GUIZHOU KARST LANDSCAPES

GUIZHOU KARST LANDSCAPES

Guizhou is famous for it Karst landscapes, particularly its fengcong and fenglin Tony Waltham wrote in “Cave and Karst Science”: Fengcong and fenglin are the two major types of karst terrain as defined in Chinese literature. They correlate only loosely with the Western terms of cone and tower karst respectively. With its isolated towers rising from a karst plain, fenglin is the most extreme form of karst landscape, and much of it may evolve from fengcong where tectonic uplift is critically slow, but overall it appears to be polygenetic. It is suggested that fengcong and fenglin are more useful karst terms with genetic implications and should take precedence, whereas cones and towers should be used purely as descriptive terms.” [Source: Tony Waltham, Cave and Karst Science 35(3):77-88 · January 2008]

“Typical fengcong terrain consists of roughly equally-spaced conical hills and deep dolines, with local relief that is anything from 30 meters to over 300 meters. This has commonly been labelled as egg-box topography, a conveniently descriptive term for the crowded hills with intervening depressions largely devoid of integrated valley systems, but this degree of perfection is rarely attained. The best examples are found in the Guizhou karst in China, where huge swathes of land are formed of very well developed cones that are close to symmetrical and rise to relatively sharp summits. Detailed measurements across large sectors of the fengcong in western Guizhou revealed remarkably uniform slope angles of 45–47° on cones of all sizes (Xiong, 1992). However mean cone slopes in the fengcong are steeper than 50° in the Shuicheng area, and many are 55–60° in the Anshun area, both also in Guizhou.

Variations in slope angles and cone profiles are created by contrasts within the bedrock lithology. Many cones, even in Guizhou, have more ragged or stepped profiles influenced by stronger beds within the limestone sequences (Fig.6), and some in the Guilin karst have asymmetrical escarpment profiles in steeply-dipping limestones. Guizhou cones of weaker, shale-rich limestones have rather lower slope angles (Xiong, 1992). Much of the Caribbean cone karst is also more irregular, due to strong lithological variations in Puerto Rico (Monroe, 1976) and to a host of geological factors in Jamaica (Aub, 1969b). The Gunung Sewu area of Java (Lehmann, 1936; Waltham et al., 1983) is commonly referred to as the type example of cone karst, yet its hills have domed profiles with rounded summits, and noticeably lack the much sharper summits of the true cones in the Guizhou fengcong. Their profiles approach hemispherical except that their lower flanks never steepen to beyond about 30°. The same applies to the karst hills of the Cockpit Country in Jamaica (Sweeting, 1958), though these are not quite so regular in profile and some do steepen into cliffs around their lower margins. Similarly low domed hills are known in Guizhou where they are formed on dolomitic limestones.”

Zhijin Cave

Zhijin Cave (near Minzhai Village, 120 kilometers from Guiyang) is a huge cave in the northwest of Zhijin County which covers over 30,000 square meters. There are 150 scenic spots (ieght major ones), 19 halls and 49 chambers that are open to the public. The average height of the cave is 46 meters (150 feet) and the highest spot is 168 meters (550 feet). The cave is noted for its stalactites, stalagmites, and the clear blue water in its lakes, rivers and waterfalls.

The cavern, discovered in 1980 and turned into a tourist sight in 1988, runs for more than 12 kilometers with a total area of over 700,000 square meters, and is believed to possess the largest unsupported roof span of any cave worldwide. The largest hall is 173 meters wide and 150 meters high. Zhijin Cavern topped the list of China's six most enchanting caverns by Chinese National Geography in 2005.

A fascinating three-layer karst cavern, Zhijin is like a vast underground palace with a superb array of karst formations in aof various sizes, including stone curtains, stalactites, stalagmites, stone pillars and stone flowers. Lighting heightens their effect. You can see formations shaped like mushrooms, flowers, bamboos, rice fields, mountains, animals and ladies. The most spectacular sights include the mysterious "Silver Rain Tree", a 17-meter-tall rare flower-like transparent crystal; the gold silver tower; unusual and rare moonstones; and the mysterious goose-neck growths.

Travel Information: Zhijin is open all year round; Admission: 120 yuan per person in peak-season (March 1-November 30), and 100 yuan per person in low-season (December 1-February 28); Hours Open: 8:00am-5:00pm; Getting There: in Minzhai Village, Zhijin County, 23 kilometers northeast of the county proper and 120 kilometers away from Guiyang. You can take a long-distance bus to Zhijin County from Guiyang Jinyang Bus Station, and take a taxi to Zhijin Cavern. You can also get off at Sanjia Township near Zhijin, and then transfer onto a mini-bus headed for Zhijin Cavern.

Huanggoushu Waterfall: Asia’s Largest Waterfall

Huanggoushu Waterfall (47 kilometers south of Anshun City and 137 kilometers from Guiyang) is the largest waterfall in China and Asia in terms of the amount of water that drops over the edge. Bordering Zhenning County and Guanling County, these falls are 77.8 meters (255 feet) high, and 101 meters (331 feet) across. In the middle of the falls water cascades over a cliffside cave, which can be reached on a slippery trail for an inside view of the falls. The falls are most impressive in the rainy season from May to October. Website: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Huangguoshu (Huang Guoshu) means “Yellow Fruit Tree”. The waterfall lie on the Baishui (White Water) River in the southwest of Zhenning Bouyei and Miao autonomous county. Near Huangguoshu the Baishui River riverbed splits and cascades into the Rhinoceros Pool.. The waterfall, along with 18 minor but equally beautiful waterfalls, such as the Luositan Waterfall, Silver-Chain Waterfall and Dishuitan Waterfall, is also known as the Huangguoshu Waterfalls Cluster. It was included into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1999 as the world's largest waterfall cluster.

