Stone Forest

exploring the fringes of the stone forest {part 2}

Friday, February 13:  After Alex and I emerge from the dense inside of the Major Stone Forest Scenic Area, we head to the perimeter road to retrace our minibus ride on foot.  The sky is blue, the air is crisp, and wispy clouds are sweeping across the sky, making the Stone Forest more picturesque than it already is.  We enjoy walking around and stopping in the grassy areas to enjoy the views.

Stone Forest

Stone Forest

We learn a lot from the placards in the park: The Stone Forest is composed of stone pillars of varying heights. The higher ones are called stone forest and the shorter ones stone teeth.  The Stone Forest evolves from underground. The carbonate rock was initially eroded by groundwater; and then, embryonic stone teeth took shape underground.  After they were exposed above ground during tectonic uplift, they became stone teeth.  When these stone teeth grew higher, they became stone forest.  We can imagine that the stone forest’s development is a dynamic process; the stone teeth today may become stone forest in the future.

We continue to walk and come to the Bushaoshan Scenic Area on the eastern side of the Major Stone Forest Area.  It covers one and half square kilometers. Bushao Mountain was named after the posts for the patrolling guards of uprising farmers in the late Qing dynasty.  The rock peaks and pillars spread out in picturesque disorder, together with the surrounding pine forest, creating gorgeous natural scenery.  Due to its relatively high elevation (the highest peak at 1,796 m), you can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire surroundings of the Major and Minor Stone Forest.

Buoshan Scenic Forest

Bushaoshan Scenic Area

Bushaoshan Scenic Area

Bushaoshan Scenic Area

Peaks and pinnacles

Peaks and pinnacles

Bushaoshan Scenic Area

Bushaoshan Scenic Area

We’re getting exhausted from our travel this morning from Kunming.  We also did a lot of climbing up and down on the steps in the dense part of the Stone Forest, and now we’re covering a lot of ground as well.  Alex lies down on the grass to take a break.

Alex takes a rest

Alex takes a rest

Bushaoshan

Bushaoshan

stone forest and stone teeth

stone forest and stone teeth

Bushaoshan Scenic Area

Bushaoshan Scenic Area

Lone peaks

Lone peaks

sparsely arranged

sparsely arranged

moody stone forest

moody stone forest

clouds and colors

clouds and colors

Bushaoshan

Bushaoshan

Peaks and bushes and stones

Peaks and bushes and stones

lone figure

lone figure

There are some peaks in the park the Chinese call “imaginal stones.”  They are stones that look like imaginary characters:  This isolated stone column is very like a figure, wearing a cowl-like hat worn in winter, with a packsack on his shoulder and a whip in his left hand, urging the flock of sheep.  This is the “Shepherd Suwu.”  Suwu was the diplomatic envoy sent by Emperor Hanwu to Xiongnu.  He was put under arrest and became a shepherd for 19 years.

Shepherd Suwu

Shepherd Suwu

Shepherd Suwu

Shepherd Suwu stands tall to the right

Shepherd Suwu

Shepherd Suwu

A towering stone column looks like an old man who is hunchbacked, wearing a robe and standing on the field with his hands clasped behind his back.  He looks like a “calm wanderer,” deep in thought and satisfaction.

Calm wanderer

Calm wanderer

calm wanderer

calm wanderer

There is a tall rock column and short one, very like the figures of a mother bringing her child along.  The front one is the mother, looking perfectly calm, kindly and decorous with a youngster of Sani nationality behind her.  They are wandering slowly among the stone columns; the formation is called Wandering Mother with Child.

