Way back in 2005, during my very first trip to China, I lived in the town of Jinan. The school had given us all a map of the city that had points of interest marked on it, like the zoo, the public square, historical and cultural sites of interest, touristy stuff. I took a lot of cues from this map for weekend adventures, and among the activities presented was the Shandong Provincial Museum.
Jinan, by the way, is the capitol of Shandong province, and is a small provincial town of 6 million people. This isn’t sarcasm. Six million isn’t enough to register as a city in a country where Beijing (20 million if you count the migrants) and Shanghai (14 million) are the big cities, 6 million isn’t enough for a blip. I only saw one skyscraper the whole time I was there, but moreover the attitude of the people was definitely more laid back and “small town” than it was in Beijing.
Despite this, the museum is not called “provincial” for the small town feel of its home city, but rather because the larger bodies of land in China are Provinces (not States, Counties, or Prefectures, the Canadians in the audience get it).
There were many astonishing things here, not the least of which was that none of the exhibits were climate controlled or protected from the public, however, in the natural history area, I found a peculiar taxidermied animal.
I read Chinese better now than I did in 2005, and I also have an electronic dictionary, which I did not have at the time, so I couldn’t read the plaque with this creature to get any kind of idea what I was looking at other than a saber-tooth deer, which seemed absurd.
Sadly, this particular day, my camera decided to lose all my pictures, so everything from the museum and Thousand Buddha Mountain was lost forever, including the picture that I took of the strange animal for later investigation.
For the last 9 years, I’ve just gone on being half (ok more than half) convinced that the Chinese just made this animal up in this backwater museum, because I’ve never encountered anything like it on line, or in nature documentaries, or even in any other Chinese museums.
Then, while perusing facebook for random entertainment, I find a link to a story about strange animals which includes my saber-tooth deer! That’s right this animal is real. The males grow long canines which they use for defense and to show off by fighting in the mating season. Well played, mother nature.