Systematic geoscientific research has been carried out on the three Precambrian cratons of China (North China, South China , Tarim) for approximately 80 years. While large-scale mapping and descriptive work absorbed virtually all of the early activities, the last two decades recorded major steps forward in geochemical, sedimentological, palaeobiological, and geotectonic understanding. Some of the internationally recognized contributions to a process-understanding of our planet's history were the discovery of soft-body-preserved fossil associations (Chengjiang; Kaili etc.), documenting an hitherto unknown biodiversity already in the Lower Cambrian, and of Proterozoic and Cambrian phosphatized eggs, embryos, and larvae of early metazoans (Xiao et al. 1998; Zhu et al., 2005; Steiner et al. 2005; Steiner et al. 2004).
When the dynamics of geoscientific investigation in China had reached a certain momentum, German and Chinese geoscientists of various disciplines initiated the formation of a joint research network in the late 1990s which led to the jointly DFG- and NSFC-funded “Bündelprojekt” ”From ‘Snowball Earth' to the Cambrian bioradiation: A multidisciplinary analysis of the Yangtze Platform, China”. In this project (2001 to 2004), coordinated by Prof. Erdtmann, formerly TU Berlin, six German and eight Chinese projects were conducted over a three-year period. The study topics ranged widely and addressed themes as diverse as “Snowball Earth” environmental conditions (H. Bahlburg; H. Strauss), Ediacaran-Cambrian microfossils (M. Steiner), biodiversity in the PC-C trace fossil record (B. Weber), bioevolutionary studies of Early Cambrian Chengjiang fossils (D. Waloßek), and sedimentology of Ediacaran shallow- and deep-water sections (C. Heubeck). The Bündelprojekt was very successful in improving our understanding of numerous aspects of the palaeoenvironment and biological evolution near the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary and its drivers.
Evaluation and comparison of the results of the Bündelprojekt with those of other groups working on sections of similar age on other continents suggests that continuing work on the Yangtze Platform would be a worthwhile effort but should follow a modified focus, with emphasis on the interrelationships and mutual modification between life forms and environmental variables at the Ediacaran-Cambrian transition. Thus, the Forschergruppe changed its stratigraphic focus in its second funding period (2011-2014) to the highest-profile topic, the base-Cambrian bioradiation, but will continue its approach to integrate paleobiological and geochemical results to achieve an ecological understanding of events and processes there.