Wandering Mother with Child

Wandering Mother with Child

Unusual shapes

Unusual shapes

In general, the color of the Stone Forest is light gray. But you may also find red, brown and yellow patches on the rock pillars.  However, these are not the original color of the rock, which is whitish gray.  After the rock is outcropped and exposed, it is subjected to weathering and colonization of microorganisms, in particular the growth of algae.  These processes have changed the color of the rock surface.

the path into the forest

the path into the forest

Panorama view of the Stone Forest

Panorama view of the Stone Forest

Some near-horizontal lines are commonly seen on the rocks in the Stone Forest.  These lines are the bedding of rocks. Bedding is the intrinsic feature of carbonate rock that developed through gradual bottom-up deposition, stratum by stratum, in the process of carbonate rock formation in oceanic water.  As growth rings are to a tree, bedding is to limestone.  A bedding plane generally aligns parallel to water surface, below which the rock deposits.  When the carbonate rock undergoes weathering and erosion, fissures are likely to form along the bedding plane.  They are the horizontal lines we see today.  One of the critical conditions for the stone forest’s evolution is that the bedding plane should retain its original near-horizontal alignment.  In the case of a large inclination angle, the stone pillar will slide and collapse along the bedding plane.

Horizontal lines

Horizontal lines

horizontal lines in the stone forest

horizontal lines in the stone forest

horizontal lines in the forest

horizontal lines in the forest

A sign in the park lists the world renowned sites of stone forest landform as being 1) Stone Forest of Yunnan, China; 2) Bemarsha, Madagascar; 3) Gunung Mulu, Malaysia; and 4) Mt. Kaijende, Papua New Guinea.

The Stone Forest of Yunnan has been inscribed upon the World Heritage List of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural Land Natural Heritage.  Inscription on this list confirms the outstanding universal value of a cultural or natural property which deserves protection for the benefit of all humanity.

The Wannianlingzhi (Eternal Mushroom) Scenic Area sits on the west side of the Major Stone Forest Scenic Area and covers about 3 square kilometers. The area features expansive and undulating landscape. High and low rock pillars are scattered sparsely among haystack hills and corroded depressions. The rocks present distinctive strata due to intensive stratification.  A great many mushroom-like pillars of varying sizes tapering toward the peak were formed as a result of corrosion and rock crush, hence the name Wannianlingzhi (Eternal Mushroom).

We walk briefly into this scenic area, and we can see the “eternal mushrooms” on the hill in the distance, but we’re too tired to walk all the way up to it.  We end our detour in the midst of farmland and rolling hills and return to the perimeter road.

Wannianlingzhi Scenic Area

Wannianlingzhi Scenic Area

One of the “eternal mushrooms” met an early demise.

Wannianlingzhi Scenic Area

a non-eternal mushroom in the Wannianlingzhi Scenic Area

Wannianlingzhi Scenic Area

Wannianlingzhi Scenic Area

Wannianlingzhi Scenic Area

Wannianlingzhi Scenic Area

Wannianlingzhi Scenic Area

Wannianlingzhi Scenic Area

Wannianlingzhi Scenic Area

Wannianlingzhi Scenic Area

Wannianlingzhi Scenic Area

Wannianlingzhi Scenic Area

Wannianlingzhi Scenic Area

Wannianlingzhi Scenic Area

We leave the Wannianlingzhi Scenic Area and head back to the perimeter road, where by now we’re exhausted.  We keep seeing the tour minibuses zip past on the road, going in the opposite direction.  We try to flag several down, but they are all filled to the brim with people and keep zooming past.  Our legs are killing us by now, and we’re utterly exhausted, but we have no choice but to keep walking.

walking back to the entrance along the perimeter road

walking back to the entrance along the perimeter road

The Stone Forest from the perimeter road

The Stone Forest from the perimeter road

more stone forest

more stone forest

reflections

reflections

more reflections

more reflections

Alex takes a rest

Alex takes a rest

cloud halo

cloud haloes

Finally, we make our way back to the park entrance.  We still have to walk the 500 meters back to our hotel.  The whole excursion has been tiring, but it’s been a gorgeous day full of stunning scenery, and we’re exhausted in a good way.

