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May 3rd 2009
Published: May 3rd 2009
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Our college hosts outings for all the teachers every once in awhile, though, we, the foreign teachers as we are referred to, typically have a different outing from the Chinese teachers. Two weeks ago we went to a newly opened (last year) dinosaur excavation park located 1 ½ hours from the college. We left early so we would have a full day of viewing, plus lunch and still make it back by dinner.

As is the case, however, rarely does anything go according to plan in China, and the 1 ½ hour bus ride there turned into a close to 5 hour trip due to, what else, but some road repair work. What made matters worse was that the delay occurred 15 minutes from the park when we had to turn off the main highway and take a long, curvey, treacherous back road, in order to avoid crossing a bridge on the main highway that for some reason could not withstand the weight of any vehicle larger than a car. Hmmm.

Why did it take an extra 4 hours to travel this last distance? Who knows??? We were bumper to bumper and
side to side packed in with other buses all jockeying to get wherever first. Several times we stopped for 45 minutes or so, so we would all pile out of the little bus/van we were in and wander around the side of the road trying to make sense of the delay. Along the way I snapped several pics to show what the countryside looks like outside of Kunming.

At times, only vehicles going in our direction were allowed on the road and when that happend 3-4 vehicles would span across the width of the road, including semi’s, huge dump/work trucks, you name it, if it wasn’t a car it was there, and round the 180 curves we would all go, some taking advantage of a slower vehicle to burst ahead and make a little headway. But seeing the group we were traveling with were all veteran travelers, only a few annoyed utterances were heard, and then we were……there!


The Park was an interesting combination of amusement park rides, bizarre pavillions, lovely designed walkways, large lake/ponds with life size dinosaur statues here and there, and……… the enclosed excavation site. By the time we found it we were not sure if there was a serious side to this destination, but once entering and viewing what was there, we knew we had hit the jackpot of dinosaur viewing.

As we entered the pavillion, the entire left side was a viewing area of how the skeletons looked, while still embedded in the underlying rock. A walkway allowed you to linger and look as long as you wanted to each well lit group of bones. Towards the end of the walkway, it changed to some sort of glass or plexiglass so you could look down and through and see fossils below your feet. There was also a work station in this area where a few technicians were cleaning stone and dirt from many of the dinosaur fossil pieces still being excavated within the hill. This in itself was just so cool to have seen.

Then steps led you up to huge display auditoriums where dozens of dinosaur skeletons had been positioned to look like, in some cases, they were running in herds. The auditorium was dark except for hundreds of display lights creating both a beautiful viewing but also an eerie feeling of what it might have been like to have been amongst these giants.

I am including some history and facts I pieced together from several informational placards hanging on the walls around the pavillion. It was nice to have some English verbage, it helped with understanding just what we were seeing. All in all, it was an amazing place to see, and would have been worth it had this pavillion been the only thing there. There were so many dinosaur skeletons it was almost surreal. In some places they were positioned so it seemed as if you were surrounded by them. One could almost imagine herds of them running by. Well worth the wait to get there.

Verbage from Dinosaur Park:

The world’s largest dinosaur fossil preservation site is nearly 10,000 sq meters, the largest of its kind. Over 30 sets of individual dinosaur fossils (400-odd fossils remain underground) are exhibited. It is the core protected area of China Lufeng Dinosaur National Geopark. There are also over 60 sets of restored and mounted dinosaur skeletons and other reptile fossils including some rarely seen elsewhere in the world, such as 12 complete dinosaur skulls touted as particularly rare treasures.

The dinosaur fossils in Lufeng have been sound asleep for billions of years under the red land except for when local people collected some of the fossils, known as “dragon bones”, for treating some diseases, kindling “ dragon lanterns” or using them as “toy stone beads”. No one knew the truth until the arrival of two specialists, Yang Zhongjian and Bian Meinian.

