Geoparks In China
Eight Renowned Chinese Tourism Sites Joined UNESCO’ s First Group of Geoparks.
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In early February 2004, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) inscribed China’s eight geoparks such as Lushan Geopark, Jiangxi Province, Shilin (Stone Forest) Geopark, Yunnan Province, Danxiashan Geopark, Guangdong Province, Yuntaishan Gopark, Henan Province, Songshan Geopark, Henan Province, Huangshan Geopark, Anhui Province, Wudalianchi (Five Large Connected Lakes) Geopark, Heilongjiang Province and Zhangjiajie Geopark, Hunan Province on the Geopark list. Among them, Lushan is known as a mountain resort with a fascinating hodgepodge of Western-style buildings and also a spectacular glacial geological heritage site, while Songshan is the place where the Shaolin Monastery, the birthplace of China’s most famous martial arts tradition, is located. Huangshan and Zhangjiajie have attracted multitudes of tourists for their spectacular natural scenery, while people visit Wudalianchi (Five Large Connected Lakes) for the legendary medicinal effects of its malodorous mineral springs. The Stone Forest, a massive collection of grey limestone pillars eroded into their present fanciful forms by the wind and rain, is probably the only site that has long been known as a geological wonder. As for Yuntaishan and Danxiashan, they had been unknown to the public until very recently. The Geopark designations have not only brought or added fame to these gifts from nature, but more importantly, they show us a new geological angle with which to appreciate them.
UNESCO’s definition, a Geopark must be a “geological site of special scientific significance, rarity or beauty; cannot be solely of geological significance, but must also have archaeological, ecological, historical or cultural value.” The eight Chinese geoparks selected certainly confirm to those definitions and criteria. Before the listing, however, most of the parks had actually been known for their beautiful landscapes or rare natural vistas, although their geological significance remained obscure.
Huangshan Geopark in Anhui 安徽黄山地质公园
Huangshan Mountain, also known as the Yellow Mountain, lies in the south of Anhui province. For Chinese people, Huangshan is probably the most celebrated landscape attraction in China and has been attracting countless painters and poets coming to seek inspiration for many generations. A major part of its charm comes from its unique landscape, which is known as a granite peak forest in geology. There are 72 granite peaks over 1,000 meters high and numerous unusual granite rock formations in the mountain area. Many of them are famous scenic spots scattered throughout the park.
Lushan Geopark in Jiangxi 江西庐山地质公园
Located in the south of the city of Jiujiang in East China’s Jiangxi Province and bordering Lake Poyang (China’s largest fresh water lake), Lushan was established as a mountain resort town by European and US tourists late in the 19th century. Its mountain vistas have long been the subject of poems and paintings. But few people know that it is a spectacular glacial geological heritage site, boasting the world’s richest and best-preserved glacial remnants from the Quaternary Period第四纪, which covers the last 2 million years of the earth’s geological history. It is also the birthplace of Quaternary glaciological research in China. The mountain has the mixed features from glaciers and ice erosion, along with rivers, lakes, slopes and rock formations created by elevation and subsidence in the strenuous fault-block movement.
Shilin (Stone Forest) Geopark in Yunnan 云南石林地质公园
The Stone Forest approximately 120 kilometers southeast of Kunming, the capital of Southwest China’s Yunnan Province, is a massive collection of grey limestone pillars, eroded into their present fanciful forms by wind and rain. Marine fossils found in the area suggest that it was once under water. Encompassing 400 square kilometers, the maze of grey pinnales and peaks features various karst forms, such as eroded gullies, eroded funnels, peak forests, karst caves and dissolved basins. Ranging from 20 to 50 meters in height, they look like a forest from a distance, bence the name “Stone Forest.”
Songshan Geopark in Henan 河南嵩山地质公园前
Located in the north of Henan Province and covering an area of 450 square kilometers, the Songshan Mountains are noted for having a complete collection of outcrops of stratigraphic section and the boundaries of angular unconformities formed by three Precambrian寒武纪的 (the geological time between 4.5 billion to 543 million years ago) tectonic movements. Outcrops of the Achaean Era太古代 (3.8 to 2.5 billion years ago), Proterozoic Era元古代 (2.5 billion to 543 million years ago), Mesozoic Era中生代 (248 to 65 million years ago) and Cenozoic Era新生代 (65 million years ago to the present) have been found there. Three major tectonic movements, the Songyang Movement of 2.5 billion years ago, the Zhongyue Movement of 1.85 billion years ago and the Shaolin Movement of 570 million years ago were named after local attractions in the area. The boundaries of angular non-conformities and basal conglomerates they are very prominent. The area is also known as the “textbook of geological history.”
