Green Lake

Kunming (700 kilometers south of Chengdu and 1,200 kilometers west of Guangzhou (Canton) is the capital and largest city of Yunnan Province. Known as "China's City of Eternal Spring," because of its pleasant year-round climate, it is home to about 4 million people and is located on the shores of Lake Dianchi, which itself is situated on a broad flat valley on a 2,000-meter-high (6,000-foot-high) plateau. Regarded as one of China's prettier cities, it features streets lined with willow trees, camellias, azaleas, and magnolias, go cart track, football field, and circuses with dancing bears.

On the streets and in the markets you can find Yunnan ethnic minorities, whose colorful costumes contrast with the drab western-style clothes worn by Han Chinese. Among the groups are Uighurs in skullcaps from Xinjiang selling skewers of halal meat and Yi and Miao in traditional dress selling vegetables laid out on clothes.

Kunming has a 2,400-year history and was visited by Marco Polo (See Above). Vietnam is only 200 miles away. A railway between Kunming and Hanoi was built between 1898 and 1910 by the French who wanted to exploit deposits of tin and cooper and harvest lumber in Yunnan. During World War II is it was the base of the Flying Tigers and the northern terminus of the Burma Road.

Today, Kunming is China's gateway to Southeast Asia. Endangered animals, opium and luxury automobiles stolen in Thailand all make their way into China through Kunming. Plans are now afoot to make Kunming at the center of an access route from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean via the Mekong River and rivers in Burma and Thailand.

Kunming has modernized very quickly and even has its own Wal-Mart.. The colorful Muslim quarter with its old wooden houses with eaved roofs is now gone. Concrete towers have replaced old town shops and houses. Still the city ir remains one of the easiest going and least money-oriented places in China.

Tourist Office: Kunming Tourism Bureau, 2/F Building 6, 28 East Dongfeng Rd, 650011 Kunming, Yunnan, China, tel. (0)-871-313-8517, fax: (0)-871-313-4511 Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Maps of Kunming: chinamaps.org ; Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Getting There: Kunming is accessible by air and bus and by train via the spectacular Kunming-Chengdu Railway, the French-built train from Vietnam and the slow train to the southeast. There are also high-speed trains to the main cities of China. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet Travel China Guide Travel China Guide

Orientation and Roads in Kunming

Kunming Nationalities
Kunming located in central Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, along Lake Dian's northern shore. Mountains border the city to the north, east and west. Kunming City's highest elevation is 4,247 meters (13,934 feet). Its lowest point is 695 meters (2,280 feet). The city consists of the "Old City," a modern commercial district, residential areas and several industrial "Development Zones." The city center has become pedestrian friendly. The largest pedestrian streets are Nanping Jie, Jingxing Birds-Flowers' Market, and Jinma Biji Fang. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 2011]

The Main arterial routes in Kunming are 1) Beijing Lu, a north-south arterial route; passes through city center. Becomes Renmin Xi Lu after leaving city. The road is first section of Burma Road.; 2) Huancheng Lu, first ring road. Main squares and streets in city center:; 3) Main squares: Jinma Biji Square, Nanping Square and Dongfeng Square.; 4 ) Major streets: Nanping Jie, Jinbi Lu, Renmin Lu, Zhengyi Lu and Jingxin Jie.; 5) Main commercial areas: Qingnian Lu, Zhengyi Lu, and Renmin Lu.

Kunming has two ring roads. The first one has two parts: the Northern Ring Road and Southern Ring Road. It known as the city's major ring road. The ring roads intersect with Kun Shi Highway, providing easy access to Wujiaba International Airport. Kunming has grown rapidly. Traffic is often heavily congested, even during off-peak hours. Gridlock is common. Construction of new roads is ongoing. Be alert for construction zones.