Mr. Yang Zongjian (1897-1979), the founder of Chinese Vertebrate Paleontology as well as the father of Chinese dinosaur studies, was a native of Hua county of Shaanxi province. He was enrolled in the Department of Geology of Beijing Univ in 1917 and went abroad to the University of Munich in Germany for self-funded doctorate studies of Vertebrate Paleontology in 1924. After his graduation and return from Germany, Yang Zhongjian worked at the Central Geological Survey Center. In 1929 he worked as deputy director for the Cenozoic Research Office of the Central Center of Geological Survey and started to take charge of the excavation at the Peking Man Site in Zhoukoudian. From then on he dedicated his life to the research of Chinese vertebrate paleontology.

In 1937 after the outbreak of the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, Yang Zhongjian transferred to Kunming city, Yunnan province, as head of the Kunming Work Station of the Central Center of Geological Survey. In October 1938, two assistants to Yang Zhongjian were on their way back to Kunming from a survey in Youmou basin and stayed overnight in Lufeng.

At that time the Yunnan-Myanmar road was under construction in Lufeng. According to the construction workers, there were “dragon bones” at Shawan in the northwest of Lufeng. The assistants soon found some fossils in a gully to the northeast of Shawan. In 1938, Dr. Yang Zhongjian, dug out the first dinosaur fossils. The exposed string of cervical vertebrae fossils of a Lufeng Dilophosaurus opened the most brilliant page in China’s history of dinosaur excavation and research.

As of 1951, after 13 years during which the fossils experienced relocation several times, they finally settled in one place. In 1995, a large Late Middle Jurassic dinosaur site was found in Ana Dinosaur Mountain of Chuanjie township, Lufeng county, (the present World Dinosaur Valley), buried with hundreds of dinosaurs. Due to the quantity, number of varieties, concentration and span in years they represent, it is a world wonder.

Five mysteries of the Lufeng dinosaurs:

1 -Centralization of dinosaurs at the Lufeng basin. Why did so many dinosaurs gather here?

2 -Spanning time and space: Within the same area and slope of a hill are buried fossils of: Lufeng dilophosaurus fauna of the early, middle and late Jurassic ages; Chuangjie dinosaur fauna; and Yunnan Mamenxi fauna. How was such a complete evolutionary series of dinosaur fossils kept intact? Why are the dinosaur fossils of different ages buried in the same area?

3 -Collective extinction of dinosaurs: What factors led to the disappearance and collective extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, after their ruling the earth for 160 million years?

4 -Facing east: All the dinosaur fossils unearthed to date face east. What happened then in the east of Lufeng?

5 -Dinosaur fossils: Dinosaurian egg fossils have been found in quite a few places around the world. Given that the dinosaur fossils unearthed in Lufeng are the world’s most numerous and diverse, why are there no dinosaur egg fossils unearthed here?

LUFENG DINOSAUR RANKINGS OF EIGHT FIRSTS IN THE WORLD (sorry but I only took a picture of the 1st 4!!)

1. Widest existent span: Existence of the dinosaurs in Lufeng date back 135-180 million years spanning the Triassic and Jurassic ages.

2. Co-existence of a variety of dinosaur species: It is rarely seen elsewhere in the world that fossils of herbivorous and carnivorous dinosaurs, vertebrates and invertebrates are buried in the same area. It is so far the only place in the world containing this feature and considered a wonder of the earth’s historical evolution.

3. Highest level of preservation for dinosaur individuals: The preservation level is so high that even the most fragile bones upon excavation are kept intact. 95% or more of nearly a hundred sets of dinosaur fossils are well preserved.

4. Centralized dinosaur burying area: In a section of 3,400 square meters over 30 sets of individual dinosaur fossils and snake-necked turtles have been unearthed and there are still nearly 400 more to be excavated.

Inside the exhibition hall sleeps a complete, delicate dinosaur individual fossil, one of the “Lufengosaurus huenei” cropped out from Mt. Dawa of Lufeng county in 1938, to present the original condition in which this overlord of the world was found at the time of its death, dating back to 180 million years ago. We excavated the whole body and relocated it here for the sake of exhibition, as “the most valuable treasure of this museum”.

Additional photos below
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