The Stone Forest, China


About 120 km southeast of Kunming, China; (capital of Yunnan Province); is a plateau with a strange “forest”, that is made of stone. During July of 2011, I explored this area with a small trekking group.

Area map of Kunming, China

Pictured below, the Lunan Stone Forest is made of blocks of limestone that have been weathered into hundreds of vertical-sided pillars and pinnacles with knife-like tops.

The Lunan Stone Forest in 2011

The Stone Forest area was a shallow sea some 270 million years ago. Extensive deposits of sandstone overlain by limestone accumulated in this basin during the Permian period of geologic time. Uplift of this region occurred subsequent to deposition. Later, exposure to wind and running water shaped these limestone pillars.

The Lunan Stone Forest, China

Pictured below, these formations extend as far as the eye can see, looking like a vast forest of stone, hence the name “The Stone Forest”.

The Lunan Stone Forest in China; 2011

The Major and Minor Stone Forests are developed in the nearly pure limestone of the Permian Makou Formation.

I’m standing at the Lunan Stone Forest in China

This Permian formation is 500 m in thickness and consist of shallow water (platform) massive limestone and dolomite, bio-clastic limestone, calcarenite and calcilutite.

A small lake within the limestone pillars of the Lunan Stone Forest, China

Pictured above, the strata are part of a gentle (2-6 degrees) westward dipping monocline. Conjugate shear joints (NE-SW and NE-SE) are well developed and these fractures provided the main passageways for surface water and underground water in the pre-karst development stage.

An amazing overhang of rock that have weathered away the base.

Pictured below, some limestone pinnacles are no higher than a person, while other are 30 m high, and they are both clustered together and standing alone.

The spectacular pinnacles of the Lunan Stone Forest of China
One of the walkways with the labyrinth of the Lunan Stone Forest

Pictured above and below, a system of walkways has been constructed between the peaks, where we could relax in a series of pavilions.

One of the resting areas within the Lunan Stone Forest

Pictured below, the rocks are given names that perfectly describe their shapes, such as “Layered Waterfall” and “Elephant Rock”.

Elephant Rock in the Luna Stone Forest, China

Lichens and mosses cover the limestone pinnacles, and creepers with red and pink flowers cling to the cracks and crevices.

The Lunan Stone Forest in China

Pictured below, according to local legend, a pinnacle known as “Ashima Rock” is named after a young girl who was kidnapped by a wealthy aristocrat. Her lover tried to rescue her but she died and was turned to stone.

Cui Lee, (my interpreter) all dressed up like with local Yi people attire, posing in front of the “Ashima Rock” at the Lunan Stone Forest.

Dissolution lakes of enchanting and picturesque scenery, the Lunar Lake and Long Lake for example, are widespread in the Lunan region, (pictured below).

Lunar Lake at the Lunan Stone Forest.

Legend also tells how one of the Chinese Immortals created the forest. he passed young lover courting in the open and thought they should have privacy. He therefore created a stone labyrinth in which lovers could hide.

One of the few open areas at the Lunan Stone Forest

The magnificent, strange and steep landscape creates countless labyrinthine vistas.

Known since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) as the ‘First Wonder of the World’, it is one of the most important attractions of Yunnan.

The Lunan Stone Forest UNESCO site.

Walking through the site, my trekking group marveled at the natural stone masterpieces and were bewitched by the intricate formations.

Climbing to see a better view of the Lunan Stone Forest, China 2011

Only 22 kilometers from the famous stone forest, Jiuxiang Scenic Area is a famous explorer destination in Yunnan Province encompassed by karst caves, deep valleys, and Yi ethnic minority’s cultural landscapes.

Area map of the Jiuxiang Karst Caves, China

Jiuxiang Scenic Area has a cluster of karst caves within an area of 20 square kilometers, known as the most in number and the largest in scale in China.

Mike Stevens and I, paddling up the “Grand Underground (Jinghun) Valley, to explore one of the most magnificent caves in China.

Pictured above, The Grand Underground Valley is the most spectacular underground valley in china with a length of 100 meters.

Grand Underground (Jinghun) Gorge

Continuous declination of riverbed formed the Grand Underground Valley, the narrowest part of which is only 3 or 4 meters.

Grand Underground (Jinghun) Gorge

Our trekking group was able to go along the valley by a trestle. Walking on the trestle was really a thrilling experience. At the end of the trestle is the White Elephant Cave formed by water erosion.

White elephant cave; part of the Jiuxiang Cave System, China

Jiuxiang Cave is a national scenic spots and historical sites which is praised as the “Museum of Karst Caves”, boasts more than 100 Karst caves and is the largest cave group system in China. The cave formations were very varied and the rivers, waterfalls, and natural rock bridges were very enchanting.

The Fairy Palace; part of the Jiuxiang Cave System, China

Pictured above, we then wandered around the Fairy Palace, where enjoyed the typical underground Karst landscape. Stalactites were exquisite, nestled close to each other like fairies singing and dancing in the palace. The dreamlike scenery gave us an illusion of being in a fairyland.

Cui Lee, (my interpreter and friend, is taking a picture of a Stalagmite in the Jiuxiang Cave System in China.

Pictured above, stalactites were exquisite, nestled close to each other like fairies singing and dancing in the palace. The dreamlike scenery gave us an illusion of being in a fairyland.

The Fairy Field in the Juixiang Cave System, China

Pictured above, the total area of the Fairy Field is about 100 square meters, and more than 10m deep. It is praised as the most amazing cave scenery by international speleologists. Layers of stalagmites, highlighted with colored lights, look like terraced fields. There was a huge conical stalactite shaped like a grain of cereal, bathed in a gold-yellow light.

Twin Waterfalls, in the Wolong Cave Jiuxiang Cave System, China

Pictured above, the “Twin Waterfalls” is two waterfalls cascading down from the rock at a length of 30 meters and meet in a deep pool at a depth of 10 meters in Wolong Cave of the Jiuxiang Cave System. The two waterfalls fall straight down with a maximum flow of 320 cubic meters per second, making a deafening sound. The powerful and magnificent momentum of the water makes the two waterfalls like two inseparable lovers, male and female.

An underground Lake found within the Jiuxiang Cave System, China

Pictured below, legend says that there are ten thousand bats inhabited in the cave in the past, hence the name (Bat Cave). Bats gradually moved away when the cave was developed into a tourist destination. The bat cave (Bianfu) is famed as “Dangling Stone Forest Underground” with dangling stalactites.

Bat (Bianfu) Cave
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