaurs, on its own plinth is a Yellow River Woolly skeleton, Manfred from Ice Age, the ancient elephant- in fact the mammoth is more closely related to the Asian than the African elephant.
Just around the corner in a red walled alcove are two Ming Dynasty mummies unearthed during the construction of Dapu Lu (road).
So even though the signs sounds apologetic:
"As we are limited by time, ability, and financial capacity, the exhibition might have many shortcomings. Therefore we will be very grateful to those who can give us good opintons."
...we felt like we'd hit the jackpot!