Local Transportation in Kunming

Public buses, the Metro and taxis are primary means of transport in the city. Bus service is well developed in most sections of the city with buses generally running from 6:00am to 9:30 or 10:00pm. The city has six Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridors. Stand near door to get off. Stops may be announced in English. Buses have assigned routes. Obtain maps of routes from vendors or kiosks. The maps may have errors. Bus drivers may speed or stop suddenly. Drivers do not stop at all marked bus stops on their route, only at stops assigned to them. Fares are higher for air-conditioned buses. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 2011]

Kunming Metro consists of three lines with Total 87.2p10 of track and 59 sttaions, with three more lines under construction. The metro typically consists of underground section the city centre and elevated grade-separated sections outside the city center.
Lines 1 and 2 runs from North Coach Station (Panlong) to University Town South (Chenggong) and Kunming South Railway Station (Chenggong). Opened in 2013 and expanded 2016, it has 45.7 kilometers of track and 35 stations.
Line 3 runs from Western Hills Park (Xishan) to East Coach Station (Panlong). Opened in 2017, it has 23.4 kilometers of track and 20 stations.
Line 6 runs from East Coach Station (Panlong) to Kunming Airport (Guandu). Opened in 2012, it has 18.1 kilometers of track and 4 stations. Kunming Subway Map: Urban Rail urbanrail.net

According to ASIRT: “Taxis are readily available. Demand for taxis is highest around 6:30. Some taxi drivers ask for a flat fee. Flat fees are generally more expensive than fees based on the meter. Ask driver to start meter. Larger taxis charge higher fares. Passengers must pay fare plus a fuel tax. Taxis fares increase after 10:00pm Taxis are zoned. Drivers are not permitted to operate outside their assigned zone. Cycling is common. Many major roads have bike lanes. Rental bikes are available at many hotels and hostels. Bikes and scooters may not be parked on sidewalks.

Getting to Kunming

Lake Dianchi
Kunming Wujiaba International Airport is located five kilometers southeast of city center. There are flights between Kunming and cities all over China, plus some international destinations in Asia. Airport shuttle buses, public buses and taxis provide transport between airport and city center. Buses generally operate 6:00am to 10:00pm.

Kunming has four major long-distance bus stations, located at the northern, southern, eastern and western periphery of the city. Buses heading west leave from the West Bus Station (Xibu Keyun Zhan). Buses heading south leave from the South Bus Station. Buses heading north leave from the North Bus Station. Buses heading east leave from the East Bus Station. Bus stations near train stations only serve local routes.

Buses have traditionally been the workhorse of the Yunnan transportation system. Buses with beds instead of seats are still widely used on long-haul routes and buses are still the only way to get to many places. According to ASIRT: “There are routes to most regional destinations; service is good. Long-distance buses are reliable and comfortable. Fares are moderate. Classes of buses: Regular and gaokuai (highway express). Fares are higher, and travel is faster on Express buses.Overnight, sleeper buses are often in poor condition and may be cold in winter. When possible, check bus before purchasing tickets. Bus drivers may speed or stop suddenly.

Bus service is available to Laos. Routes end in Vientaine. Buses are generally in good condition, but make frequent stops. Bus service to Hekou, a city near the Vietnam border, run regularly. From Hekou, buses are available to many destinations in Vietnam. A common scam at bus stations: Men may offer to carry your baggage and then request payment of a fee. May have false bus company ID and threaten to call police. However, price of ticket includes all fees. Refuse to pay.

Trains to Kunming

Six major rail lines converge in Kunming. Rail service includes passenger lines to Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Chongqing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Beihai and Hanoi in Vietnam. Rail lines link Kunming with many cities in China. Main rail lines: Guikun (Guiyang-Kunming), Nankun (Nanning- Kunming) and Chengkun (Chengdu-Kunming).

There is now fast-train service between Kunming, Dali and Lijiang that is connected to other cities of China. At present, about five high speed trains run each day between Chengdu and Kunming, taking around 5.5 - 6.5 hours. The normal speed trains that made the trip in 17 - 22.5 hours are no longer running, The main rail stations are : 1) Kunming Railway Station, located at the southern end of Beijing Xi Lu, serving most of trains to destinations in China; 2) Kunming North Railway Station, serving trains to and from Hanoi, Vietnam. Travel time, 32 hours. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 2011]

Chengdu-Kunming Railway runs through very mountainous terrain and was considered impossible to build. Completed in 1970 after 12 years work, it contains bridges over deep ravines, tunnels bored through solid rock and tracks placed on cliffside supports. The railway's 427 tunnels and 653 bridges cover 40 percent of the route. There are so many tunnels in fact that some tourist claim they don't get a chance to see anything. The railway was constructed by tens of thousands of laborers, soldiers and convicts who could be shot for not working. It is not known how many or even if workers were indeed shot, but alongside the track are some small graveyards with dead railway workers, most of whom died in accidents.