Wudalianchi Geopark in Heilongjiang 黑龙江五大连池地质公园
Located in Wudalianchi, in Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, the Wudalianchi (Five Large Connected Lakes) Volcanic National Geopark is a “volcano museum” and has long been a place of particular attention for geologists and volcanologists. It was formed between 1719 to 1721. Encompassing 720 square kilometers, it is composed of 14 inactive volcanoes, which erupted from Tertiary 第三纪（65 million to 2 million years ago）to the Quaternary Period第四纪, with latest eruption in 1712. The vocanic cones are complete, and the lava flows stretch for over 10 kilometers, thus blocking the rivers in the area to create the five lakes spread in the form of a string of beads. There are also plentiful mineral springs of medicinal value in the area, which have turned the park into a hot spot for health enthusiasts.
Yuntaishan Geopark in Henan 河南云台山地质公园
Situated in the north of Xiuwu County修武县,in the city of Jiaohua焦化市in Central China’s Henan Province, Yuntaishan Mountain is the least-known site among the eight geoparks. Differential elevation and subsidence of the piedmont fault of the Taihang Mountain Range, which is to the north of Yuntaishan Mountain, has created long walls, red cliffs, narrow gorges, different types of valleys and many waterfalls in the geopark. Tanpo Waterfall, the tallest in the park, is 304 meters high. The core area of the park, covering about an area of 80 square kilometers, looks like a picture scroll, with steep peaks towering into the sky, waterfalls hanging down in faulted cliffs, and clear streams winding through tranquil valleys. It is a wonder of nature still waiting to be explored by tourists.
Zhangjiajie Geopark in Hunan 湖南张家界地质公园
Parts of the Wuling Mountain Range in the northwest of Hunan Province, which make up Zhangjiajie, were set aside in 1982 as a nature reserve. The mountains have gradually eroded to form a peculiarly spectacular landscape, known as a quartzose sandstone peak forest landscape, in geological terms. It features craggy peaks and huge rock columns rising out of the luxuriant subtropical forest, scattered over an area of 3,600 square kilometers and featuring a variety of landform such as walls, arches and bridges.
Xingwen Geopark in Sichuan Province 四川兴文地质公园
Sichuan Xingwen Stone Sea is the first and only internationally recognized geopark—a site of special geological interest. A key national scenic spot, stretching to nearly 121 square kilometer, includes a central area of 14 square kilometers. Located in Xingwen County of Yibin City, stone forests in various shapes, huge pits on its surface and the largest underground karst caves in China are all to be found in the geopark, In addition, the Geopark is a perfect place to research and experience ethnic customs and culture typical of the region. The Geopark is where the Bo ethnic group, an ancient tribe native to the country’s southwest lived until becoming extinct during the Ming Dynasty. Historical data indicates the Bo’s ancestry dated back to the Qin Dynasty, the first centralized Chinese feudal dynasty. They were regarded as the most valiant and kindest among the ancient ethnic groups of the region. As a land inhabited by the Bo’s for centuries, the Geopark is full of the vestiges of the vanished ethnic group, and not surprisingly an area much valued by historians. One custom of particular interest is Xuanguan, the funeral rites of the Bo, in which the coffins of the dead are placed in tree forks or stone slits in the towering and steep cliffs. The region where the Geopark is located is also the largest dwelling place of the Miao ethnic group in the province, whose population numbers about 40,000. Miao Tradition costumes, wedding and funeral customs, religious beliefs, folk arts and crafts, oral literature and folk music have all survived and have remained much the same for countless ages in the region Grand landscapes, rich geological remains and the unique legacy of the Bo and Miao cultures make the peopark a jewel in terms of scientific and folk custom research. Currently, there are 33 world geoparks, of which 112 such geoparks are in China.
Danxiashan Geopark in Guangdong 广东丹霞山地质公园
People who have traveled around the country might have heard of or Seen the “Danxia (Geomorpology or Morphology) Landscape.” In geology, it is a special name for a landform that is composed of rock walls and cliffs of red terrestrial sandstone and conglomerates, which are small groups of stones bunched together. These kinds of landscapes are widely scattered in China. Among the country’s 29 natural and cultural heritage sites feature this type of special landscape. Among the country’s 151 national scenic areas, 26 have “Danxia Landscapes.” But few people know that they are named after the Danxiashan Mountains in Renhua仁化 and Qujiang曲江 counties of Shaoguan韶关 in South China’s Guangdong Province. In the 1930s, a Chinese geologist named it after researching the kinds of landscapes scattered in South China. At present, 650 “Danxia Landscape” sites have been found in China. The Danxiashan Geopark is considered to have the most typical version of the landform.
Encompassing 290 square kilometers, Danxiashan Mountain looks like a red sandstone peak forest. There are more than 380 peaks of various forms, with the tallest standing 409 meters high. About 65 million years ago, this area suffered tectonic movement and many faults and joint were formed. The whole area was turned into an erosion region. About 23 million years ago, rapid elevation took place in this area, which finally shaped its unique geomorphology. Covered by a subtropical evergreen forest with the Jinjiang River meandering through it, the Geopark has great potential to become a bustling tourist attraction.
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