The Mountain Resort in Chengde, Hebei. Photo: Xinhua

Many paleontologists today believe there are connections between the mythological dragons that ancient peoples believed in and the dinosaurs that left behind fossils for humans to discover.

And paleontologists in China are now  searching a massive ancient imperial resort near Beijing for fossils of dinosaur footprints, according to recent reports by Chinese papers.

A China University of Geosciences team led by Associate Professor Xing Lida is scouring the Mountain Resort built in the 18th century during the Qing dynasty and now a World Heritage Site, in Chengde in northern China’s Hebei province, for possible dinosaur footprints that Xing first learned about in a document 26 years ago.

In 1992, Harvard University Professor Richard Forman reportedly found what he suspected to be dinosaur footprints on stones he collected near the Rehe Spring in this massive royal resort.

A researcher with the Chengde Cultural Relics Bureau also told Xinhua that local mythological tales about dragons said there were “more than 30 footprints of dinosaurs and winged birds” inside and around the resort.

Xing was one of a handful of people who saw these stones in 1992, before they went missing.

“Something ordinary people may consider common could be extraordinary fossils,” Xing was quoted as saying. “It’s a pity that no further investigation was ever conducted back then on those footprints.”

This is not the only dinosaur-related finding in the city. In 1993, more than 80 dinosaur footprints, believed to be 130 million years old, were found in Luanping, a county under Chengde’s jurisdiction.

Some of these stones bearing dinosaur footprints were cut out and taken away by private collectors who then auctioned them as “royal dragon stones” from the treasures owned and admired by the Kangxi, Qianlong and Jiaqing emperors when they spent months living in Chengde away from the Forbidden City to avoid the capital’s scorching summer during the course of their reigns.

Geological layers of the Jurassic period when dinosaurs ruled the planet are well distributed in northern Hebei, where Chengde is located.

Earlier this year, Chinese researchers also found well-preserved fossils of a predator near Chengde, which lived 161 million years ago, in the Jurassic era, with stunning iridescent feathers like those of hummingbirds.

The feathers of this dinosaur would have produced a glittering display that could have provided sexual cues to potential mates, in the same way as peacock tails. The team saw microscopic structures in the exquisitely preserved fossil that indicated the presence of the bright plumage, according to Reuters.

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