Stone Forest is known as "the No.1 Wonder Sight in the World", "The hometown of Ashima" and the Museum of Karst Topography. It is located in Yi Autonomous County of Yunnan Province, 78 km away from Kunming. Due to a process of weathering and erosion, nature has created an art gallery of stone sculpture here. In 2004, the Stone Forest was designated as world geopark and world heritage sites by UNESCO.
With an area of 1,100 sq km., protection zone of 350 sq km, the Stone Forest is the only one karst physiognomy in sub-tropical plateau area. This typical karst physiognomy takes the form of a forest of stone pillars and boulders. It is as if the countless stone shapes have sprung from the ground, assuming different shapes as if vying to surpass each other in grandeur and sublime beauty.
Some look like sheets or pillars, others resemble swords raised towards the sky while others, standing in pairs, suggest scenes of young lovers overjoyed in reunion or sad at parting or of a mother and child strolling side by side. Among the sights in the Stone Forest are Lion Arbor, Sword Peak Pond, Lotus Peak, Moon Lake, Jade Lake, and Dadie Waterfall.
The Stone Forest was formed in the Permian Period, some 270 million years ago. The entire scenic zone consists of the Major Stone Forest, the Minor Stone Forest, Naigu Stone Forest, Dadieshui Waterfall, Changhu Lake, Yuehu Lake, Zhiyun Cave and Qifeng Cave etc.
Major Stone Forest
This area is composed of erecting peaks in big density. Appearing slate-gray, the highest of them is found to be as tall as 40 meters. Main sights inside include "the Lotus Peak", "the Sword-peak Pond", "One Hundred of Tons Hung by a Hair", "Too Narrow for Only One Person to Pass", "the Elephant Sitting on the Platform" and "the Phoenix Combing its Wings" etc. The highlight of the Major Stone Forest is "the Highlight of the Stone Forest" near the inscription by Mr. Lun Yun (1884-1962) who was the former governor of Yunnan Province in the 1930s. The "View Pavilion" constructed amid the peaks is the ideal place for visitors to overlook the grotesque rocks.
Minor Stone Forest
Compared to the Major Stone Forest, the Minor Stone Forest features sparse, elegant and graceful. Giant and overwhelming stone screens divide the Minor Stone Forest into several parts. Impressively, the natural stone locally called "Ah Shi Ma" is said to be the avatar of the Sani girl in the legend of "Ah Shi Ma". Sani is a branch of the Yi ethnic minority; and "Ah Shi Ma" is the nickname for the young Sani ladies.
Naigu Stone Forest
Naigu Stone Forest is also referred to as "Heisongyan" Scenic Area that is approximately 8 kilometers to north of the Major Stone Forest. When overlooked, this area resembles to a dark-green pine forest thus the name. In the Sani dialect, "Naigu" indicates "dark" or "black"; so Heisongyan Scenic Area is normally called "Naigu Stone Forest".
26 kilometers away from the Major Stone Forest, Changhu Lake is 1,907 meters above the sea level. Its profile looks like a slim lady. Changhu Lake Area is said to be the hometown of “Ah Shi Ma”. Seldom visited by tourists because it's shrouded among mounts and forests, Chnaghu Lake is vividly denominated "Canghu" which means "a hidden lake" in Chinese.
Being 12 km away from the Major Stone Forest, Yuehu Lake is 1,906 meters above the sea level. It is 1.500 kilometers long with the average depth of 18 meters and the total water coverage of appr. 3 sq km. Yuehu Lake is the biggest among those lakes in the vicinity of the Major Stone Forest. To the south of Yuehu Lake is a mountain overspread with limestones; the tiny but cute stalagmites can likewise astonish visitors. To the north is vast green meadow; while to the east are the undulating mounts, verdant trees and pastoral Sani villages.
How to get
You can join tours organized by travel services in Kunming, or take Tour Bus to the Major Stone Forest at Kunming East Bus Station; public bus available between the Major Stone Forest and Naigu Stone Forest;
Jiuxing Karst Cave, 35 km; Dadieshui Waterfall, 20 km; Azhuodi Sani Village, Nuohei Sani Village and Wukeshu Sani Village and other Sani Villages. If you are interested in local market, you can choose to go to the Local Market in Lunan (county seat of Shilin County).
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