Posts Tagged With: UNESCO


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 Summer Palace sits majestically over a lake. It is still used by the Empress Dowager and we didn’t go into the buildings but it was the favorite place of  Empress Cixi Putz, pronounced sissy-putz, who died in the late 1800’s.

We were ferried over the man-made lake by dragon boat to a landing where we waited in line to cross the seventeen arches bridge.

I am guessing that later construction in China did not obey the multiples of nine as in older buildings. The Summer Palace,  while still used officially, is a huge tourist attraction with boat rides of all types on the lake, beautiful gardens and in short, a lovely way to spend a day and picnic.

You enter through this beautiful gate.

As always, I had to take a picture of the ornate roof of the gate.

Our group stopped for a picture in front of this beautiful gate. The site is now designated a UNESCO site for its unique beauty and features.

The side of the gate is lined with the stone lion guards. Peeling paint is being scraped; the site repainted in preparation for the Olympics to be held in China for the first time in 2008.

Two  interesting  features of the Summer Palace are the Marble Boat, seen only in the background behind these people and the Long Hall which is not a hall, but a long covered walk way for the Empress to use.  On the Marble Boat, the Empress entertained guests  with a banquet as though they were actually traveling to some exotic place.

The Long Hall is also beautifully decorated. You can see the roof trusses beneath the picture.  The hall has many pictures depicting Chinese History, or famous storied fables to entertain her and her guests. It is lined with benches to rest often since the Empress, (and all women then,) had bound feet. The royal Empresses of old were confined to their Peaceful Garden and Long Hall since it was difficult for them to move about.

It would be fun to hear some of the stories these pictures represent. We were free to wander around the gardens and lake.

There are many bridges of great beauty. Chinese tourists love boating here.

Every bridge is guarded by those marvelous stone lions.

When we first arrived on the Island, we saw workers disembarking from a boat. This woman carries her own big metal “dust” pan and straw broom. The thermos we expect is her lunch. The dust pan can obviously hold discarded paper cups, napkins and other large debris dropped on the walkways and gardens.

These two little girls were well dressed and obviously having a good time. The one child per family edict resulted in more surviving males, by design. Women would line up to have sonograms and abort girl babies. Men grew up and couldn’t find a wife and had to go to Korea, Viet Nam, Indonesia,  or elsewhere to import brides. The sonogram “factories” have been closed and now, through education, people revere and prefer girls, especially in the big modern cities.  Farm families are allowed two children.

Since we couldn’t read Chinese script, we have no idea what significance this beautiful sculpture of a cow had.

At lunch, Viki explained to us that her own grandmother had bound feet, the cruel tortuous practice instigated by the Emperor’s favorite concubine who had tiny, tiny feet and danced for him on a drum. He considered them so beautiful and dainty, that aristocratic women made their own daughters emulate that beauty by binding their feet.  Vicki called it five hundred years of cruelty and crippling of women. Her grandparents were political, meaning outspoken, and were banished to the high country of China near Tibet. She remembers as her grandmother aged how painful her feet were and her inability to walk properly or very far.

All restaurant meals  are served on this giant turntable that takes up the complete center of the table.  We had delicious meals in China  that typically  included sea weed, cabbage, always bok choy, chicken, beef, cucumbers, soup, little meaty hors’ dueovres. Meat is in small quantities with many vegetables none of us recognized; always fish, normally cooked whole with head, eyes and fins attached. Everything came in a tasty sauce. Rice in good restaurants and affluent Chinese homes, is served last. It is only to fill you up if you didn’t get enough primary foods. We all wanted rice WITH our meals and of course, we were accommodated.

For more information about the summer palace, click the following link:

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