Huangguoshu Waterfall is the only waterfall in the world that can be viewed from above, below, front, back, left and right. The main waterfall is 67 meters high and 83.3 meters wide. The Water Curtain Cave, a 134-meter-long naturally formed corridor behind the waterfall, allows visitors to watch, hear and touch the thundering streams making their way down. A colorful rainbow arching across the waterfall from time to time turns the splendid waterscape into a real feast for the eyes.

The karst scenery in the area is very impressive and they are many villages inhabited by Bouyei people. Other falls in the area include Luositan Falls and Yinlianzhui Falls. There are also more than a dozen major caves in the area. The Tianxinqiao Stone Forests boasts outdoor stalactites and stalagmites. The Tianxing Scenic Zone, an important part of the Huangguoshu Scenic Resort, lies 6,000 meters from the Huangguoshu Waterfall, encomposing the Tianxing Miniature Landscapes, Tianxing Cave and Yinlian Zhuitan Waterfall.

Travel Information: Best time to go: During the rainy season from July to October; Admission: 180 yuan per person in peak season (March 1-October 31), and 160 yuan per person in low-season (November 1-Febraruy 28) (The fee covers the waterfall, Tianxingqiao Bridge and Doupotang Scenic Areas); Hours Open: 8:00am-6:00pm Getting There: You can take a bus to the waterfall at Anshun Railway Station, Anshun South Bus Station or Anshun West Bus Station.

Guizhou: the Land of Waterfalls

Seven kilometers southwest to the Huangguoshui Waterfall, there is the Guanling Waterfall with biggest fall. It is situated 4 kilometers north to the Guanling Bouyei and Miao autonomous county, and it is a pride of the Baling River Canyon. The waterfall consists of seven grades with the total fall of 410 meters. Each grade has its special features and charms. The first grade is the Silver Snake Waterfall like a silver snake wandering in the hill with vivid and various kinds of beauties; the second grade is the Cloudy Cliff Waterfall like water patting on the cloudy cliff, the waves and surfs flying fiercely; the third grade is the Sky Converging Waterfall as the waves ascending high to the sky and the water and cloud mixed together; the fourth grade is the Flying Skiff Waterfall as the water is so powerful that it could halt the flying skiff, it is the combination of dynamic and static; the fifth grade is the Fury Waterfall as the cloud is rising and the water is raging, which is quite a shocking scene; the sixth grade is the Dragon Waterfall like a dragon descending to the Longyan (dragon rock) with thunderous roar; the seventh grade is Dripping Waterfall like a fairy coming to the secular world with elegance and gentleness. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn ~]

“At the cross border between Guanling county and Zhenning county, there is the Na Daguan Waterfall, which is also called the Guan Jiao Waterfall. It has 18 grades in all and the fall is 140 meters. Because the canyon cut is more than 700 meters deep and full of pits, holes and small ponds, the sound is extremely loud like the thunder rumbling within the valley and shaking the hill and the ground.

Around the Huangguoshu (Yellow Fruit Tree) Waterfall we can also find Dou Potang Waterfall, whose width is 105 meters at the top, 20 meters more than that of Huangguoshu Waterfall. At Shui Liandong Waterfall in Guan Lingtai Hill, there is a huge cave behind the waterfall. Tourists can enjoy it in the cave as looking at the curtain with freshness. Feeling as a celestial being will drive away all the troubles. Da Shuyan Waterfall is formed by the strong spring from a mouth of a cave on the cliff after the Fan Hua River flows for 2 miles underground. The diameter of the mouth is around 7 or 8 meters and the height of the waterfall is more than 30 meters. It looks like a dragon spitting out water fiercely and splendidly. Xia Guai Waterfall got its name to its position, which is at Xia Guai village of the Bouyei people. Since it falls vertically from the top of the cliff for more than 20 meters, the water smashes on the rocks at the bottom and rebound like waves, forming the second grade waterfall. Lu Mei Waterfall was named after the wonderful scenes around; The Silver Cloth Falling into Pool Waterfall belongs to the type of water dropping from cave; Natual Born Bridge Waterfall also consists of two grades, one is Gui Hua River flows into the underground and vent from a cave on the cliff, the other is Gui Hua River falls directly from the cliff; the particularity of Luo Yelong Waterfall lies in its pool in autumn. The water is tinted with two colors; the north of the pool is bluish green while the south is light red and flowery yellow. The demarcation is quite clear.

“In the stalactite caves of Bouyei areas, there are not only colorful stalactites as if they are carved by natural spirits, but there is also plenty of water, which could form a river, then pond, and then waterfall. Around the scenery spots or the waterfalls, always can a Bouyei village be found hidden in the canyon and the huge trees. The Bouyei people are really living in the arms of nature. Verdant hills establish several layers of pictures for them; old trees prop up the sunshades for them; waterfalls prepare harps for them; gurgling streams are constantly singing for them. They are the sons of hills, daughters of the rivers, and brethren of the trees and flowers. They love their hometown and nature. They are simple and beautiful, and quite emotional. Their beauty is natural, harmonious, intoxicating, and admirable.