When we return to the hotel, we head immediately to the hotel restaurant and get a kitchen worker’s attention.  We’re the only ones there, but the woman takes our food order after we make our choices using my WayGo translation app.  We’re so happy to finally have a meal to eat, having eaten just some bread snacks in the park.

Tomorrow, we’ll head back to Kunming.  We’ve decided we’re going to have a driver take us back, no matter the cost, just to avoid the bus and that East Kunming bus station.

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Categories: Asia, China, karst, Karst landform, Kunming, Shilin, Stone Forest, Travel, Yunnan Province | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

an expedition to the stone forest {part 1}

Friday, February 13:  We check out of our hotel early to head to Kunming’s East Bus Station.  I’ve seen big bus stations before,  notably in Istanbul, but this is by far the most sprawling and chaotic bus station I’ve encountered in China.  The lines are 20-30 people deep at about 15 ticket counters, and they’re moving slowly.  We never imagined we’d have so much trouble getting a bus ticket to Shilin, home of the Stone Forest.

The bathrooms in this bus station are of the horrible trough variety, and even Alex, who hardly gets phased by bathroom things, says, crinkiing up his nose, that the men’s room is the most disgusting place he has ever seen.

We’re the first ones on the bus at 10:00 a.m. As this is the kind of bus that doesn’t leave until it’s full, we sit and wait for an hour, until 11:00, before we finally take off.  As we’re on the east side of Kunming, we’re in countryside almost immediately, and we enjoy the green hills and blue skies, dotted with some nice suburban apartments, on the 1 1/2 hour bus ride to Shilin.

We’re dumped at some kind of depot in Shilin, near the entrance to the park, but we need to find our hotel and check in.  We’d also like to get some lunch.  We find a taxi after much hassle, as no one at this depot speaks English; we’re then taken to the Stone Forest Holiday Inn, where we find that no one at the hotel speaks English.  The hotel seems far removed from anywhere else, and though we try to find out about a restaurant, we cannot get any information from the staff, who all just look at us as if we’re creatures from Mars.  We finally give up and ask about the entrance to the park.  We’re waved to the right direction outside the hotel.  We start walking, not having any clue how far we have to walk to the entrance.  Finally, after about 500 meters, we come upon the entrance to the Stone Forest.

Entrance to the Stone Forest

Entrance to the Stone Forest

All waterways lead to the Stone Forest

All waterways lead to the Stone Forest

Just inside the entrance, after paying our combined entrance fee of 360 yuan (~$58), we see the usual hordes of Chinese tourists along with this pretty little pond.

Little pond immediately upon entering the Stone Forest

Little pond immediately upon entering the Stone Forest

Our first priority is to find a restaurant.  Usually Chinese parks have all kinds of places to eat, but we can’t find anything here.  We follow the crowds along a road lined with buildings that seem to have no purpose.  We come to a spot where people are queuing up to get on small open-air minibuses, and we hop on one of them.  We take a ride counterclockwise around the perimeter of the park, enjoying the scenery along the way.  We’re determined to get off if we see any kind of food kiosk.

We find a food stand along the road in front of the Minor Stone Forest Scenic Area.  We find some bread snacks and sit on a beautiful green lawn among the karst formations to enjoy our small and insufficient picnic.

The Minor Stone Forest Scenic Area

The Minor Stone Forest Scenic Area

A placard in the park tells the origins of the word karst:  Karst was initially a transliteration of the German term karst.  Originally, karst was the name of a limestone area in the Istria Peninsula of Slovenia in Europe where limestone is widespread. At the end of the 19th century, Czechoslovakian scholar J. Cvijic researched the grotesque limestone landform and termed it karst.  Since then, karst has become international geological jargon referring to the dissolution process and morphological features occurring in carbonate rock.  In China, karst is also called Yangong.

After our picnic, we head into a dense karst area where we can climb to a viewing pavilion.

