The Composition and Characteristics of South China Karst

Karst landform is distributed widely in China, almost every province has limestone distribution in different sizes. Karst landform in south China covers an area of 50,000 square kilometers, mostly located in Yunnan Province, Guizhou Province, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Chongqing City and some other provinces, with areas takes up to 55% of the whole China karst areas. Variety of karst topography and geomorphology shows the typical karst landform of a moist tropical and subtropical region.

In 2006, "South China Karst" composed by the sword-shaped, cone-shaped and tower-shaped karst of Stone Forest in Yunnan, Forest Karst of Libo Karst Region in Guizhou and the natural stone bridge, chasm, doline of WuLong Karst Park in Chongqing is the only declaration project Chinese government declared the world natural heritage that year. The declaration area of "South China Karst" formed in the years between 500 thousand to 300 million years, the total area reaches 1,460 square kilometers, among which, the nomination (the core area) is 480 square kilometers and buffer area is 980 square kilometers. This region includes the most representative karst landform morphology of China, many attractions get a high reputation at home and abroad: Yunnan Stone Forest is famous for it is magnificent, rare, dangerous, elegant, quiet, mysterious and vast, it is called "the Essence of World’s Karst”; Guizhou Libo karst area is a gathering place of Buyi, Shui, Miao and Yao nationalities, and has once been selected in “Top 10 Chinese Beautiful Forest".

Yunnan Stone Forest: the first wonder on the earth
Stone Forest in Shilin County is located in the hinterland of east Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, well located in Shilin Yi Autonomous County and is 70 kilometers away from Kunming. There is no bitter-cold winter and no scorching-hot summer here, Stone Forest enjoys spring all year round, it is a big tourism complex including natural scenery, minority customs, leisure vacation and science research all together. The scenery of Stone Forest is mainly karst landform, and is famous for it is magnificent, rare, dangerous, elegant, quiet, mysterious and vast, it enjoys a high reputation in the world geological kingdom due to its most unusual karst landform scenery on the earth.
Stone Forest formed 270 million years ago, becoming today’s precious geological relics through a long geological evolution and complex paleogeographic environment modification. It includes many karst landform types of the world, almost stone forest that distributed all over the world can be found here. Stone buds, cone karst, karst hill, karst lake, waterfall and underground rivers are well-proportioned within the area. It is the most typical sample of plateau karst ecosystem and the richest three-dimensional panorama in the world.

Stone Forest scenic area covers an area of 1,100 square kilometers with great momentum; the preservation area is 350 square kilometers, there are mountains and lakes everywhere with different characteristics. The scenic area is big with numerous attractions that can be divided into 8 tourism sections: Stone Forest, Naigu Stone Forest, Zhiyun Cave, Changhu Lake, Dadieshui Waterfall, Guishan National Forest Park, Yuehu Lake, Qifeng Cave and so on. With those now renowned as open tourist sections listed hereunder: Stone Forest, Naigu Stone Forest, Dadieshui Waterfall, Changhu Lake.

You will fell like walking in the time tunnel while you’re in Stone Forest. You could experience the wonder of the nature, just as wondering around the maze of ocean. The deep cliffs and sharp peaks either look like thousands of soldiers, or fowls and beasts, or even human beings. All stone features are vivid and true to life.

The charm of Stone Forest is not only for natural scenery here, but also for the unique ethnic customs of local Sani people, a branch of Yi Minority. The most influential ones are “a poem”, “a movie”, “a song”, and “a festival”. Long poem "AShiMa" is the classic ethnic narrative long poem in Yi language, has been translated into more than 20 kinds of languages and spread worldwide; Film “AShiMa" is the first colored stereo movie in China, it gains a high reputation at home and abroad. Sani song “Guests from afar please stay here forever” is quite famous in China, and the traditional festival of Sani people – Torch Festival which is held on 24th June every lunar year, has been honored as “The East Carnival” for the colorful activities as wrestling, bullfight and torch dances held during the festival.

Libo County is under jurisdiction of Qiannan Buyi and Miao Autonomous Prefecture of Guizhou Province, neighbouring Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Located in the southeast of Libo, Maolan State-level Karst Nature Reserve is composed of the Watery Karst Forest Zone in the southeast, the Scientific Touring Area of Xiaoqikong Karst Forest, and Wuzhensong Reserve of Dongting Village of Jialiang Town. The total area is 21,285 hectares, with 5,827 hectares as the core area, 8,910 hectares as the buffering zone, and 4,588 hectares as the experimental area.

It’s seldom known to people in China that the Karst forests of Maolan began to be patronised by overseas explorers and tourists in the 1980s; and to cross these Karst forests still remains great challenge to people even today. In the campaign of “Selecting the Most Beautiful Places of China”, sponsored by China National Geography in 2005, Libo County ranked second among China’s famous mountains and places, and was laurelled “China’s Most Beautiful Forest”.
The primitive forests, watery forest, and “funnel” forest, all of which were together honoured as “Libo’s Three Wonders”, have survived the barren and fragile Karst natural environment though scattering in different areas (some on hills, some in water and some in natural pit etc). This can be counted as a miracle of harmony between man and nature.