Sights in Kunming

The Kunming city center is very pedestrian friendly. The largest pedestrian streets are Nanping Jie, Jingxing Birds-Flowers' Market, and Jinma Biji Fang. The most eye-catching architectures in the city is grouped together around Jinbi Square. A night market called Kundu is an kilograms shopping area as well bustling night life area that reminds some of the Sanlitun bar street in Beijing. Sometimes live bands playing in the open air and sizzling street barbecues.

Kunming sits on the shores of Dianchi Lake, Sights in Kunming include two Tang dynasty pagodas, the Yunnan Provincial Museum, the Village of Ethnic Culture, Yuangtong Temple, a small depressing zoo, and a mosque (unusual in this Buddhism-dominated region). in 2008, Shaolin monks went to Kunming and took over the operational management of Tuzhu, Fading, Miaozhan and Guanyin temples. Kunming is also the jumping of point or tours of the Stone Forest, Dali and the ethnic regions near Laos, Vietnam and Burma.

The West Gate in Kunming was destroyed in the Cultural Revolution and rebuilt in 1999. The newly-opened Yuansheng performance space features traditional dances by Yunnan's minorities. Artists and intellectuals hang out at the Wheatfield Bookstore which sells Chinese translations of all kinds of foreign books. Grand View Tower (south end of Grand View Park in Kunming) is a three-story tower beautifully situated in grove of trees. and constructed with glazed yellow tile roofs. In the front of the tower is a beautiful pavilion that contains "the longest couplet under Heaven," a scroll with the history of Yunnan written on one side and a poem describing the beauty of Kunming on the other side.

Museum of Yunnan Province contains archeological artifacts and shabby ethnic minority displays. Built in 1951, it is a comprehensive museum about Yunnan with a collection of more than 156,000 relics, including bronze pieces, ancient coins, porcelain, old paintings and calligraphic works, rubbings, stamps and various kinds of handicrafts — the most in Yunnan. Among the national treasures are the bronze ox-tiger table excavated at Lijiashan, Jiangchuan, the golden standing statur of Avalokitesvara of Dali State unearthed from the Chongsheng Temple, and the painting by Huang Gongwang of the Yuan Dynasty. The most distinctive pieces in this museum are the ancient bronze artifacts, Buddhist relics of from the ancient and medieval Nanzhao and Dali states and the charming and cultural pieces and costumes of ethnic groups that live in Yunnan. Website: ynmuseum.org (in Chinese, click Google translate)

Kunming World Horticultural Expo Garden

Kunming World Horticultural Exposition Garden (Baiyun Road, northeast suburbs of Kunming) was the site of the 1999 Kunming International Horticultural Exposition. It consists of five big exhibition halls (China Hall, International Hall, Man and Nature Hall, Green House Hall, and Science and Technology Hall), seven theme gardens (Vegetable and Fruit Garden, Bamboo Garden, Bonsai Plants Garden, Tea Garden, Medicinal Herb Garden, Tree Garden, and Famous Flowers and Unique Stones Garden), three outdoor showplaces and two big squares.

The international pavilion covers an area of 13,250 square meters, which are surrounded by dense trees. China Pavilion is the biggest indoor pavilion of the 1999 Kunming International Horticultural Exposition. It has integrated the characteristics of the architectural style of Han Dynasty with the south residential buildings. Main colors of the hall are green and white, which symbolizes the harmony between human and nature. In this garden, you can enjoy over 2,551 different kinds of plants, and among them, 112 categories are considered rare and are listed as endangered species

Travel Information: 1. If you want to see more scenic spots in a short amount of time, you can take the storage battery car. It costs 15 yuan per person. You can also take free little train. Admission: It is free for Children under 1.2 meters, elders above 70, retired and the disabled; Students, children from 1.2 meters to1.4m, soldiers, the aged from 60-69 can get 50 percent discount. Hours Open: 8:00am-9:00pm; Admission: 100 yuan; Getting There: Take bus No. 68, 71 and get off at the World Horticultural Exposition Garden, the price is 1 yuan per person; take a bus from Changshou Road will take 2 yuan.