The Stone Forest

The Stone Forest

Limestone pinnacles

Limestone pinnacles

view from above

view from above

view from the minibus around the Stone Forest

Stone Forest

views from the perimeter road

Stone Forest karst landform

The Stone Forest

The Stone Forest

Stone Forest

Stone Forest

Odd-shaped pinnacles

Odd-shaped pinnacles

peak ecstasy

peak ecstasy

Back to our picnic area, we find a sign introducing The Minor Stone Forest Scenic Area:  It is well known for its elegance.  The rich peaks and pillars are distributed in delicate spatial configurations amidst trees and meadows.

The Minor Stone Forest Scenic Area

The Minor Stone Forest Scenic Area

The Minor Stone Forest

The Minor Stone Forest

We head across a small pool into the Major Stone Forest area, which is a dense forest of karst pinnacles with stone walkways and steps built through it.

I love how Chinese signs at tourist attractions are so romanticized.  A sign here says: This tiny water pool is called Lotus Flower Pool with majestic Major Stone Forest to its south and beautiful Minor Stone Forest to the north.  This water pool is encompassed by fragrant magnolia, carpet-like lawn, and evergreen ivy.  Thousands of red carps are swimming in the clean water.

Lotus Flower Pool

Lotus Flower Pool

odd-shaped peaks

odd-shaped peaks

Another sign we find in a green valley informs us: On the left side of the gorges, green vines have fully covered the rock, whereas not a single vine has grown on the right side.  As the legend goes, this is where Ashima and her lover Ahei chanted their songs of love accompanied by wooden and leaf musical instruments, hence the name “The Lovers Valley.” It was once the shooting set for The Monkey King Subdues Thrice the White-bone Demon in the TV series Journey to the West.

Lovers Valley

Lovers Valley

Lovers Valley

Lovers Valley

Major Stone Forest peaks

Major Stone Forest peaks

As we wander further into the depths of the pinnacles, the crowds thin out considerably and we have the Stone Forest almost to ourselves.

Inside Major Stone Forest

Inside Major Stone Forest

Major Stone Forest

Major Stone Forest

In the depths

In the depths

Inside Major Stone Forest

Inside Major Stone Forest

Steps in Major Stone Forest

Steps in Major Stone Forest

Alex climbing in the Stone Forest

Alex climbing in the Stone Forest

Major Stone Forest

Major Stone Forest

Major Stone Forest

Major Stone Forest

A Thread of the Sky refers to those deep and narrow rock cracks and channels.  They developed along the vertical cracks (joints) due to water erosion.  When you walk into these locations, only a thread of the sky can be seen from below as the surrounding precipitous rocks block almost all the incoming daylight.

Inside the Major Stone Forest

Inside the Major Stone Forest

Gnarly trees in the Major Stone Forest

Gnarly trees in the Major Stone Forest

Red rocks in the Major Stone Forest

Red rocks in the Major Stone Forest

Major Stone Forest

Major Stone Forest

At the bottom of the rock wall, there’s a cavity whose dimension allows a person to crawl in and out. It’s called Rock Prison. Says the sign: Inside is a steep and narrow valley surrounded by high-rising peaks that may even block flappy birds.  According to legend, during Yianfeng Emperor’s reign in Qing Dynasty, it was the location for Zhao Fa, leader of the ethnic Yi people’s insurgent forces, to imprison his prisoners of war.  It was once the shooting set for The Monkey King’s Imprisonment under the Five-Finger Mountains by Gautana Buddha.

Alex at the entrance to Rock Prison

Alex at the entrance to Rock Prison

We emerge from the depths of the Major Stone Forest and begin to walk back along the perimeter road in a clockwise direction, returning over the same territory where we rode the minibus earlier in a counterclockwise direction.  Now we can enjoy some closer views of the areas we zipped past.

Categories: karst, Karst landform, Kunming, Shilin, Stone Forest, Travel, Yunnan Province | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

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