Yesterday I visited the tourist sights in Harbin: the Unit 731 Museum and the Harbin Siberian Tiger Park.
The Unit 731 Museum is the home of the infamous Japanese Army Unit 731, the germ warfare research unit that killed thousands of Chinese in grisly experiments and possibly up to 300,000 Chinese with actual germ weapons. The museum is a collection of artifacts, photographs and sculptures that depict the horrors, in Chinese and in English. It looks like a lot of Chinese school groups come through, with parking places for many busses. There was a line of Chinese tourists waiting to get into the busy free museum, on the outskirts of Harbin. Wickipedia gives a good description of Unit 731’s evil enterprise. The museum touts their website at 731museum.com, but it appears that they forgot to pay for the renewal on their domain name and the site doesn’t come up.
What was most interesting to me was the end of the exhibit, where there was a display describing how the commander of Unit 731, Shiro Ishii, was given amnesty by the Americans in exchange for data from Unit 731’s experiments; this led into a new room detailing “evidence” of the alleged American germ warfare against the Chinese during the Korean War. Included in the exhibit is an American germ warfare bomb with four chambers for germ agents. I tried to take a photo, but the guards stopped me.
I’m told that there is a larger exhibit of the alleged American germ warfare against the Chinese at the Museum of American Aggression in Dandong, on the North Korean border. There is little to be seen about this museum on the web, but I’m told it is a well known attraction, containing more exhibits on America germ wafare against the Chinese, including details of a plot allegedly using crickets to spread plague through China. The US State Department has protested both exhibits.
The Harbin Tiger Park is an interesting experience. I doubt that there are many non-Chinese tourists here, but there are English translations everywhere, including a sign that tells visitors the admission prices to be paid for animals to feed to the lions and tigers. In dollars, the prices are: Chicken: $5.70; Duck: $14.29; Pheasant: $14.29; Sheep: $86.00; Cattle: $214.00.
I bought a chicken to feed to the tigers (here is a YouTube video of tigers eating a calf, shot by a tourist from the bus at the Tiger Park).
This is our bus (right), with a cage to protect us from the tigers and with chutes for dropping live chickens out of the bus. The lions and tigers walk up to the bus and open their mouths at the chicken chute openings, so the chickens are devoured as soon as they exit the chute.
The Chinese tourists on our bus had obviously been to the Tiger Park before, because they knew to spend a bit more to buy ducks, which make the tigers work harder for dinner. A duck is thrown into a pond (a hole filled with water) and the duck forces the tigers to swim and chase around the pond for a few minutes, before gobbling up the duck. The Chinese tourists cheer for the duck as it tries to avoid the tiger attacks. It all had a Roman feel to it. I can imagine the ducks saying, “We, who are about to die, salute you!”
The Tiger Park looked like it had over one hundred tigers, many in small cages. I read on the web that the park is active in trying to have the protected species designation removed from Siberian Tigers, so that they can trade in tiger parts and pelts. That doesn’t really surprise me.