Near Kunming

Golden Temple (on Mingfeng Hill 10 kilometers northeast of Kunming) is made bronze not gold, but is still pretty impressive. The beams, pillars, decorations, wall screens, and inscribed panels-which are usually made of wood in other temples-are all made of bronze. Lake Dianchi

Dianchi Lake (southwest of Kunming) is the sixth largest fresh water lake in China. Known as the "Pearl on the Highlands," it covers 340 square kilometers and sits at an elevation of 6000 feet above sea level. Around the lake are picturesque fishing villages and small settlements. The lake itself has dried out somewhat and has receded away from Kunming.

Haigeng Park (northeastern side of the lake) is a minority village that purportedly has representatives from all of Yunnan's 26 minorities. Some people find it interesting; others dismiss it as exploitive and touristy.

Western Hills (southwest of Kunming) are group of a steep limestone hills that rise on the western side of Dianchi Lake. They include Huating, Taihua, Luohan and Bixao and other hills. At the top of Luahan, the most famous hills, is Dragon Gate Grotto, a cave carved out of a cliff face by a Tao monk over a 70 year period. It contains stone chambers, columns, pillars and shrines such as the Reach for the Sky Pavilion and Place of Unique Beauty. The most amazing thing about the grotto are the paths chiseled out of the cliffs that lead to various shrines. Local people and tourists jostle and push their way along these paths perched 1000 feet above Kunming and Dianchi Lake. Fortunately they have railings.

Chengjiang Fossil Site

Chengjiang Fossil Site (10 kilometers south of Kumning) was designated a a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012. According to UNESCO: “ A hilly 512 hectares site in Yunnan province, Chengjiang’s fossils present the most complete record of an early Cambrian marine community with exceptionally preserved biota, displaying the anatomy of hard and soft tissues in a very wide variety of organisms, invertebrate and vertebrate. They record the early establishment of a complex marine ecosystem. The site documents at least sixteen phyla and a variety of enigmatic groups as well as about 196 species, presenting exceptional testimony to the rapid diversification of life on Earth 530 million years ago, when almost all of today’s major animal groups emerged. It opens a palaeobiological window of great significance to scholarship.

“The Chengjiang Fossil Site conserves fossil remains which are of exceptional significance. The rocks and fossils of the Chengjiang Fossil Site present an outstanding and extraordinarily preserved record that testifies to the rapid diversification of life on Earth during the early Cambrian period, 530 million years before present. In this geologically short interval, almost all major groups of animals had their origins. The diverse geological evidence from the Chengjiang Fossil Site presents fossil remains of the highest quality of preservation and conveys a complete record of an early Cambrian marine community. It is one of the earliest records of a complex marine ecosystem and a unique window of understanding into the structure of early Cambrian communities.

“The property displays excellent quality of fossil preservation including the soft and hard tissues of animals with hard skeletons, along with a wide array of organisms that were entirely soft-bodied, and therefore relatively unrepresented in the fossil record. Almost all of the soft-bodied species are unknown elsewhere. Fine-scale detailed preservation includes features as the alimentary systems of animals, for example of the arthropod Naraoia, and the delicate gills of the enigmatic Yunnanozoon. The sediments of Chengjiang provide what are currently the oldest known fossil chordates, the phylum to which all vertebrates belong.

“The fossils and rocks of the Chengjiang Fossil Site, together, present a complete record of an early Cambrian marine community. It is one of the earliest records of a complex marine ecosystem, with food webs capped by sophisticated predators. Moreover, it demonstrates that complex community structures had developed very early in the Cambrian diversification of animal life, and provides evidence of a wide range of ecological niches. The property thus provides a unique window of understanding into the structure of early Cambrian communities.”

Shilin (Yunnan Stone Forest)

Stone Forest
Yunnan Stone Forest (in Yi Autonomous County, 125 kilometers west of Kunming) is a truly unique places. Viewed from a distance these purplish-grey stone pillars look like a forest (hence the name) but up close they look like dust-covered melting icebergs with razor sharp points and ridges. There are 27,000 hectares of stone forest in the area. The one open to tourists occupies only 80 hectares. The rock pinnacles and pillars are Karst features, composed of limestone and were shaped by weathering and erosion from rain water and wind.

The park is known as Shilin in China, which literally means “Stone Forest.” It is a very popular tourist destination for Chinese, who call it the "Chicken Forest." Often swamped by Chinese bus tourists, the site also includes a polluted lake, temples, lots of litter, souvenirs, food stands, and ethnic minorities displayed like zoo animals. Yi tribesmen live in the area. Eight miles the stone forest is a large area of mushroom-shaped rock pillars called the Fungi Forest, which cover 300 hectares and features a waterfall.