Huangguoshu Scenic Area: Living Among Beautiful Karst Scenery

Huangguoshu Scenic Area (around Huangguoshu Waterfall, 50 kilometers southwest of Anshun and 140 kilometers from Guiyang) was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2019. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau is located in the south of China. It belongs to the watershed region in the karst plateau rising between Sichuan Basin and Guangxi Hill. Located in the subtropical humid monsoon climate, the property has a hot and rainy summer, mild and humid winter rainfall. There is widespread limestone in the property, together with intense karstification. Karst landforms and landscapes, for instance,fengcong, fenglin, karst depressions and karst gorge caves, are widespread. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

Tony Waltham wrote in “Cave and Karst Science”: Fengcong and fenglin are the two major types of karst terrain as defined in Chinese literature. They correlate only loosely with the Western terms of cone and tower karst respectively. With its isolated towers rising from a karst plain, fenglin is the most extreme form of karst landscape, and much of it may evolve from fengcong where tectonic uplift is critically slow, but overall it appears to be polygenetic. It is suggested that fengcong and fenglin are more useful karst terms with genetic implications and should take precedence, whereas cones and towers should be used purely as descriptive terms.”

The report to UNESCO continues: “Karst landscape is widespread within the Huangguoshu component and the Tunpu component. Fengcong depressions, waterfalls and other karst landscapes provide a pleasing aesthetic value. The level of primitive forests and biological diversity within the Getu River component are in relatively pristine condition. Miaoting, an underground cave in the south of the Getu River component which is about 1.078×107 m³, is the biggest cave in volume in the world.

“As a unique case of human settlement sand land-use formed by the adoption of ancient farming culture systems of plains and natural environment of karst plateau in the east of Asia, as well as an outstanding representative of the farming landscape of karst mountain plateau created by human beings since the 14th century, Huangguoshu Scenic Area is considered to be a cultural heritage with its unique cultural landscape. Being a living illustration of the expansion of ancient farming culture from plains to mountains, the farming culture, water culture, food culture, architectural culture, belief systems and other cultural landscape dating back to 14th century are well-preserved.

“ Huanguoshu Landscape represents the harmony of the ethnic group and karst plateau. The traditional stonework house, the layouts of ancient villages, architectural structure and lifestyle are of important meaning to research historical social structure, which present the abundant social civilization of their long history. Getu River Scenic Spot is a traditional settlement of Miao with the culture of stilt buildings, cave villages, cave burials and rock climbing. It is an exceptional example of cultural landscapes created by people who take advantage of land, water and biological resources in karst areas. The site is completely preserved in the land-use of karst plateau in southwestern China deriving from 14th century. Reconstructing the culture, technology and belief systems of the farming community in southwestern China, Huangguoshu Scenic Area is described as a living fossil of the village cultures remained in 14th century. Being the unique remains of the farming community, culture, technology and the belief systems since 14th century, Huangguoshu Scenic Area is considered to be of global uniqueness.”

Coordinates of the Main Sites in Huangguoshu Scenic Spot: Huangguoshu Waterfall N 25 57 08 E 105 40 05, Dishuitan Waterfall N 25 59 29 E 105 36 21, Gaodang Ancient Village N 26 04 02 E 105 40 25; 2) Getu River Scenic Spot: N 25 42 21 E 106 15 07; 3) Tunpu Scenic Spot:, Yunshantun-Benzhai Ancient Village N 26 17 15 E 106 04 26, Baojiatun Ancient Irrigation System N 26 18 57 E 106 06 35, Tiantaishan Ancient Temple N 26 21 01 E 106 10 46

Huangguoshu Scenic Area Geology

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Since the Tertiary Period, with the strong neotectonic uplift of Himalayan orogeny and tropical and subtropical humid climates, the strong erosion of the northern Yangtze River system and the southern Pearl River system has formed the plateau-gorge landform structure, which is often distinguished by the geomorphological erosion cycle knickpoint type waterfall. The plateau-gorge landform structure is composed of two significantly different but closely related geomorphic units-the plateau area and the gorge area. In the background of the special regional units, Huangguoshu Scenic Area is created with completely different but closely related landform type, development and evolution, landscape characteristics, living environment, human habitation, land use, and regional culture.” [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

Huangguoshu Scenic Area “is an outstanding representative of the geomorphic and physiographic features of plateau karst in China, Asia and even the whole world. The neotectonic movement accompanied by frequent intermissions varies the drainage water-table, leads frequent transformation of horizontal and vertical development. This resulted in stepped landscape combination of Huangguoshu Scenic Spot, and developed spectacular phenomenon of 9 stepped waterfalls with different cause of formation, shape and style within 500 meters vertical elevation. Fast sloping uplift of Neotectonic movement leads rejuvenation in plateau edges where is near to drainage water-table, the Yangtze River system and the Pearl River system.

“The Getu River Scenic Spot area displays deepward development. It contains not only globally rare plateau gorge groups and cave groups, which are formed by vertical cut of groundwater; but also owns deepest underground river shaft tiankeng (giant dolines)-Xiangshuidong Cave, and Miao Cave hall with biggest volume in the world. Siphon in Miao cave hall are phenomena representing significant on-going geological evolution processes. The neotectonic movement, an increasingly large-scale uplift, delayed some plateau landform development where is far from drainage water-table, the Yangtze River system and the Pearl River system, have triggered formation of plateau area or fenglin plain-inherited landform development of Tunbu landscape. As a result, the site meets criterion (viii) on revealing the stepped occurrence of the landform spatial zonation with intermittent development and the formation of large waterfall group, formation of deepward development of the underground river typed gorge and the large cave hall, inherited development of plateau landform and the evolution of the fenglin plain.”

Huangguoshu Scenic Area Geological History

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Epeirogenic and orogenic * activities in the late Cenozoic Era have given us a landscape of exceptional diversity, complexity and beauty (Bloom, 1978). Huangguoshu Scenic Area is an outstanding example of the response of Cenozoic landform to the neotectonic movement in the history of the Earth’s evolution. It can be treated as an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement and land-use, with exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.” [Footnote: * 1) epeirogenic movement is upheavals or depressions of land exhibiting long wavelengths and little folding apart from broad undulations. 2) orongeny is a process in which a section of the earth's crust is folded and deformed by lateral compression to form a mountain range.]

