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The Wulingyuan Scenic Area
2004-10-27

Wulingyuan, a scenic area in the northwestern part of Hunan Province, was unknown until the 1970s, when Chinese master painter Wu Guanzhong came upon the area by chance. Wu was fascinated by the beautiful scenery. “This place is a bright pearl, unknown in the depth of the mountains,” he sighed. In the 1980s, the area became famous and was named Wulingyuan because of its location in Wuling Mountain.

Wulingyuan started out as a vast sea some 100 million years ago. The movements of nature over time turned the area into a tract of land with lofty peaks and deep ravines, covered by flowers and now-ancient cypresses. The quartz and sandstone peaks vary in shapes, towering one next to another, and streams wind their way through secluded ravines. Wulingyuan’s value in natural and scientific studies and its virgin, wild beauty have given the area a place on the list of world natural heritage sites.

The Wulingyuan Scenic Area consists of three parts: Zhangjiajie National Park, Suoxiyu Nature Reserve, and Tianzi Mountain Nature Reserve. Wulingyuan is known for five unmatched beauties: its exotic peaks, its unusually shaped stones, its deep and secluded ravines, its waters, and its limestone caves.

Among the many sights in Wulingyuan, the peaks of quartz and sandstone are the most spectacular. In an area of 360 square kilometers, there are more than 3,000 peaks, of which 1,000 rise 400 meters above sea level. They stand one next to another like bamboo shoots, fantastic, grotesque, lofty, and elegant. There are more than 80 high plateaus on Tianzi Mountain and in Zhangjiajie National Park where one can enjoy the beauty of such peaks as the Heavenly Maiden Presents Flowers, the Arhat, and the Long Scroll of the West Sea. The many peaks without names can also arouse the viewer’s imagination.

After a rain or on rainy days, the peaks in Wulingyuan are enveloped by clouds and fog, making them even more enchanting, elegant, and mysterious. Summer is the best season for seeing Wulingyuan, and Tianzi Mountain is the best place for enjoying the sight of the fog-enveloped peaks.

Another highlight of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area is the beautiful water scenery—streams, brooks, springs, lakes, waterfalls, and pools—eight hundred water sights in all. The Golden Whip Brook (Jinbianxi) winds its way for a dozen kilometers from Zhangjiajie to Suoxi Ravine, passing through the Paper-Straw Pool, the Fish-Jumping Pool, and the Heavenly Son Islet. On both sides of the brook stand steep cliffs.

Walking along the brook, the visitor feels refreshed and can enjoy the scenes of fish playing in the water and the singing of birds echoing in the ravines. An especially lucky visitor might come across Beishui pheasants drinking their fill.

Wulingyuan also has many limestone caves. The most famous are the Yellow Dragon, the Goddess of Mercy, the Singing Water, the Turtle’s Home, the Flying Clouds, and the Golden Snail. The Yellow Dragon Cave, in the Suoxi Ravine, is 7.5 kilometers long. In the cave, there is a small pond, two rivers, three waterfalls, four pools, 13 halls, and 96 corridors. Scenic wonders in the cave include the Bell Rings Among Ice, the Path Sandwiched by Bamboo Grooves, and the Dance in the Dragon Palace.

Dense forests, including untouched virgin forests, cover 97.9 percent of the scenic area of Wulingyuan. Here, one can find such plants as metasequoias, ginkgoes, lobster flowers, and dove trees and such animals as pheasants, pangolins, monkey-faced eagles, red-billed leiothrixes, macaques, and giant salamanders. In the early 1980s, scientists explored Wulingyuan and described the place as a refuge and gene pool for plants. The Wulingyuan Scenic Area has sufficient rain and a mild climate with neither hot summers nor cold winters. The annual mean temperature is 15°C (59°F), offering favorable conditions for plants and animals.

Besides the untouched, wild scenery, the Wulingyuan area also has rural landscapes. The area is inhabited by the Tujia, Bai, Miao, and other minorities, and their houses and terraced fields look like decorations on the green mountain. Visitors who come on festive occasions can enjoy the local customs, the singing and dancing of the minority peoples, and the beautiful scenery.

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