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Peking Man Site

Peking Man Site
The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian is an important finding place of early Asian hominids. These include one of the first specimens of Homo erectus, dubbed Peking Man.

Over 500.000 years ago, the caves in this limestone area were inhabited by early hominids. They stayed for the next 300.000 years. When this hominid race disappeared, the caves became naturally filled in, and the tools, food scraps and bones in them remained covered by deposits until modern times.

The site was discovered in 1921 by the Swede John Gunnar Andersson. Intensive excavation began in 1927. The site yielded nearly 200 pieces of Peking Man fossil (representing around 40 individuals), over 10.000 stone artifacts, several layers of ash as evidence of fire use, and more than 100 specimen of fossil animal.

In the Upper Cave, discovered in 1930, the remains of 20.000 to 10.000 years old homo sapiens have been found. This site consists of four parts: the entrance, the upper chamber as living floor, the lower chamber as graveyard and the lower recess which was a natural trap for large mammals.

Visit April 2004

Maps were unfolded at my hotel when I asked about how to go to Zhoukoudian. It didn't became very clear if there is a bus going there, so I opted to hire a taxi for a few hours. The driver didn't know how to get there either, but with a map and some directions asked under way we drove to Zhoukoudian. After leaving the expressway, we even encountered a large sign "Peking Man World Heritage Site, Zhoukoudian", accompanied by a picture of Peking Man himself and the Unesco logo. At the end of the road through town, we stumbled upon a parking lot and a ticket office (marked Beijing ren). I was pleased to have made it here, as it looked like not many people ever got here.

Behind the entrance, following steep steps through the woods, the first place to see is the Peking Man cave (the one that was discovered in 1921). Signs in English detail the findings here. I had the place all to myself, it was so quiet that I expected some prehistoric animal to creep from under the stones. A great place to contemplate man's life during the past 500.000 years though.

I walked around the other caves and the interesting museum. The phrase 'Few go to visit Peking Man site anymore' (the title of a Seattle newspaper article you can find in the links section above) didn't prove true today however: about half an hour after I had arrived, some twelve buses filled up the parking lot and released hundreds of screaming schoolchildren. All wearing their school's training suits, they ran around the place filling in questionnaires and picknicking at every possible spot (with the chicken legs their mothers packed them, or a bag from McDonalds).


Jarek Pokrzywnicki (Poland):
I am not sure about the 917 bus. It probaly goes the same (or similar way as bus No 836 which I was proposed to get to Zhoukoudian - initially I took bus 917 but they told me to change into 836). From Tianqiao bus stop (I dont call it station - it's just a stop on a street) you shoud reach place called Zhou Kou Cun Lukou - no worry, bus driver will show you the place, from there it is just 2 km from Zhoukoudian (straight road).

The whole area is well marked, with all the paths are described in Chineese and English. All the places (cave of first findings, upper cave, museum) are now opened for public. Comparing to other fossil-excavation places in China it is really well maintained and preserved (and described in English).
Date posted: February 2013
Rob Walsh (England):
The Peking man museum was very good. An enjoyable day and plenty of data to add to my research project on Homo erectus in China.A bright sunny Decembers day too, all added to the atmosphere. I recommend this site to anyone with an interest in human evolution.
Date posted: December 2011
Ian Cade (England):
There is not much I can add to the existing reviews. If you are in Beijing then this should probably be the lowest priority WHS to head for. Having said that I did have fun squeezing onto a local bus where I was something of a curiosity for the other passengers. The friendly guy next to me saw where I was going and motioned that he would let me know when we got there, he then let me listen to the latest Kanye West album with him whilst listing famous football players. It was a rather enjoyable way to spend the 1.5 hour trip with someone you share no mutual language with.

I had a bit of a walk to the site accompanied by another friendly kid who spoke good English and reassured me I was in the right place. On arrival at the site I paid my entrance fee and wandered around. There is a well presented museum has good signs in English, it was a little surprising as I wasn't expecting much. There were informative displays about the scientific breakthroughs that came as a consequence of the finds here and there was some rather swish interactive bits that seemed to keep kids entertained.

In terms of the site proper it was a little bit disappointing. One cave was open and I spent about a minute staring into it. I then moved on to the main cave when the bone fragments were found. Unfortunately it was closed off and covered in scaffolding and something that looked like a rudimentary elevator. All in all a pretty underwhelming spectacle. At least I have another site which my friends can rib me about in the pub. The closed cave that used to have a bit of bone in it has joined their illustrious list alongside: the disused quarry, the 14hour round trip to an overgrown field, some mud and their favourite 'the concrete post'.

I will admit to enjoying this visit. It isn't the most impressive spectacle, however taking the plunge and getting to this site by local transport was a rewarding way to escape the traditional Beijing tourist circuit, and surprisingly it left me with an appreciation of Kanye West, who would have thought that would be one of the trips outcomes.

[Site 2: Experience 4]
If you want details on how to get to the site by public transport I have posted them here
Date posted: November 2011
Solivagant (UK):
We all grow up with a vague memory of a “Peking Man” entry in our home or school encyclopaedias. Despite that, in 4 previous visits to Beijing, we had not, given all the other attractions in and around that city, been bothered to make the c 50kms journey out to the site of its finding. In autumn 2005 we put that right – I can’t say we were expecting a lot and to be truthful we didn’t get it either and could not recommend giving it a higher priority than we have done!
The site is situated where the plains give way to limestone hills and a number of caves there have been excavated since 1921. It came as a surprise to discover that most of them had in fact been gradually filled in by natural processes (and presumably also the results of use by humans?) over the millennia and the main “cave” (photo) provides a nice example of the various strata which have been excavated to unearth the remains of “human” habitation going back around 500,000 years (some of the discoveries are as recent as 18000 years old showing a long period of human use). The museum at the site contains some casts of the remains and another surprise was to discover that most of the most important early discoveries were lost in the chaos following WWII – possibly in transit to the USA and that casts are all we now have. Some enormous “Bronzes” of the skull adorn the site to make up for the lack of more tangible authentic remains!
If you do decide to visit the place you will need around 4 hours to/from Beijing including an hour to walk the trail to various caves and visit the museum. We took a taxi to/from our hotel for the afternoon but it is possible to do it by bus. These start at the Tianquiao Bus Station west of Tiantan and run along Guang’an Lu just south of Beijing West Railway station. Bus No 917 seemed to run every few minutes but only goes as far as the town of Fangshan a few kms short of Zhoukoudan from where another bus or taxi should be easy. It is likely however that the less frequent bus No 971 goes all the way. Good luck!
Date posted: October 2005

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Site info

Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian
Country: China
Inscribed: 1987
Cultural Heritage
Criteria:  (3) (6)
Category: Geological formation, Paleontology

Site history:
1987 Inscribed
Reasons for inscription

Site links

Official website:

In the news:
» Peking Man site damaged by heavy rainfall (27-07-2012).
» Largest excavation in history launched at Peking Man site (25-05-2011).

Related links:
» The Fossil Evidence for Human Evolution in China.
» Peking Man Site: Beijing Tourist Attractions.

Related Forum posts:
» Locations of Beijing WHS.

Getting there

This WHS has 1 location(s).


Fossils .
Early Hominid Remains . Palaeolithic and Mesolithic .
Human Activity
Ongoing/Recent Archaeological digs .
Middle Pleistocene .
Dragon .
WHS Hotspots
Beijing hotspot .

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