“The large-scale uplift of the neotectonic causes the delayed development of the plateau inland which is far from trunk rivers as base-level, the Yangtze River system and the Pearl River system, constituting the plateau area and the inherited development area of Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, which forms Tunpu Scenic Spot characterized by conic fenglin in plateau basin and plateau basin farming culture integrated with the natural aesthetics of fenglin and harmonious beauty between the land and Tunpu people. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

“With the rapid and intense uplift of neotectonic movement, karstification around the edges of plateau adjacent to the trunk rivers as base-level, the Yangtze River system and the Pearl River system, is rejuvenated, constituting the gorge area and the deep development area of Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, which forms Getu River Scenic Spot integrated with the natural scenery dominated by gorges and light through caves, as well as humanity landscapes represented by Miao villages. The intermittent uplift results in intense changes of the base-level of the Yangtze River system and the Pearl River system, frequently alternating karstification in both vertical and lateral ways and accordingly a stepped occurrence of spatial zonation, forming Huangguoshu Scenic Spot characterized by various karst waterfalls, unique scenery of karst landscapes and farming culture of the Bouyei people in plateau basin.

People of the Huangguoshu Scenic Area

According to the report submitted to UNESCO: “Huanggoushu Scenic Area has recorded the communication and fusion between farming culture of plateau dam and the mountain gorges since 1370, which perfectly reflects the survival wisdom of the mountain ethnic groups adapting the mountain environment in China and the world. It is of historical evidence that the rational use of mountain resources, of which human utilize the resource granted by nature. In Huangguoshu Scenic Spot, the ancient Bouyei village records the formation of the water culture and architecture culture under the influence of foreign culture, which is the material evidence of ethnic groups utilizing the possibility of natural endowment to obtain subsistence and development reflecting the dependence relationship between human and karst fenglin, fengcong and depression. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

“Getu River Scenic Spot, including ancient Miao villages, cave villages, cave burial, hanging coffin, illustrates the unique living pattern and natural belief built by human beings using the limited survival conditions supported by karst environment. It is considered to be the final and largest cave house of traditional cave lifestyle of local ethnic groups. In Tunpu Scenic Spot, paddy-upland rotation in mountain pastoral and the traditional agricultural systems of are the vivid example of the intensive cultivation in China and even East Asia since the 14th century and living fossils reflecting the agriculture diversity in the world; In Yunshantun-Benzhai Ancient Village, the traditional settlements of Tunpu are built using local stone and followed the geography, integrated with different understandings to mountainous nature and culture of different groups.

“The creative use of stone and wood creates the living space of different groups, is in a high harmony with natural environment. Baojiatun Ancient Irrigation System, which has experienced more than 600 years, reflecting the relationship between human and water, people and people, is a living example of the dependency relationship between people and nature in mountains; Tiantaishan Ancient Temple, the typical representative of Tunpu temple culture which has experienced more than 400 years, is a model of stone buildings and a collection of the Buddhism, the Taoism and the Confucianism, which integrates the functions of religious and military defense. Huangguoshu Scenic Area is an outstanding creation of different traditional cultures in karst areas, where the Yangtze-Huaihe culture (Tunpu culture), Miao culture and Bouyei culture in ancient China are completely preserved. The buildings with distinct regional characteristics are representative models of the architecture art of traditional villages in ancient China, providing a strong evidence for the research on traditional culture, ancient architectures and inhabitation forms of human beings.”

Huangguoshu Scenic Spot

According to the report submitted to UNESCO: Huangguoshu Scenic Spot reflects the interaction between Bouyei culture and karst environment, which is an outstanding example of Bouyei people in using traditional natural resources. It is also the wisdom of the Bouyei culture in the changing times. The continuous development of stonework village provides strong evidence for the research on Bouyei history. The ancient building complex not only reflects the architecture styles at that time but also human’s traditional lifestyle. In addition, it implies the rich cultural connotation of Bouyei people. Making full use of its topographic advantages and reflecting the proper application of Bouyei culture in karst areas, military camp historic sites are the evidences of the local people depending on the nature to survive and the reflections of social conditions and the historical context in the 14th century. Suoluo Bridge provides an evidence of land use in harmonious with nature, reflecting the creativity of Bouyei people. Gaodang Village was built in Ming Dynasty. The whole village was built in accordance with the topography and neatly arranged. It embodies the pursuit of aesthetics and natural harmony in architecture of Bouyei people. It is also a unique witness of human existence in karst area and forms the most distinctive and outstanding cultural landscape. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

“Huangguoshu Scenic Spot has the natural wonders of clustered waterfalls, star-studded lakes and rising peaks. There are not only various karst waterfalls, unique karst geological landscapes and traditional minority villages with historic humanity relics, but also the colorful natural view and fresh and pleasant idyllic scenery. The aesthetic elements of Huangguoshu Scenic Area, including magnificence, precipitousness, grace, peace and mystery, are presented one by one.

“The grand waterfall landscape, turbulent, magnificent and majestic, is various in four seasons. The unique, multiple-shaped karst stone forests and the cave elements in thousands of postures constitute a huge natural garden in the whole, locally being mountain-rock and water-rock natural miniascape. The stone-based village of Bouyei, with unique minority features, is preserved well, which is built by Bouyei people following natural regulations and conditions. The Ancient Tea-Horse Road has a long history. The rivers wind in valleys like a green ribbon. The changeable water landscape, pretty waterfall and beach, green vegetation reflect the perfect and harmonious unity of human beings and nature.”