According to the integration of the Karst topographical features and the forest types, the Karst primitive forests of Libo can be divided into four categories: (1)-Funnel Forest, (2)-Depression Forest, (3)-Basin Forest, and (4)-Trough Valley Forest.
(1)-Funnel Forest
Featuring Karst funnel peaks, it is covered with dense, lush  vegetation; and blocked from outside world by mountains/hills surrounding, it has funnel-like dolines at the bottom that resemble to a huge green den. With a height difference of 150-300 meters from the bottom of the funnel to the tops of karst peaks, the funnel forest is seldom visited by humans so everything inside has remained original.

(2)-Depression Forest
It’s a Karst depression with high vegetation coverage, and farmlands and cottages scattering here and there. With local homes “inlaid” among green Karst peaks, limpid water gushing out from Karst springs and subterranean rivers, picturesque sceneries have been given to birth in such a depression forest. And the Buyi ethic simple, wooden houses, stilted houses, bridges, and yet the riverlets add much to the scenic values of the depression forest.

(3)-Basin Forest
It is a basin or valley with high vegetation coverage, and erecting isolate Karst peak(s). In such a flat and expansive basin forest, there are fertile lands with subterranean rivers emerging now and then; and with a considerable acreage of luxuriant forests, it has given birth to spectacular landscapes. 

(4)-Trough Valley Forest
It is a Karst basin or valley with high vegetation coverage, where dense forests grow, giant rocks are twisted with rattans, and nearby Karst peaks can be seen towering. Such a valley, which is irregular in width and length, exhibits mysterious and serene sceneries with subterranean rivers emerging at times in the bottom, disorderly Karst peaks, and uneven distributed vegetation.

The water flows on rocks overgrown with trees, which is the scene normally called “Another Wonder of Libo”: the watery forest. Most trees, which are at least one hundred years old and have combined with huge rocks, have remained prosperous with their roots exposed to the water.

In addition, the watery forest at Xiaoqikong is a rare but ideal place to go. Here you will witness the forests that are coupled by green water. Boating among the forests-shrouded waters, you will find masses of Dipteris conjugate (double-leave fern) compete to sprout, and towering trees have combined with rocks so that they have survived floods.

And boating in the 700-metre-long waterway Yuanyang Lake where many branches are low enough to reach the water, you’ll get a good chance to enjoy the serenity of the greenish blue water.

Chongqing Wulong: 3D valley karst, which is rare in the world
Wulong County, is located by the edge of southeast Chongqing City, at the downstream of Wujiang River, neighboring Pengshui in the east, Daozhen County of Guiizhou province in the south, Nanchuan and Fuling County in the west and Fengdu County in the north. It is 170 kilometers away from downtown Chongqing, and has been called “The Gate of Chongqing and Guizhou” since ancient times. The scenic spots of Wulong include Lotus Cave, which boosts the No.1 cave on the earth, Asian largest natural stone bridges group and Houping Giant Doline formed by the most rare karst system in the world.

Lotus cave is a huge limestone cave with length of 2400 meters, width of 30-50 meters and total area of its central “Brilliant Hall” is more than 11000 square meters. There are various kinds of secondary chemical deposition forms (namely of stalactites) can be found in the cave. Most of the species are widely distributed in pure quality and perfect patterns that are quite rare in China. Especially, the coral and canine tooth shaped calcite crystal flower that is forming in the lake, the helictite, calcite and gesso crystal flowers in the cave wall are not only rare in China, but also rare in the world. There are three major scenic areas with 30 main scenic spots have been exploited under the development schedule. Among them, more than 10 scenic spots are considered as the best attractions at home and aboard.

Wulong natural stone bridge is the most uncommon geological wonder ecological tourist area in China. It is a typical kast landscape. It boosts the largest Asian natural bridges group with three magnificent stone arch bridges namely as Sky Dragon Bridge, Green Dragon Bridge and Black Dragon Bridge that are regarded as wonders in the whole world.

The three natural bridges are at the south of the Fairy Mountain, which is in between of the Fairy Mountain and Wulong County. Sky Dragon Bridge is the No.1 natural bridge with height of 200 meters and length of 300 meter, and gets its name for locating in the first with powerful momentum. There are caves in the No.1 bridge, and small caves in big caves, all caves are intertwined as a maze, which is grand and magic. Green Dragon Bridge is the No.2 bridge, it is a natural bridge of largest vertical height difference. The bridge is 350 meters high, 150 meters wide and 400 meters long. It looks like a real dragon flying up to the sky at the sunset, thus why it is named Green Dragon Bridge. Black Dragon Bridge is famous for 4 springs called “Three Steps Spring”, “One String Spring”, “Pearl Spring” and “Fog Spring”.

Houping Giant Doline is situated Houping Town, which is the hinterland of the three gorges of the golden Yangtze River cruise, it belongs to the Wuling Mountain system, and is 88 kilometers away from   the Wulong County. Houping Giant Doline has aroused highly attention of the Sino-Euro-American joint cave expedition team and the chairman of China's Cave Research Association, Professor Zhu Xuewen to investigate here for several times. There are five dolines with total area of 150000 square meters, hidden within the primeval forest and bamboo groves. The doline is surrounded by deep cliffs. There are holes in the ground under the dolines, and you can find bigger dolines in these holes. The diameter and depth of the 5 dolines are all in 300 meters and in a barrel shape. There are 15000 acres of primeval forest and 30000 acres of stone forest, reservoir in the surrounding areas, has extremely high value of science research and full of mystery.