The Stone Forest Scenic Area is approximately 80 kilometers away from the downtown of Kunming. Covering 400 square kilometers, it has been a State 5A-level Scenic Attraction, National Geo Park, World Geo Park, National Key Scenic Area as well as a World Natural Heritage Site accepted by UNESCO in 2007. The Stone Forest is famous for the Karst landform and the ethnic culture of the Sani People (a branch of the Yi ethnic minority).
"Karst” or “Carst” turns out to be the name of the Istrian Peninsula which is a carbonatite plateau in Former Yugoslavia; it means “the place where rocks are exposed to the air”. When affected by water, the dissolvable rocks (limestones) will get eroded, precipitate and subside, resulting in various topographic formations such as stone forests, pinnacles, buds, dolines, lakes and subterranean rivers etc. In China, Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, Guangdong and Fujian provinces and regions are all scattered with Karst landforms, among which the stone forest in Yunnan’s Kunming is the best developed and tops others. Having been regarded as “the No.1 Wonder under the Sun” for long, the Stone Forest of Kunming was officially accepted as a World Natural Heritage site by UNESCO on June 27, 2007.
(The Sani people living around the Stone Forest)
The Stone Forest was formed in the Permian Period, some 270 million years ago. The entire scenic zone consists of the Major Stone Forest, the Minor Stone Forest, Naigu Stone Forest, Dadieshui Waterfall, Changhu Lake, Yuehu Lake, Zhiyun Cave and Qifeng Cave etc.
The Major Stone Forest (dà shí lín)
This area is composed of erecting peaks in big density. Appearing slate-gray, the highest of them is found to be as tall as 40 meters. Main sights inside include “the Lotus Peak”, “the Sword-peak Pond”, “One Hundred of Tons Hung by a Hair”, “Too Narrow for Only One Person to Pass”, “the Elephant Sitting on the Platform” and “the Phoenix Combing its Wings” etc. The highlight of the Major Stone Forest is “the Highlight of the Stone Forest” near the inscription by Mr. Lun Yun (1884-1962) who was the former governor of Yunnan Province in the 1930s. The “View Pavilion” constructed amid the peaks is the ideal place for visitors to overlook the grotesque rocks.
The Minor Stone Forest (xiǎo shí lín)
Compared to the Major Stone Forest, the Minor Stone Forest features sparse, elegant and graceful. Giant and overwhelming stone screens divide the Minor Stone Forest into several parts. Impressively, the natural stone locally called “Ah Shi Ma” is said to be the avatar of the Sani girl in the legend of “Ah Shi Ma”. Sani is a branch of the Yi ethnic minority; and “Ah Shi Ma” is the nickname for the young Sani ladies.
Naigu Stone Forest (nǎi ɡǔ shí lín)
Naigu Stone Forest is also referred to as “Heisongyan” Scenic Area that is approximately 8 kilometers to north of the Major Stone Forest. When overlooked, this area resembles to a dark-green pine forest thus the name. In the Sani dialect, “Naigu” indicates “dark” or “black”; so Heisongyan Scenic Area is normally called “Naigu Stone Forest”.
Changhu Lake (chánɡ hú)
26 kilometers away from the Major Stone Forest, Changhu Lake is 1,907 meters above the sea level. Its profile looks like a slim lady. Changhu Lake Area is said to be the hometown of “Ah Shi Ma”. Seldom visited by tourists because it’s shrouded among mounts and forests, Chnaghu Lake is vividly denominated “Canghu” which means “a hidden lake” in Chinese.
Yuehu Lake (yuè hú)
Being 12 kilometers away from the Major Stone Forest, Yuehu Lake is 1,906 meters above the sea level. It is 1.500 kilometers long with the average depth of 18 meters and the total water coverage of 4,500 Mu (appr. 3 sqr km). Yuehu Lake is the biggest among those lakes in the vicinity of the Major Stone Forest. To the south of Yuehu Lake is a mountain overspread with limestones; the tiny but cute stalagmites can likewise astonish visitors. To the north is vast green meadow; while to the east are the undulating mounts, verdant trees and pastoral Sani villages.
(1)-Torch Festival: The Stone Forest is the hometown of the Sani People. As their Yi fellows do in other places of Yunnan and even China, they spend the Torch Festival (Carnival) on lunar June 24th;
(2)-Traffic: You can join tours organized by travel services in Kunming, or take Tour Bus to the Major Stone Forest at Kunming East Bus Station；public bus available between the Major Stone Forest and Naigu Stone Forest;
(3)-Nearby: Jiuxing Karst Cave, 35 km; Dadieshui Waterfall, 20 km; Azhuodi Sani Village, Nuohei Sani Village and Wukeshu Sani Village and other Sani Villages. If you are interested in local market, you can choose to go to the Local Market in Lu’nan (county seat of Shilin County).
(4)-Hotels: Tian Qi Ashima Hotel; Shilin Hotel etc;
(5)-Food: Lu’nan fetta (Goat Cheese); Roast Duck; Dried Beef (locally called “ɡān bɑ”) etc; restaurants and eateries available in Shilin Town and near the entrance to the Major Stone Forest;
(6)-Souvenirs: Sani Satchels, costumes and embroideries etc.