Enjoy World Magazine labeled Shilin as the "Most Beautiful Tourism Destinations of China". The tall rocks jut from the ground much like stalagmites or even like trees of stone, creating the illusion of a forest made of stone. Each year around the 24th and 25th day of the sixth lunar month, the Yi people celebrate Torch Festival, which features traditional Yi folk dances and wrestling competitions

Admission: 140 yuan; Tel: +86-871-7719006, +86-871-6140964,+86-871-7711439 Getting There: You can take a bus from East Bus Station in Kunming, prices range from 10-15 yuan. Website: shilin.com.cn ; UNESCO World Heritage Site site: UNESCO

Visiting Shilin

One traveler wrote in the China Daily: If you can visit only one place in Kunming, let it be Shilin, or Stone Forest. It's actually located in a neighboring county, but just an hour's drive on the highway....As the name implies, it is a forest made up of stone. Not just regular stones, but stones shaped like trees, bamboo shoots, glaciers and knives, the kind of rockery usually seen in a bonsai garden, but enlarged. So, I call it "God's bonsai". [Source: China Daily, June 11, 2009]

“Administratively, Shilin covers an area of 2,670 square kilometers, but fortunately the scenic area is more concentrated and easily accessible by foot. In an area called "Small Stone Forest" with sprawling meadows, across from a pond, stands one peak with a shorter one right next to it. This is the famous Ashima Rock. Ashima (no relation of the Hebrew deity of the same name) is a girl in a local Sani legend. She falls in love with a handsome boy, but their romance is wrecked by a local despot.

“I remember the story clearly because I saw the movie version in the late 1970s. The movie was made in 1964, but due to political reasons was not premiered until after the "cultural revolution" (1966-76). By that time, the female star who played Ashima had lost her sanity to persecution, but her stunning beauty had left an indelible mark on a whole generation. The movie ends with Ashima washed away by a man-made flood and turned into the stone peak.

“Many more myths and legends can be created if you venture deep into the "forest". There are paths and trails that lead you to the top, where you can have a panoramic view of a canyon of sharp-edged blades. I had the illusion that it's an army of gods and monsters in shining armor, dueling it out. You can also come up with a more peaceful interpretation because many of the tips look like lotuses, a symbol of Buddhist meditation.

“Fantasy aside, this place was submerged by seawater 270 million years ago, according to geologists. Then, between 230 and 2 million years ago, the ocean subsided and the rocks surfaced, leaving clear horizontal marks across all peaks as if someone had attempted to tighten the waist and neck of a battalion of stone giants. Water also carved erstwhile shapeless stones into phantasmagorical formations. Nowadays, Stone Forest is part of South China Karst, a UNESCO-sanctified heritage site. I overheard a tour guide say "All this could be turned into building materials and used up in a single year. But who would want to do that? It's so much more valuable to us as it is."”

Shilin: Part of South China Karst UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Shilin Karst component is one the South China Karst, which extends across a large area of Guangxi, Guizhou and Yunnan Provinces and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. According to UNESCO: Shilin “contains stone forests with sculpted pinnacle columns and is considered the world reference site for pinnacle karst. Shilin Karst consists of two core areas surrounded by a common buffer zone. The area is 12,070 hectares with a buffer zone of 22,930 hectares. The buffer zone is designated as a UNESCO Geopark.

“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.”

Few Hours from Kunming

Alu Ancient Cave (160 kilometers from Yunnan Stone Forest) is a one square miles area with nine karst peaks, an underground river and 18 caverns. The caves found here contain remarkable stalactite and stalagmite formations some of which are reflected in pools of water teaming with fish. The Yi ethnic minority entertain visitors in this area. Website: Great Wall Tours Yunnan Trip

Chuxiong (100 kilometers west of Kunming) is the first stop on the way to Dali and Lijiang. Home of the Yi ethnic minority and their respective ancient town, it is the home of the Museum of Chuxiong Prefecture, Built at the foot of Yanta Mountain, south of Chuxiong, it covers an area of 60 mu and cost 24 million yuan to build. Advantages of the terrain has been fully taken in the design and construction of the museum which is built in a style of combining the traditional houses of Yi people with the modern curly-tiled Chinese roof, giving prominence to both the feature of local ethnic group and the grandness of modern building. With a total florage of 11,200 square meters the museum has seven exhibition halls, such as Hall of Ancient Extinct Life, Hall of Ethnic Group, Hall of Historical Relics and Hall of Samples of Animals and Plants, etc. and 12 exhibition rooms displaying more than 6,000 various kinds of cultural relics.

