In Beijing, you may heard of the Palace Museum or Peking Man Museum but have you heard of Beijing Tap Water Museum?
The Tap Water Museum is on the site of the Beijing City Water Supply Company, which was founded in 1908 just outside the city gate at Dongzhimen. Behind the European architecture of the “intake pavilion,” the first point of contact for water arriving from the Sun River, lies a kind of plumbing graveyard. Trees crowd over the rusting corpses of water pipes and penstocks which look like metallic pasta shells of varying shapes and size. A few meters away, stone bridges cross a small pond, containing not a drop of water.
Housed in the old steam engine room, the main exhibition combines social history, feats of engineering and an unwanted dose of lifeless propaganda. Fortunately, the latter is easy to spot – bypass any color posters of people in lab coats holding up test tubes for inspection. Ironically, if unsurprisingly, the museum’s treatment of its subject is rather dry.
There are chops and certificates from the Water Supply Company’s formative years, which coincided with the final evaporation of the Qing’s fortunes. Electrical appliances from the 1970s and 1980s are an amusing distraction, and did you know the Chinese flag hoisted at the declaration of the People’s Republic on October 1,1949 was made by employees of the Water Supply Company? For all the interesting points, though, there are many dud exhibits: photos of officials inspecting pipes, “vintage” water meters, and information on water purification would bore even the most dedicated hydrologist.
Wed-Sun 9am-4pm. RMB 5, RMB 2 (students).
6A Dongzhimenwai Beidajie, Dongcheng District (6465 0787).