Chengjiang Fossil Site

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.

The fossils site looks like a bent belt, measuring 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) long, 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers) wide and more than 55 yards (50 meters) deep. The site is located on Maotian Mountain to the southeast of Chengjiang County in Yuxi, Yunnan Province, about 34.8 miles (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.

How to Get There

 From Kunming:
Take a bus from Kunming South Passenger Station to Chengjiang County. The buses run from 8:30 to 23:00 with a frequency of every 40 to 100 minutes. A single trip takes 50 minutes and costs CNY 20. Afterwards, share a pedicab with others to the Maotian Mountain, costing CNY 5 per person; or you can hire a taxi to go there, which costs CNY 100 for a round trip.

 From Yuxi:
Take a bus to Chengjiang County from Yuxi West Passenger Station. The buses run from 7:20 to 17:05, departing every 30 to 40 minutes, and the duration is about 1 hour. It costs CNY 23 per person. Afterwards, take a pedicab or taxi to your destination.

 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 50. You can also share a car with other travelers.
Opening Hours 9:00-16:30
Admission Fee Adult  CNY 20
Children between 3.9 feet (1.2 meters) and 4.6 feet (1.4 meters) CNY 10
Children below 3.9 feet (1.2 meters) Free of charge
- Last modified on Sep. 06, 2021 -
Questions & Answers on Chengjiang Fossil Site
Asked by Ava from UNITED KINGDOM | Mar. 25, 2020 00:21Reply
Do the guides at the Chengjiang Fossil Site speak English?
We don't speak Chinese, so is it possible to get a guide that speaks English?
Answers (1)
Answered by Denise from FINLAND | Mar. 27, 2020 18:14

As I know, there are several guides that can speak English at this scenic area.
Asked by Alexa from SWEDEN | Mar. 11, 2020 23:17Reply
Will there be any guides to show us around when touring around Chengjiang Fossil Site?
If we go to see the fossils there will be a restricted area and we can only look at the fossils from a distance right? If so, will there be a guide to show us around? Or can we hire one?
Answers (1)
Answered by Maxine from CANADA | Mar. 15, 2020 21:07

As I know, you can hire a guide when you touring around. And yes, it is a special area for you to see the fossils.
Asked by Donna from CANADA | Oct. 20, 2018 05:28Reply
Is there a museum at the fossil site? Is it set up for tourists to walk around?
We are traveling from Kunming with 3 teenagers. Just wondering how much it is set up for learning and amenities like bathrooms and food. And how do we catch the taxi to go.back? Are there taxis waiting there and easy to hire?
Answers (1)
Answered by Lara from USA | Oct. 22, 2018 00:16

Yes, there is a museum at the fossil site but many people online said it may be closed at present. So I couldn't provide more information for you.
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