Posts Tagged With: karst formations


To resume my visit to China in 2006, we are in Kunming, The City Of Eternal Spring. It  is a very temperate area  known for its plant diversity. Most of China’s flower species come from Kunming with its  pleasant,  temperate climate. We see commercial flower gardens and orchards around Kunming, but  our tour will take us to  Shilin, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, a surrealistic  “orchard” of stone.

The drive  to this unique landscape  through a three-mile long tunnel, and we worry about it caving in, probably unreasonably so. But, safety isn’t foremost in Chinese projects, we think. The tunnel replaced a twisty, tortuous road, we are told. Then we take a shuttle to the base of the 200 acres of what are called karst towers, formed 270 million years ago as the Himalayas were forming.

It’s a lovely spot by a lake, but the sign that greets us with tortured interpretations was a hoot though well intentioned. We were relieved to know what we buy here will be genuine.

Yunnan Province has many minority people.  And we see them come to Shilin to get married, or celebrate special events in their lives. The most prominent minority in this region is the Yi people. The Suni Muslims are a branch of the Yi people. There are black Yis and white Yis. The black Yis enslaved the white Yis because they admired the rare  black tigers of Asia over the white tigers. The Yi were great hunters and wrestlers, strong and muscular. They walk in fire and have fire torch festivals unique to the area.  Mau banished slavery among the Yis.  Another nearby minority is the Hui people, called barbarians. They arrived here with Kublai Khan.  A very informative website can be found at the following link.


The area does resemble a stone forest, which is the common name for Shilin.

The karst formations are  limestone and were shaped by a receding inland sea and harsh winds.

It was an easy,  pleasant  hike through the “forest” and one could imagine what it must have been like for ancient children  to climb and play on the formations.

We hiked around the lake and took pictures. There are caves and waterfalls deeper inside the forest, but we were given a limited time here. Without a guide it would be easy to become disoriented and lost if we wandered too far off the path.

The people in their special native dress were fascinating, anyway.

The costumes are somewhat different, but always the main color of red and yellow.

The Yi men show their single status by the way they wear their feathers. A girl shows interest in a man by touching her horn.

Vicki speculated this was some type of local holiday celebration. It seemed very romantic to us with couples and singlels having their picture taken by the lake.

Near the gift shop, this gent was  fiddling with a musical instrument. We figured there would be a musical event later in the day.

By lunchtime, the place was mobbed.  I saw that under the costume the girls wear street clothes, kind of like we do for high school graduation.


This woman may have been a different minority with similar costume. I enjoyed people watching as much as the stone formations.

The Stone Forest is seventy-five miles from Kunming and actually makes its own weather. At certain times of years, storms roar out of the caves and water cascades from the high formations. We will move on to Urumichi and visit a Yi village.

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The Li and Peach Blossom rivers merge together at Guilin  and form four city lakes before they move on down the mountain. The lakes are joined by locks and we take a night boat tour to see  the twelve bridges  joining the mainland to an island in the center of the lakes.

Picture taking is difficult as the boat chugs along.  The twelve bridges  are small imitations of world-famous bridges with frescoes and decorations of great beauty and interest. It‘s ooo and aahh time. They imitate the Brooklyn Bridge, Cambridge Math Class Bridge, The Golden Gate, the Glass Bridge… I didn’t recognize all of them or get them into my journal. The Cambridge Math Class Bridge is so-called because students at Cambridge supposedly took it apart to understand how it was built and then put it back together again.  In the dark, night fishing with their cormorants, the boatman uses a cane to keep them moving. He smacks and scolds when a bird circles behind him and  tries to steal a fish out of the basket and pretend  it was newly caught. He calls to them, “Ai, ai, ai”!  The birds work quickly,  fly out,  dive,  and return. It was musical;  his voice echoing  over the water as the boat moved away.

The famous Sun and Moon pagodas are beautifully lit up at night.  One leads to another under water. We saw a charming tea house on an island with a replica of the Empress’s Stone Boat we recognize from the Summer Palace.
The  trees, on shore and on the islands, the bridges, are all  lit up with specialized lighting.  Bands play from the shore as we pass by.  Built to entertain, More realistic  than  Disneyland, we floated along, mesmerized by the sights,  thinking, how lucky we are to take this magical boat ride

The next morning, we load onto a boat like this one for an 83 kilometer trip up the Li to view unique karst rock formations. The osmanthus, a type of purple acacia,   is in bloom. It  reflects its color on the water and fills the air with a fragrance like orange blossoms. It is used for tea, medicine and perfume in China.

Ten thousand boats a day cruise the Li. Sampans furnish them with fresh fish and greens for the meals they prepare. Chinese people do not eat  “dead” fish. Restaurants in China have aquariums full of fish and only kill it when you sit down and order. The boat kitchens are always at the back of the boat.

Uniquely shaped hills of the Li are often clouded with a fine mist giving them a mystical quality.

The formations are world-famous and many artists and photographers come to see one of China’s great  “pearls”.

I find myself more interested in a glimpse of “old China” revealed on the banks and water of the River Li, like this boatman ferrying a man and his bike across the river. We see many of these flat bamboo boats that seem barely able to float without swamping.

A house boat.

The age-old manner of carrying a heavy burden.

Washing clothes.

If you don’t have running water you must carry it up from the river in buckets.

While some farmers depend solely on water buffalo, others have a modern motor.

We  see kids bathing their water buffalo. Buffalo, pigs, and dogs roam quite freely, sometimes invading a golf course near Guilin.  Vicki tells us that on another tour she saw a farmer drive a herd of buffalo across the lanes of the freeway. People drive slowly here, and they stopped and none were harmed.

A crude fish trap.

A fancier ferry. The boatman chooses to paddle even though his ferry has a motor. Vicki says he saves gas.

A fisherman’s hut.

Vicki tells us that the minority people from this village were persecuted 120 years ago and moved up higher in the mountains. The buildings still stand. Some tours take you into various villages along the Li.

When our boat docks, the cormorant fishermen are waiting for the tourists.

If they see you are trying to take their picture, they turn their backs to you.  They want you to pay. Vicki gets angry and says don’t pay them. We try our best to sneak a few shots.

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