Huangguoshu Scenic Spot Geology

According to the report submitted to UNESCO: “With the intermittent uplift by neotectonism in Huangguoshu Scenic Spot, the frequent changes of the base-level, the Yangtze River system and the Pearl River system, result in alternating karstification in both vertical and lateral ways, and accordingly the stepped occurrence of spatial zonation of Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau and rare 9 stepped waterfalls. During the rapid uplift by the neotectonism and the downcutting by the trunk rivers, the karst is rejuvenated and adjusted to this increasing available relief toward the fengcong-depression karst. Each uplift leaves a knickpoint, Huangguoshu, Hejulai and Guanjiaoxia knickpoints for instance, on riverbed and it retreats toward the headwater during the stillstand, finally forming Huangguoshu Waterfall. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

“The development stages of Huangguoshu Waterfall began with sinkhole, then the underground river collapse, and its reverse evolution process after being eroded. It’s a typical representative of erosion knickpoint-typed waterfalls. The landform combination of grand waterfalls, stepped waterfall groups, caves and natural bridges is seldom seen in the world.

“The frequent changes of the base-level following pulses of the neotectonics result in Huangguoshu Waterfall of the frequent headward erosion. These effects spread from the lower reach of the trunk rivers to the upper reach, obviously showing Huangguoshu Waterfall’s whole evolution stages of sinkhole, underground river collapse, and the erosion and retrogression of the waterfall itself. As a typical region for research on the alternating change of the base-level, layered landform development, head erosion-typed and remarkable stepped waterfalls in response to intermittent uplift of neotectonics in plateau inland, Huangguoshu Scenic Spot is of high scientific value.”

Huangguoshu Scenic Spot and the Bouyei People

According to the report submitted to UNESCO: “Huanguoshu Landscape is the production of Bouyei culture in karst areas. The site consists of ancient villages, the ruins of bridge and military camps, which reflects the living of Bouyei in the past 600 years and the harmony between human and nature. It remains exceptionally well-preserved ancient architecture type, craven patterns, sacrificial rites and defensive system. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

“Consisting of national villages, the remains of military camps and ancient bridges, Huangguoshu Scenic Spot depicts a picture of Bouyei people’s life in history and provides a certainly example of the interaction between human beings and natural environment. The Bouyei people of Huangguoshu Scenic Spot make full use of the karst mountain resources and the location of the mountains and rivers to develop themselves. They used stones surrounding them to build stonework villages with exceptional nation features, cultivate crops on each bank of the rivers and take advantage of the river water to irrigate. They also built a bridge named Suoluo on the Suoluo River in the upstream regions of Huangguoshu River to obtain a convenient traffic and communication. In order to resist forays and warfare from other minorities, they utilize the special mountainous topography to built military camps, such as Xiaotun and Datun, on the mountaintops.

“With the social development, the original functions of military camps have disappeared. There are only ruins preserved because of disrepair and deterioration. Huanguoshu Landscape is an outstanding example of a well-preserved traditional human settlement representative of Bouyei culture which has become vulnerable under the threat of population growing, urbanization and tourism.”

Getu River Scenic Spot

Getu River Scenic Area (77 kilometers southwest of Anshun) is regarded as one of the most beautiful examples of Karst landscape in the world. It is part of the Huangguoshu Scenic Area, which was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2019. According to the report submitted to UNESCO: “There are some pretty landscape combinations of karst, gorges and caves in Getu River (Getuhe) Scenic Area, called a rare karst nature park. It almost contains all the features of karst landform, such as fenglin, fengcong, gorges, valleys, depressions, most of which are rarely seen in the world. On both sides of Getu River River are full of beautiful scenery, such as cliffs, stone inscriptions, cave burials, cliff coffins” and the world’s second largest undergorund chamber. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

“The three caves of Dachuandong, Wangtiandong and Shangchuandong share the same sky, forming the magnificent and wonderful views. Shangchuandong Cave is the highest remains of fossil river course; Xiangshuidong Cave is the deepest shaft of underground rivers with the depth of 216 meters; there exist the final troglodytism tribe in human history — Miao Village in Zhongdong Cave. It not only has shown the skillful works of heaven, but the harmonious beauty of nature respecting and remodeling by human. Getu River Scenic Spot is a serial interconnected whole, constituting the unique karst natural park.

Getu River Scenic Spot “ assembles valleys, rivers and pristine vegetation as a whole, with the features of magnificence, precipitousness, deep and serene, grace and pretty and primitive simplicity. They are representative and valuable in ornament, science, aesthetic, preservation. In Getu River Scenic Spot, the rich karst landscapes are grand with various landscape types and high quality, and Miao culture has followed from one generation to next

Cool Stuff and Places Related to the Getu River

Miao Hanging Coffins: The cliffs along both sides of the Getu River are home to the hanging coffins of the Miao people. Hundreds of thousands of ancient coffins are placed in the caves on the cliffs. The hanging coffins were buried in caves and survived more than 1,000 years of natural catastrophes. [Source: China Daily, chinadaily.com.cn, December 10, 2014]

According to the report to UNESCO: “Getu River Cave Burial: The water flows through the wide cave. Being spacious, the hole is 10 meters high and 30 meters wide. From the entrance to the cave, there are about thirty or forty meters. The coffins were placed on the prominent and huge rock since the Qing Dynasty. We can see hundreds of coffins regularly placed on shaped wooden frame, classified into five rows, head outwards or inwards.

Miao Free Climbing: The Miao singer Donglang practiced a free-climbing stunt as they carry the decedent for burial in cliffs along the river. The stunt has been handed down from generation to generation for more than a thousand years, so the Miao ethnic group could climb the extremely tall cliff of thousands of feet without any protection facilities.

