Chengjiang Fossil Site which meanders its way 20km long and stretches 4.5km wide along the Maotianshan Mountain(帽天山), is 5km away from Chengjiang County(澄江县)in southeast of Kunming city, Yunnan province. With over 30,000 pieces of intriguing fossils unearthed successfully from over 30 sites along this mountain, it is famed as the treasure house of Cambrian fossils dating back to 513million years ago.
|Chengjiang Fossil Site|
Since Hou Xianguang, a scientist from China Institute of Science discovered the first piece of fossil in 1984, Chengjiang Fossil Site has triggered a sparkle of enthusiasm among scientists and archeologists. The following decade saw over 50 archeologists from more than 10 countries throng into Maotianshan Mountain to do field research and collect fossils. Thanks to their over 17 years’ persistent and pains-taking excavation work and research, by now an overwhelming number of fossils of 180 species and 40 phyla have been unearthed. In 1991, this site was reported by The New York Times as the most sensational and fabulous discovery of the 20th century. While Science, an authorized American academy magazine, remarked that the discovery of this site has pushed the emergence time of the vertebrates backward 60 million years, that is, 500million years ago.
Today, Chengjiang Fossil Site is universally recognized as the key
to study the maritime ecosystem and fauna species of the Cambrian Age, a geologically short interval which witnessed rapid diversification of life on Earth. In the 36th World Heritage Conference held in St. Petersburg, Russia, it was listed into World Heritage Site
. This is China’s first UNESCO
fossil site by far.
|The well-preserved Chengjiang Fossils|
Chengjiang biota mainly consists of invertebrate fossils. Among them, there are not only sponges, coelenterates, brachiopods and annelids, but also rare creatures which do not fit neatly into the phyla system set by contemporary scientists. Thus, they are usually named after their excavation sites, such as Yunnnan Insect, Kunming Insect and Maotianshan Insect. Fossils unearthed in this site remain intact miraculously and feature extremely delicate appearances.
If you pay a visit to Chengjiang Fossil Site and examine the eye-dazzling fossil collections carefully, you will be shocked that almost all living animals and even the already extinct ones can find their representative ancestors here.
What is also remarkable is the unearth of Haikouichthys (海口鱼) in Haikou of Dianchi Lake which sits at the intersection of Yuxi City and Kunming City. This thumb finger-sized and grotesque looking creature boasts a hard shell. It is the most ancient fish as well as the ancestor of all vertebrate animals on earth. Because of it, the emergence time of vertebrate animals has been pushed back to over 500million years ago.
|Haikouichthys (海口鱼): the ancestor of all vertebrate animals on earth|
Speaking of structure and function, it even outshines Yunnan Insect. Among all the biota fossils spotted worldwide, it is unrivalled when speaking of the numbers of species, the preserve status. Due to Haikouichthys fossils’ most diversified species, best preserved status, most exquisite appearances and top quality, they ranks as one of the most marvelous and priceless treasures. Besides, scientists also deem it as the ancestor of the all animals on the evolution chain on which fish evolves into amphibians, amphibians evolve into reptiles, reptiles evolve into mammals and mammals evolve into human beings.
Location: Maotianshan Mountain, Chengjiang County, 56km from Kunming
Admission Fee: 20RMB
How to go there: You can take a taxi from Chengjiang County downtown which is 6km away from this site