Heijing (60 kilometers west of Kunming) is a small town in the Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture. With abundant well salt, the town was one of the most important places for salt production in ancient China. But today, it boasts antique roads, houses, temples, arches, sculptures, and quiet and simple local life. The most distinctive attractions in Heijing Ancient Town include the gate of the town, Wu Family Mansion, Dalongci Temple, Confucius Temple and Qixingtai Admission: 30 yuan; Getting There: You can take train from Kunming Railway Station, or take a bus from Guangtong, Chuxiong, or Lufeng County.

Hanging Tombs at Doushaguan (400 kilometers north of Kunming) are located in the cliffs southeast of Bainitang, Qiubei County, Wenshan Prefecture. They belong to to Ku people, descendants of the Bo of Sichuan. Hanging coffins are an ancient funeral custom of some ethnic groups, especially the Bo people of southern China. Coffins of various shapes were mostly carved from one whole piece of wood. Hanging coffins either lie on beams projecting outward from vertical faces such as mountains, are placed in caves in the face of cliffs, or sit on natural rock projections on mountain faces. [Source: Wikipedia]

It was said that the hanging coffins could prevent bodies from being taken by beasts and also bless the soul eternally. Spiritually, the Bo people viewed the mountain cliffs as a stairway to heaven and believed that by placing the coffins up high the deceased would be closer to heaven. A practical reason for placing the coffins on cliffs includes isolation, so that they are hard for animals to reach and less vulnerable to destruction.

Ancient Town of Yi Ethnic Group

Ancient Town of Yi Ethnic Group (in Chuxiong, three-hour drive from Kunming, ) covers 1740 mu (116 hectares) and combines business, cultural tourism and living spaces. It is famous for its distinguished garden and rare plants, classical Yi buildings, rich Yi culture and customs, unique ethnic dancing and its celebrations. Attractions include Wangjiang Building, the clear Taohua Stream, the towering Holy Ancestor Column, the Ten Month Calendar of Yi Ethnic Group with a long history, the mysterious Yi Tribes, and Yi King Palace. Torch Festival is the most famous and important festival of the Yi ethnic group. This festival usually falls in early June or on the 24th or 25th of June. Torch Festival lasts three days. Local residents hold activities to propitiate a deity, to wish for a good year of harvest, and to drive away the unluckiness. It is very spectacular place to visit.

Keyi village, the home of 712 Axi people, a branch of the Yi ethnic group. It is believed by local residents to be the birthplace of the Axi culture. Legend says it is the source of an epic poem telling the beginning of the Axi people. The poem, passed down from generation-to-generation, refers the village as "an auspicious place". A folk dance named "Axi Tiaoyue" or "Axi dance under moonlight", traditionally performed to celebrate harvest and victory is sometimes performed.

Located just outside a ring road that surrounds the small town of Butuo, the village consists of about a hundred families that were moved here, a few hundred meters from their former homes, when their land was seized for urban development. They were given courtyard houses built after the traditional Yi fashion, where they continue to raise cattle and poultry. “The houses are better than the ones we had before, but the village is too crowded. We don’t have the space that we used to have,” said A-tsai, 61, who sits, huddled in her sheepskin cape, with her back to a low wall that separates the village from the main road.” [Source: Rachel Beitarie, China Digital Times]

Butuo town is trying to push into the 21st century, while the countryside around it still lies deep in ancient times. A pedestrian street opened here two years ago that looks almost elegant, or would have looked so, if it wasn’t for so many empty and locked-up shops, and even more empty apartments, built on A-tsai and her people former homes. Business is weak, is a common complaint from those shop owners who are still open for business. La-Lo, age 40, is one of them. Her tiny restaurant is the only one still open on the block, but there are no customers, and the entrance is half-blocked by a cage that holds the family chickens.

Location: Yong'an Xi Road, Chuxiong Economic Development Zone, Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province Hours Open: 8:30 am-9:30pm; Admission: free; Tel: +86-878-3388955 +86-0871-3585867/3585778 Getting There: take bus No. 2, 5

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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