Village Inside a Cave: Zhongdongqianfudong village is considered the mountain's eyes. It is located on the hillside of a large mountain near a river. The cave is vast and spacious with a Miao village established inside. The village can accommodate more than 1,000 people and hundreds of topless wooden houses. A school was built around the cave. For generations, Miao people were born, lived and buried in the nearby cave. They are known as the last cave tribe in the world.

Earth Loophole: Rushing water has carved out the world's deepest giant shaft, the Tiankeng-Xiangshui Hole, in the central mountains. The hole is called the "earth loophole" due to its great size and extreme depth. On a 1,200-meter-high mountain top, visitors can see the ancient river cutting a large hole through the mountain like a heavenly gate.

Miao Chamber, the Second Largest Underground Chamber in the World, occupies 140,540 square meters and measures 336 x 824 x 177 meters. According to the China Daily: “At the base of the mountain, the water from the Getu River and underground water from all directions work together to dig out the world's second largest cave hall...The large underground space is called the earth's shell.The largest underground chamber in the world is Sarawak Chamber in Lubang Nasib Bagus in Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia. It occupies 154,530 square meters and measures 429 x 641 x 113 meters.

Getu River Scenic Spot Geology

According to the report submitted to UNESCO: Getu River Scenic Spot: Because of the rapid, intense uplift by the neotectonism, the karstification around the edges of the plateau adjacent to base level is rejuvenated to form the deepward developmental Getu River Scenic Spot. It not only develops rare plateau gorge groups and cave groups in response to vertical incision of underground water, but the underground chamber with the largest volume and the deepest underground river shaft tiankeng (Xiangshuidong Cave) in the world. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

“The rapid, intense uplift by the neotectonism and the rejuvenation development around the edges of the plateau adjacent to base level as the Yangtze River system and the Pearl River system constitute the deepward developmental area. The landforms are dominated by plateau gorges and huge caves, including the underground chamber with the largest volume and the deepest underground river shaft. Hydrodynamic force is featured with the evolution pattern from underground rivers to ground surface, and the landform development reflects the ongoing geological evolution process from cave to gorge as the model site of gorge evolution. Therefore, Getu River Scenic Spot satisfies criterion (viii) on reflecting landform rejuventated development, the biggest cave hall and the deepest shaft in the world.

“Because of the rapid, intense uplift by the neotectonism in Getu River Scenic Spot, the karstification around the edges of the plateau adjacent to base level, the Yangtze River system and the Pearl River system, is rejuvenated to form the ―Miao Chamber with the effect of ―Siphon flow . The landform has strongly uplifted since neotectonics and the lower reaches of the main river cut down rapidly at the edge of the plateau. In order to adapt to the declining base and the increasing thickness of the seepage zone, the surface and groundwater cut down vertically through erosion and dissolution, which makes the diverse landform in Getu River Scenic Spot. The landform development reflects the ongoing geological evolution process from cave to gorge, which is a model site of gorge evolution. In the new environment of effective potential increase, any type of landform at any stage may be re-evolved into a new sequence through reverse evolution sequence in the process of reverse ascent. Most of the longitudinal sections of rivers are abnormal, and the main landform is valley. As a typical region for study on the rejuvenation development affected by neotectonics around the edges of the plateau adjacent to trunk rivers as base-level within Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau inland, Getu River Scenic Spot has great scientific value.

Miao People in the Getu River Area and Their Unique Culture

Fifteen groups of Miao people with different languages, clothes and customs live on the banks of the Getu River. According to the report submitted to UNESCO: “The cultural landscape of Miao in Getu River is a social culture generated by using the natural environment in the special karst mountainous area by ancient ethnic Miao of China in the fourteenth Century A.D. The distinctive troglodytism tribe culture, cave burial culture, and climbing culture are the historical witnesses of local people to make the best of the local natural environment. The abundant national culture, agricultural civilization and village building style also reflect the interdependence, mutual development of man and nature in the karst mountainous area. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

“The Miao of Gutuhe is a resident lived in the southwest of China, mountainous area of Southeast Asia. They are approximately isolated with outside in a tough mountainous area, the traditional ways for living had preserved such as cow plow, hand-operated agriculture, corn storing, brewing technology and developed a unique countryside landscape in karst mountain area. The Miao of Gutuhe is still using traditional production tools and techniques to cultivate, and the ancient Miao lifestyle continues to this day and forms a good ecological balance.

“The Miao villages of Gutuhe Area are located in the karst mountainous area on the western of China. As the local residents cut off by the inconvenient traffic, each village has well-preserved their culture. Among them, the cave villages that make full use of local karst caves for living, production and funeral activities are still well preserved and continued. The unique wooden houses, sheds, warehouses and reservoirs with bamboo hedge structure and hanging coffins on the rock walls fully reflect the traditional social structure and national culture of the local Miao people.

“Getu River Scenic Spot is an outstanding example of an ancient natural culture of human beings in the world. It reflects not only an inherited process of ancient natural culture, but also a developing process of an old nation who lived in a landform based on the karst mountain. Getu River Scenic Spot is of unique culture developed in the mountainous area for thousands of years. The exceptional structure of buildings, traditional custom, hanging coffin with cave burial and rock climbing vividly depict the pictures of the inhabitants who use limit resources of land, biology and water to develop in a narrow land of the karst mountain areas. That made a probability for old Miao culture existing in the karst mountain areas and forming an exceptional culture that has not been found in other Chinese karst areas. The present characters of the landscape are the result of Miao culture developing in the karst environment during hundreds of years and it is an outstanding example of a traditional human production and life-style with the natural environment. It is a traditional human settlement representative of a culture on mountain areas which has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible changes such as the developing of modern agriculture, public infrastructures addition, urbanization development and economic policy for poverty alleviation. As a result, the site meets criterion (v) on reflecting the ancient buildings of Miao, troglodytism tribes and the culture of hanging coffin with cave burial.

