Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 25, 2021

© Cleo Paskal

Bookmark and Share

Killer bras of China

A quirky museum in a Beijing suburb breeds public awareness — and a little paranoia

So, the question is: “Is a bra a friend or an enemy?” I’m not surprised, since I’m standing in the Male vs. Female section of the Haidian Public Safety Museum in a suburb of Beijing (or, as high-tech suburbs the world over are wont to call themselves these days, “Beijing’s Silicon Valley”).

The municipality of Haidian is very concerned about its citizens. As a result, they invested in this 8000-square-metre Public Safety Museum (www. to let them know all the ways they can die a horrible death, if they’re not careful. Seems there are a lot more ways to be killed than I thought.

The first thing you see on entering is a bright yellow car smashed and mangled into a crumpled heap. On the wall beside it is an artistically recreated, larger-than-life blood splatter. It gets less subtle from there on.

The museum is divided into different exhibition areas. The first, traffic accidents, features not only photos of bicyclists crushed by trucks, but a few statistics to show why this exhibit is particularly apt.

Apparently, China has 3 percent of cars in the world, but 15.6 percent of auto casualties. Around 100,000 Chinese die vehicle-related deaths every year. Their casualty rate is 5.8 times higher than France and 10 times higher than Australia (which conveniently also proves what I always thought about French driving).

This is one of the new breeds of museum, so it has to be interactive. But, given the subject matter, not too interactive. The exhibit features some surprisingly fun activities, like a video game-style display where you get to try your hand at directing suicidal Chinese traffic.

And another where you hop on a stationary bike and try to (virtually) swerve and skid around hazards. If you survive, you can then pose in the bright red sports car and get your buddies to take your photo. Not sure how constructive that one is.

The next exhibit is about fire. It features charred relics from a famous 2002 Internet café fire in Haidian that killed 24 people. Again, the interactive displays are delightfully inventive. There is a soundproof “Shouting Training” room, where you can practice shouting “Fire!” (it lets you know how loud you are yelling and how far the sound would likely travel).

You can try firing a virtual water cannon, and if that fails, you can shimmy and slide your way out of a model of a burning building (with meticulously recreated fake flames).

After that comes sections on public safety (so many ways to get robbed!), earthquakes (featuring a most excellent fun-house style walk-through kitchen perched at an 18-percent angle), a tsunami simulator, and a 4D movie theatre that not only shakes with earthquakes, it splashes with floods and blows with hurricanes.

Then there is a model of a town being hit by lightening, and another model of real-life downtown Haidian, with it’s underground nuclear bomb shelter — which is a perfect opening for discussing bombs in general. And chemical attacks. Oh, and there’s the display on industrial accidents, including exactly why you should wear a safety helmet. And who can forget fireworks, ice and downed power lines (if you see one, be sure to “stand on one leg so the power can’t course through you”).

In case it all leaves you feeling that your car, nature, job and city are all trying to kill you, and you would be better off not leaving your bed, head over to the exhibit on House Pollution, including toxic paints and lethal furniture.

And forget turning to comfort foods. There is a whole section on sanitation and contagious diseases that will make you want to go on a diet. Forever.

Which brings me to the section on questions adolescents ask (or at least the questions the fine civic leader of Haidian think adolescents ask). It’s divided into boy and girl sections. The boys get straightforward questions, like “Is masturbation bad?” Apparently, the answer is, more or less, “physically, no. Psychologically, yes.” That will help.

And, here in the girls’ section, one of the questions is about the potentially nefarious intensions of undergarments: “Is a bra a friend or an enemy?”

Given how everything else in the museum has taught me what a target I am, I’m not surprised to learn that, according to the Haidian Public Safety Museum, a tight bra on an adolescent might impede the growth of heart and lungs. But, that said, it also “Helps look good and protect the body.” But, of course, you must “wash it often.”

The last display in the museum (before you get to the gift shop — “I survived the Haidian Public Safety Museum” t-shirts, anyone?) features mirrors and the caption “who is the next smiling face?” Oddly enough, it was I.

The museum is grizzly, innovative, whacky and fascinating but, above all, it is trying to reach out and help its community. I can think of a lot more dangerous things than that.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.


Post a comment