IN southwest China’s Hunan Province lies a scenic area that is unique in the world for its rare rock forests, rock formations, and untarnished natural scenery. This area is called Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area, and consists of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Suoxiyu Nature Reserve, Tianzi Mountain Nature Reserve, and the newly-added Yangjiajie Scenic Area, covering an overall area of 500 square km.
  The various forms of natural scenery in Wulingyuan include rugged stone columns, peaks, and ridges, and steep cliffs. In addition, there are various kinds of old trees, cloud and fog formations, gurgling springs and surging waterfalls. Animal lovers may also be lucky to spot some of the many rare birds, mammals, and endangered animals that live in the area. The natural beauty found here is one of nature’s masterpieces, captivating the senses with the sounds and colors of its creation. With the local subtropical rains and mild temperatures, lush vegetation thrives here. In December 1992, the Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
  Multitudinous Rock Formations
  Wulingyuan is famous for its more than 3,000 spiky sandstone pillars and sandstone peaks, most of which stand higher than 200 meters, forming the rarest forest of quartzite sandstone pillar formations in the world.
  The geological structure of the region belongs to the neocathaysian structural third uplift-belt. Over 70 million years ago, the orogenesis movement instigated an upheaval and separation of the flat quartzite sandstone substratum, which finally formed the unified gorge. The unique and natural formations of the quartzite sandstone peak forest which we see today is a result of the combination of long-term fluvial erosion of the surface of the formation, biochemical effects of gravitational collapse, and weather conditions. The peaks range in height from several meters to over 400 meters, distributed over an area with an altitude of 500 to 1,100 meters. The various shapes of the sandstone forest inspire onlookers with limitless associated mental images, from people and celestial beings to monsters and wild beasts.
  According to a legend of the Tujia people, a local ethnic minority group in the region, the special formation of the sandstone peaks is connected with a man named Xiang Dakun in ancient times. As the legend goes, Xiang was dissatisfied with the government at that time. As a result, he raised his own standard and proclaimed himself king of the region of Tianzi Mountain, promising to create a peaceful world. When the emperor heard this, he sent his troops to suppress the uprising of the self-proclaimed king. After being besieged in the mountains several times without success, Xiang finally ended his life by leaping into a ravine together with his subordinates, and their bodies turned into the peaks seen in the valley today. Toward the southeast of the region, there is a deep valley which has more than 30 rugged shaped rock peaks in it. Local people say that those peaks were the king’s army. The boulder which stands out among the peaks is said to be the King Xiang, and the other peaks are his soldiers.

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