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A Profile of Dinosaur Valley

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A Profile of Dinosaur Valley

Dinosaur Valley beckons from the mountains near the highway from Kunming to Dali.

© 2011 Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.

Introduction:

On a trip I took to visit Xizhou Village, a small town outside Dali in Yunnan Province, we drove from Kunming - a six-hour journey. The highway cuts through the hills and allows breathtaking views of the mountains and valleys. Nearer to Kunming, there are a number of factories sprawling into the hills and I repeatedly edged my way to the front of the bus to ask the driver and his mate what different things were. I thus learned the word for fertilizer in Mandarin (explained to me as "you know, the stuff you throw away").

As we bumped along the road I kept seeing signs for a "Dinosaur Valley" and the Chinese characters for dinosaur or kong long (恐龙)- a word a mother of any five-year-old boy picks up when she lives here. I bounced up to driver & co. to ask them what the signs were for. Mind you, reader, the conversation happened in my semi-intermediate Mandarin and their doing their best to communicate with me.

Me: "What are those signs for? Is there a park with dinosaurs here?"

Mr. Hui: "It's a park but it's boring. There's nothing to see there."

Me: "Yeah, OK. But are there real dinosaurs there?"

Mr. Hui: "It would take two hours up a bad road to get there."

Me: "I just want to know if there are dinosaurs there."

Mr. Hui: "No. Dinosaurs don't live anymore."

Me: "Right. I know that. Are there dinosaur bones there?" I asked making a mental note to look up the word for fossils.

Mr. Hui: "Maybe. One or two."

These guys were obviously being cagey. They were clearly trying to make their best time back to Xizhou and didn't want to be put off target by some woman interested in dinosaur bones. I made a note to look the place up when I got home.

Description:

For any dinosaur enthusiasts, the Yunnan Dinosaur Valley park sounds like a pretty neat adventure. Similar to the Dino Park in Changzhou, it is a large outdoor theme park with amusement rides, walk-ways and ponds full of life-size dinosaur models and statues and, happily for the budding paleontologists out there, a huge pavilion chock full of fossils both in the ground and properly displayed in models.

One blogger who visited described the area where the fossils are set up vividly. There are many fossils situated to resemble dinosaurs 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."

There are also areas where the actual dig is going on and you can witness scientists unearthing more bones and see the fossils still in the ground.

What Kind of Dinosaurs?

The dinosaur that occupied this area in Yunnan Province in the early Jurassic Period is called Lufengosaurus. Lufengosaurus fossils are the ones on display at Dinosaur Valley and many of them were unearthed at the site.

The Lufengosaurus takes its name from the Lufeng Valley where an extraordinary number of fossils have been unearthed. Chinese scientists say that more dinosaur fossils have been unearthed in Lufeng Valley than any other part of the world and that these fossils are some of the oldest ever discovered.

Why Go?

If you, like me, are in Yunnan and are making the drive from Kunming to Dali or onward, Chuxiong, the area where the dinosaur park is located, is about half-way. Despite what my friendly driver told me, the park is not a 2-hour drive up a bad road from the highway. In fact, it is right off the highway, making it a very easy stop. I would highly recommend it if you have kids.

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