Yuxi Chengjiang Fossil Site is one of the best-preserved sites of Cambrian fauna. It presents the appearance of marine organisms 541 million years ago, and provides precious evidence for unveiling the mystery of early evolution.
Features of the Chengjiang Fossil Site
The fossils site looks like a bent belt, measuring 20 kilometers long, 4.5 kilometers wide and more than 50 meters deep. The site is located on Maotian Mountain to the southeast of Chengjiang County in Yuxi, Yunnan Province, about 56 kilometers from downtown Kunming. It was included in the World Heritage List by UNESCO on July 1st, 2012.
A Great Discovery of the 20th Century
On July 1st, 1984, Hou Xianguang, a researcher from Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology of Chinese Academy of Sciences, found a fossil of a Naraoia (an invertebrate during the Cambrian period) on Maotian Mountain in Chengjiang County.
Subsequently, from 1984 to 1994, more than 50 archeologists from over 10 countries came to Maotian Mountain to excavate fossils. They collected over 50,000 fossils, of more than 180 species of over 40 categories. These fossils covered all the classes of modern creatures. Two-thirds of them were found to belong to newly discovered classes. Hence, they were named after their excavation spots, such as the Myllokunmingia, the Fuxianhuia, the Yunnanozoon, and the Maotianshania. The great discovery in Chengjiang showed people the spectacular Cambrian world 541 million years ago.
Amazing Lives of Cambrian Period
The Early Cambrian Period was 400 million years earlier than the Jurassic Period, the "Age of Dinosaurs". What was life like in the Early Cambrian Period? The fossils found in the site help people depict the physiological structures, living habits, systematical evolution, and ecological environment of paleontology.
As the ancestor of arthropods, the Fuxianhuia had as many as 35 to 45 pairs of legs. The Mallokunmingia and the Yunnanozoon had the essential organs of chordates, which meant that the origin of vertebrates were 40 million years earlier. More importantly, the fossil of the oldest vertebrate, the Haikouichthys, was found at the border of Yuxi and Kunming. The structure and function of the Haikouchths were more complex than those of the Yunnanozoon. So it was thought to be the earliest ancestor in the evolution chain from fish, through amphibians, reptiles and mammals, to humans. The value of this fossil is beyond price.
As a great proof of the "Explosion of life in the Cambrian Period", the Chengjiang Fossil Site was known by the scientific community as the "Holy Place of Paleontology", the "World Treasure House of Fossils" and one of the most amazing discoveries in the 20th century. At the same time, the discovery of non-linear abrupt evolution challenges the gradual evolution of Darwinism.
Yuxi Travel Tips
How to Get There?
From Chengjiang: There is no public bus available. Taxis usually do not use the meter and a single trip from Chengjiang County costs about CNY 40.
From Yuxi: Take a long-distance bus to Chengjiang County from Yuxi West Passenger Station for about CNY 26. The bus departs every thirty minutes, and the duration is about 1. 5 hours. The last bus departs at 17:30. Afterwards, take a taxi to your destination.
From Kunming: Take a long-distance bus to Chengjiang County from Kunming South Passenger Station for about CNY 20. The bus is available from 7:30 to 19:30. The frequency is 30 minutes, and the duration is about 1.5 hours. Afterwards, take a taxi to your destination.
Entrance Fee: CNY 20
Opening Hours: 9:00-17:00