“Miao is an old nation with a long history. According to the statistics, there are more than 10 million Miao people living in about 20 countries and regions in the world. The Miao culture has a history of over 2,000 years, and the history of the remains of Miao culture is over 600 years. Getu River Scenic Spot is the most complete, multiple and unique culture of Miao in the world. Miao culture in Getu River is formed by the long-term interaction between the culture of Miao and local karst environment. Firstly, Geluohe Scenic Spot is mainly mountainous area. Miao villages are distributed in various fengcong-depressions and fengcong-valleys. Due to the lack of communication caused by topographic obstacles, various types of Miao culture can be developed and preserved. As a result, the most abundant Miao languages in the world are well-preserved in Getu River. Secondly, numerous karst caves and karst hills provided natural environment for the development of multiple Miao culture. Near Xiaochuandong (light through cave), there is the final troglodytism tribe in human history-Miao Village in Zhongdong Cave. The Dahe Miao village located at the middle of Getu River River is an outstanding example of the culture of Miao village in the world, for the conservation of traditional stilt houses, languages, customs, clothing and agriculture production mode. Last but not the least, Getu River Scenic Spot is known in the world for its amazing cultures of cave burial and rock climbing based on the limit natural space. We can reproduce the picture that people overcame the extremely harsh living condition to survive and development hundreds of years ago through the survived Miao village. These unique and precious Miao ancient cultures are of highly historic and cultural values for human beings to understand ancient civilization and human cultural diversity.

Libo County Karst Area

Libo Zhangjiang Scenic Spot (Libo County, 120 kilometers south-southeast of Guiyang) embraces the Xiaoqikong (Small Seven-hole Bridge) Scenic Zone, Daqikong (Large Seven-hole Bridge) Scenic Zone, Shuichun River Scenic Area and Zhangjiang River Scenic Area. Dubbed "Little Jiuzhaigou" a reference to a famous Yellowstone-like scenic area in Sichuan, Xiaoqikong and Daqikong feature a wide array of waterfalls, streams, lakes, forests and fantastic caves as well as chances to view the ethnic cultures of the Shui, Bouyei, Miao and Yao people..

Libo Zhangjiang Scenic Spot covers 273 square kilometers. Dubbed a "green gem", this national scenic area features wild karst scenery interwoven with beautiful waterscapes, forests and striking valleys and mountains. The area, together with the Maolan National Nature Reserve — another amazingly beautiful karst area — was named a World Natural Heritage site in 2007 for its fine examples of karst scenery. Twelve -kilometer-long Xiaoqikong Scenic Zone stands out as the most popular attraction, featuring an ancient stone bridge, 68-layer waterfall, Laya Waterfall, Guibei Mountain, Yuanyang Lake, and a water forest. The water forest provides great views of bizarre plants growing in exceptionally clear water.

The Libo Karst component is one the South China Karst, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. It includes high conical karst peaks, intervening deep enclosed depressions (cockpits), sinking streams and long underground caves. The area is considered a world reference site for cone karst. The property consists of two core areas surrounded by a common buffer. The area is 29,518 hectares with a buffer zone of 43,498 hectares. One of the components is a national nature reserve.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Libo and Huanjiang karst... preserves many unique and iconic inland karst landscapes, including tower karst (fenglin), pinnacle karst (shilin), cone karst (fengcong) and other karst landscapes. Libo karst...includes high-conical karst landscape, deeply incised closed depressions (depressions), underground rivers and longer underground caves. Libo is located in a typical mid-subtropical cone-like fengcong karst landform development area, and they all belong to the fenglin under the effect of plateau karst. . [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

Travel Information: Best time to go: April to August; Admission: 110 yuan per person for Xiaoqikong Scenic Zone, 55 yuan per person for Daqikong Scenic Zone, and 30 yuan/ per person for Shuichun River Scenic Area. Hours Open: 8:00am-5:00pm; Getting There: Take the tourism train from Guiyang City to Mawei Town, Dushan County, get off at Mawei Station, and then transfer onto the bus to Xiaoqikong Scenic Zone. You can also take the bus from Guiyang to Libo County at Guiyang Long-distance Bus Station near Guiyang Railway Station, and then transfer onto the bus to Xiaoqikong Scenic Zone at Libo Bus Station.

Maolan (in Libo County) is a charming town situated in a beautiful karst area. There are many ethnic groups living here, including Bouyei, Shui and Yao. The most famous attraction in the town is Maolan Karst Nature Reserve. Unlike most other karst scenic areas, which are barren, Maolan Nature Reserve covers an area of over 130 square kilometers, with forest covering 91.6 percent. It features over 500 kinds of trees, various wild animals, virgin forest, karst caves and waterfalls Admission: Maolan Town: free; Maolan Karst Nature Reserve: 50 yuan; Getting threre: You can take a bus from Guiyang Bus Station, or Libo County Bus Station to Maolan Karst Nature Reserve.

South China Karst

The South China Karst was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. According to UNESCO: South China Karst is one of the world’s most spectacular examples of humid tropical to subtropical karst landscapes. It is a serial site spread over the provinces of Guizhou, Guangxi, Yunnan and Chongqing and covers 176,228 hectares. It contains the most significant types of karst landforms, including tower karst, pinnacle karst and cone karst formations, along with other spectacular characteristics such as natural bridges, gorges and large cave systems. The stone forests of Shilin are considered superlative natural phenomena and a world reference. The cone and tower karsts of Libo, also considered the world reference site for these types of karst, form a distinctive and beautiful landscape. Wulong Karst has been inscribed for its giant dolines (sinkholes), natural bridges and caves.

