The Stone Forest is known as "One of Earth's Natural Wonders". All visitors to Kunming from home and abroad never hesitate to come here to admire the unique scenes formed by the stones. The Stone Forest is located in Shilin County, 85 kilometres southeast of Kunming. Covering a few hundred square kilometres, stone peaks rise abruptly from the ground in numerous layers like bamboo shoots, forests and pagodas. If you climb to the top of one of the peaks, you can behold thousands of peaks and valleys just like a marvelous vast black forest. The roads wind around between the peaks, taking visitors to ever more unexpected and beautiful scenes. Researches by Chinese and overseas geologists have proved that the Stone Forest is over 270 million years old. The area used to be an ocean. During the Long Geological Period from the late Permian Period 230million years ago to 2 million years ago , the ocean subsided and giant rocks appeared. During this time the rocks were gradually worn away by water, forming the strange rock forms seem today. Wandering in the Stone Forest is a unique experience .The stone mountains form strange shapes, the peaks are like poems and pictures, like the vertical "Lotus Peak," the majestic "Rhinoceros Admiring the Moon" and the graceful "Pavilion Observing the Peaks". The layers of mountains seem to be pressing forward; the curious shaped rocks excite people's imagination. In the depth of the Stone Forest, numerous lakes are like bright mirrors reflecting the rocks and peaks.
Among all the scenic spots in the Stone Forest, the rock of Ashima in the Small Stone Forest is the most famous. The rock of Ashima resembles a girl of the Sani people, a branch of the Yi ethnic group, with a kerchief on her head, and a bamboo basket on her back. The shape and expression are both surprisingly lifelike. Ashima was a beautiful girl in a Sani folk tale. She is a symbol of the hope for freedom to choose who to marry, and a happy life for the Sani people. This is a story of a young couple who fall in love, but cannot marry each other. It was first written down in the 1940s and performed in Kunming. It has been published several times, and was filmed in the 1960s. The national dance drama "Ashima" is on the list of the top Chinese dances in the 20th century. Since then "Ashima" has been translated into eight languages including English, German, French, and Russian and has shed its beauty throughout the international community.
Walking through the Stone Forest, we can still find traces of the Neolithic Age. On the cliffs and peaks we find ancient frescos painted using a mixture of animal blood and minerals. This is a beautiful place combining the spirit of the ethnic minorities and natural scenery. Close to the Stone Forest are other scenic spots such as the Black Stone Forest, the Dadieshui Waterfall, the Changhu Lake (Long Lake), and the Ziyundong (Purple Clouds) Cave. Lakes, mountains, caves and rocks add more charm to the Stone Forest area. Every year, on the 24th day of the 6th lunar month, the Yi people celebrate their Torch Festival . Traditional activities including wrestling and bull fighting, and joyous singing and dancing always last throughout the whole night.
Front Scenery of Stone Forest: As soon as one enters the Stone Forest scenic area, a crystal-clear lake comes into focus. By the east lakeside, rise from the water a good array of fantastic stone pinnacles, pillars, shoots, and stalactites, resembling a natural potted scenery. A few hundred steps beyond the lake, there is a pool with a huge boulder in the shape of a squatting lion. Hence it's given the name of "Lion Pool". Further on, a couple of tall limestones block the way like a green screen.
Greater Stone Forest: Inside the sea of Stone Forest, one feels as if were in a bizarre fairyland. The stone formations standing still resemble a variety of things such as ancient fortresses, birds, beasts, flowers, trees, human beings, and whatever else one can imagine.
Lesser Stone Forest: It adjoins the Greater Stone Forest, and has large lawns, lush growth of bamboos and trees as well as mountain flowers in Spring and Autumn. Most fantastic are "The Cluster of Pinnacles Propping up the Sky" and "The Stone Singing Praises of Plums".
Outer Stone Forest: It's gifted with myriad of stone peaks of various shapes. The Lion Hill resembles a squatting male lion on a height.
Subterranean Stone Forest in Zhiyun Cave, an underground stone forest distributed among several caves and occupying a total area of about three square kilometers (720 acres).
Strange Wind Cave, composed of Penfeng Cave, Hongxi Spring and an underground river. From August to November, gales lasting two to three minutes sweep out of the cave every 30 minutes.
Long Lake is a karsts lake that is three kilometers (two miles) long but only 300 meters (zero point two miles) wide. The lake features underwater stalagmites and stalactites and a small island in the center of the water.
The source of the Dadie Waterfall, Ba River, is a branch of Nanpan River. In the rainy season, up to 150 cubic meters (196 cubic yards) of water per square inch plummet down the 88 meter (288 feet) drop.
Geologists say the Stone Forest is a typical example of karsts topography. Approximately 270 million years ago - during the carboniferous period of the Paleozoic era - the region was a vast expanse of sea. Over time, the movements of the lithosphere gradually caused a retreat of the waters and the rise of the limestone landscape. Due to constant erosion by the elements, the area finally developed into the present-day Stone Forest.
Many beautiful legends originate in this magical place, passed along by the native people known as Sani, a branch of the Yi ethnic group. One particular story about the faithful love of Ashima, a beautiful, clever and warm-hearted Sani girl, is the most popular and has been told for thousands of years. The Sani people celebrate their national festival - the Torch Festival - every lunar year on June 24. They take part in traditional performances such as wrestling, bull fighting, pole-climbing, dragon-playing, lion-dancing and the A-xi Moon Dance. During this time, the Stone Forest is alive with a particularly joyful, festive atmosphere, making the area even more attractive than usual. However, the Stone Forest - with its sculptures engraved by nature, herself - is always a true miracle for visitors to behold.
Tips: Food: Tourists can taste the delicious local food such as the edible wild mushrooms and the Yi people's Tofu feast. Shopping: Tourists can buy the handicrafts, minority clothes and the folk paintings at Stone Forest. Accommodation: It is convenient to stay in Stone Forest. There is a variety of hotels including Stone Forest Hotel, Stone Forest Guest House, Ashima Hotel. It is 60 yuan for a "Ashima" or "Ahei" guide (the guides are chosen from the Yi villages). Allow
Food: Tourists can taste the delicious local food such as the edible wild mushrooms and the Yi people's Tofu feast. Shopping: Tourists can buy the handicrafts, minority clothes and the folk paintings at Stone Forest. Accommodation: It is convenient to stay in Stone Forest. There is a variety of hotels including Stone Forest Hotel, Stone Forest Guest House, Ashima Hotel. It is 60 yuan for a "Ashima" or "Ahei" guide (the guides are chosen from the Yi villages). Allow two hours for a visit to the Greater and Lesser stone forests. The cableway cost 15 yuan. The best time to visit the Stone Forest, especially the Greater and Lesser stone forests is September to May.