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Thursday, January 13, 2000, updated at 20:40(GMT+8)
Culture First Private Museum of Natural History Opens in China

The first private museum of natural history opened in the city of Jinzhou in the northeast China's Liaoning Province on the weekend. The museum was set up based on the proposal of Professor Hou Lianhai, a noted paleoornithologist.

Among the 300 rare fossils on display at the Jinzhou Wenya Museum, there are a host of rare ancient plants and animals, including the well-known Sinosauropteryx and Confuciusornis. These fossils were all discovered in the western part of Liaoning Province. The finds have drawn worldwide attention.

All of the 300 rare fossils belong to the museum owner, Du Wenya.

Among the exhibited objects, this specific Confuciusornis was named after Du Wenya himself, who first discovered the fossil in 1998. Afterward, he contacted Professor Hou Lianhai of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, which is attached to the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Hou studied the fossil for one year and noted that it was a clue to and could be very helpful in discovering the skull structure of archaeopteryx..

Du Wenya, owner of the museum, used to be a staffer working in Jinzhou City's Guta district Procurator's office. He has developed a keen interest in the fossil collection. "Collecting fossils is not only for personal interest, but for the sake of scientific research," he said.

Fossils of Jeho (named after the formerly Jiho Province) animals which had inhabited the planet during the Mesozoic Period, a period between 225 million and 65 million years ago, were discovered in 1996, attracting international interest. However, some rare fossils have been taken out of China illegally.

"I'm trying my utmost to protect these rare fossil specimens, and to do something useful for popular science education and scientific research in the country."

Du has mortgaged his home worth 2 million yuan (241,000 US dollars) to set up his museum.

Moreover, Du said, a five-yuan (60 US cents) entrance fee will not be enough to keep the Museum's operation going, and he expressed the hope that fund can be raised from exhibitions and selling some of the fossils if possible. (Xinhua)

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