“The huge karst area of South China is about 550,000 square kilometers in extent. The karst terrain displays a geomorphic transition as the terrain gradually descends about 2000 meters over 700 kilometers from the western Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau (averaging 2100 meters elevation) to the eastern Guangxi Basin (averaging 110 meters elevation). The region is recognized as the world’s type area for karst landform development in the humid tropics and subtropics. The World Heritage Property of South China Karst is a serial property that includes seven karst clusters in four Provinces: Shilin Karst, Libo Karst, Wulong Karst, Guilin Karst, Shibing Karst, Jinfoshan Karst, and Huanjiang Karst. The total area is 97,125 hectares, with a buffer zone of 176,228 hectares. The property was inscribed in two phases.

“The property contains the most spectacular, scientifically significant and representative series of karst landforms and landscapes of South China from interior high plateau to lowland plains and constitutes the world’s premier example of humid tropical to subtropical karst: one of our planet’s great landscapes. It complements sites that are also present in neighbouring countries, including Viet Nam, where several World Heritage properties also exhibit karst formations. Phase I inscribed in 2007, include three clusters totalling 47,588 hectares, with buffer zones totalling 98,428 hectares.Phase II inscribed in 2014 includes four clusters totaling 49,537 hectares, and buffer zones totaling 77,800 hectares. The property’s forest cover and natural vegetation is mainly intact, providing seasonal variation to the landscape and further enhancing the property’s very high aesthetic value. Intact forest cover also provides important habitat for rare and endangered species, and several components have very high biodiversity conservation value.

“The South China Karst World Heritage property includes spectacular karst features and landscapes, which are both exceptional phenomena, and of outstanding aesthetic quality. It includes the stone forests of Shilin, superlative natural phenomena which include the Naigu stone forest occurring on dolomitic limestone and the Suyishan stone forest arising from a lake, the remarkable fengcong and fenglin karsts of Libo, and the Wulong Karst, which includes giant collapse depressions, called Tiankeng, and exceptionally high natural bridges between them, with long stretches of deep unroofed caves.

“It also includes Guilin, which displays spectacular tower karst and internationally acclaimed fenglin riverine landscapes, Shibing Karst, which has the best known example of subtropical fengcong karst in dolomite, deep gorges and spine-like hills often draped with cloud and mist, and Jinfoshan Karst, which is an isolated island long detached from the Yunnan-Guizhou plateau, surrounded by precipitous cliffs and punctured by ancient caves. Huanjiang Karst provides a natural extension to Libo Karst, contains outstanding fengcong features and is covered in almost pristine monsoon forest.”

Geology and Geomorphology of the South China Karst

The South China Karst World Heritage property protects a diversity of spectacular and iconic continental karst landscapes, including tower karst (fenglin), pinnacle karst (shilin) and cone karst (fengcong), as well as other karst phenomena such as Tiankeng karst (giant dolines), table mountains and gorges. The property also includes many large cave systems with rich speleothem deposits. The karst features and geomorphological diversity of the South China Karst are widely recognized as among the best in the world. The region can be considered the global type-site for three karst landform styles: fenglin (tower karst), fengcong (cone karst), and shilin (stone forest or pinnacle karst).The landscape also retains most of its natural vegetation, which results in seasonal variations and adds to the outstanding aesthetic value of the area.

“The South China Karst World Heritage property reveals the complex evolutionary history of one of the world’s most outstanding landscapes. Shilin and Libo are global reference areas for the karst features and landscapes that they exhibit. The stone forests of Shilin developed over 270 million years during four major geological time periods from the Permian to present, illustrating the episodic nature of the evolution of these karst features. Libo contains carbonate outcrops of different ages shaped over millions of years by erosive processes into impressive Fengcong and Fenglin karsts. Libo also contains a combination of numerous tall karst peaks, deep dolines, sinking streams and long river caves. Wulong represents high inland karst plateaus that have experienced considerable uplift, with giant dolines and bridges. Wulong's landscapes contain evidence for the history of one of the world's great river systems, the Yangtze and its tributaries. Huanjiang Karst is an extension of the Libo Karst component. Together the two sites provide an outstanding example of fengcong karst and also preserve and display a rich diversity of surface and underground karst features.

“Guilin Karst is considered the best known example of continental fenglin and provides a perfect geomorphic expression of the end stage of karst evolution in South China. Guilin is a basin at a relatively low altitude and receives abundant allogenic (rainfed) water from surrounding hills, leading to a fluvial component that aids fenglin development, resulting in fenglin and fengcong karst side-by-side over a large area. Scientific study of karst development in the region has resulted in the generation of the ‘Guilin model’ of fengcong and fenglin karst evolution. Shibing Karst provides a spectacular fengcong landscape, which is also exceptional because it developed in relatively insoluble dolomite rocks. Shibing also contains a range of minor karst features including karren, tufa deposits and caves. Jinfoshan Karst is a unique karst table mountain surrounded by massive towering cliffs. It represents a piece of dissected plateau karst isolated from the Yunnan-Guizhou-Chonqing plateau by deep fluvial incision. An ancient planation surface remains on the summit, with an ancient weathering crust. Beneath the plateau surface are dismembered horizontal cave systems that appear at high altitude on cliff faces. Jinfoshan records the process of dissection of the high elevation karst plateau and contains evidence of the region’s intermittent uplift and karstification since the Cenozoic. It is a superlative type-site of a karst table mountain.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization), China.org, UNESCO, reports submitted to UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, China Daily, Xinhua, Global Times, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020

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