ith the vast territory, China is blessed with rich dinosaur fossils. The Museum's curators at the Geology Division have kept in touch with those internationally renowned paleontologists there. With extensive research, study, and collaborations, their goal is to bring this treasure to the eyes of the general public in Taiwan. All the efforts are paid off. In addition to 2000's "Dancing with Dragons
", 2003's "Flying Dinosaurs
" and 2009's "Sea Dragons
" exhibitions, now, we present the special exhibition "From Dragon to Beast - Extinction and Radiation
". It features both the extinction of Mesozoic dragons and the radiation of Cenozoic mammals under the Losess Plateau, which demonstrates the circle of life on the planet earth.
Back in 1999, I met several of the now world renown paleontologists at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthrpology in Beijing for the "Dancing with Dragons" exhibition. Under the direction of Dr. Cheng Yen-nien, Curator at the Museum's Geology Division, the Museum's first special exhibition about dinosaurs grandly opened to public in collaboration with the Institute next year. It was a blockbuster! A large number of dinosaur fossils displayed in the Museum's gallery astonished people in Taiwan. We successfully transformed the minds of people in Taiwan from dinosaurs being cartoon characters into being a historical reality. Taiwan academics have started to pay attention to dinosaur-related researches ever since.
Lee at Fossil Site
In 2001, I visited the Institute again with Cheng for the possible opportunity of another dinosaur exhibition. We then made the next stop at Lanzhou. It was May, but the snowflakes were coming down from the sky. This amazed me as someone who is accustomed to the sub-tropical weather in Taiwan. Our group rushed to an old dormitory of the Department of Land & Resources, and I was astonished. The room was full of dinosaur fossils. Dr. Lee Da-ching and Peng Chuo explained to us in details about how they dug out these H. liujiaxiaensis and L. magnidens
from the stratum in Liujiaxia. The collection process was premature at the time. Only hammers and old dormitories were available to handle these precious fossils. We could only imagine how difficult it was for them.
Fossil Collection, Liujiaxia
After the Millennium Dinosaurs exhibition, our own exhibition "Showy Lily
" traveled across the strait and rooted in Beijing Botanical Garden. After the opening ceremony, I flew with Cheng to Lanzhou again by the invitation of Dr. Ji Qiang and Mr. Tang Zhi-lu. The piles that I saw 7 years earlier were assembled and displayed. Meanwhile, more dinosaurs were being discovered in Liujiaxia. China had become the basecamp for the paleontologists worldwide, and it was recognized as the treasure box for dinosaur fossils across the globe. We knew these dinosaurs under the Losess Plateau would make their appearances in Taiwan someday.
The year 2009 was the turning point. By the invitation of Dr. Ji Qiang and Professor Dong Zhi-ming, Cheng and I visited to the Gansu Dinosaur Exhibition in Lanzhou City Stadium. The fossils were fully assembled, and the gigantic 27-meter Daxiatitan binglingi stood proudly at the center stage. Comparing to the piles of bones three years ago, that was an impressive view. We visited its home in Liujiaxia. Piles and piles of dinosaur footprint fossils amazed us. We also visited Hezheng Museum of Paleontologic Fossil in Linxia. It was a tiny museum at the time, but its unique and rich collections made it especially attractive. In the museum, they had things that we had never seen before, such as Hezhengia, Coelodonta antiquitatis, and Platybelodon (flat-spear tusk). Our heartbeats were racing because of excitement. Dr. Cheng already had an exhibition blueprint in his mind - an exhibition with these ancient mammals and dinosaurs from Gansu. Under layers of stratum of Losess Plateau, an episode of evolution has peaked. People in Taiwan cannot miss it!
Chang at Hezheng Museum
Occupied with other projects, Dr. Cheng handed over the exhibition planning to Dr. Chang Chun-hsiang
, Chair and Curator at the Museum's Geology Division in February of 2012. Dr. Chang flew to Lanzhou in April and worked with Gansu Geological Museum and Hezheng Museum of Paleontologic Fossil for the exhibition preparations. Dr. Chang, determined, and with the helps from other staff in the Museum, overcame hurdle after hurdle. On June 17th, the Museum director, Sun Wei-hsin
, Dr. Chang, and I flew to Lanzhou.
Contract Signing Ceremony
At 10AM on June 19th, Director Sun and Director Mao Hsiang-nan of Gansu Geological Museum officially signed the contract to launch the "From Dragon to Beast - Extinction and Evolution
" exhibition. That was a significant as it was the first official museum-to-museum collaboration across the Taiwan Strait. Vice Director Sung Shi-gang from Gansu Dept. Land and Resources, Dr. Chang, and I all witnessed this historical moment. "Dragons" and "Beasts" were coming to Taiwan.
The contract was completed, but the preparation work just began. After 8 months of extensive communications, consulting, debating, and collaborations, we completed all the pre-works under the leadership of Dr. Chang. On February 20th and 21st, 104 pieces of precious fossils transported in 8 cargo trucks arrived safely with police escort. Our staff worked days and nights with assistance from the two museums in Gansu. Along with 140 pieces of our own collections, these guests illustrate the complete evolution from "dragons" to "mammals". Standing in the Museum's Oval Plaza, there are Q kangxii, H liujiaxiaensis, and Daxiatitan binglingi. In the exhibition halls, there are various fossils. All of them are eye-catching and equally impressive.
|Fossil Arrived → Skeleton Installing → Skeleton Completed → Exhibition Opening|
The efforts of the past decade have paid off. The series of exhibitions did not only solidify the research foundation for both sides, but also demonstrated the importance of academic exchange.