World Natural Heritage: Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area
Chinese name: Huang Long Feng Jing Ming Sheng Qu
English name: Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area
Approval Date: December 1992
Heritage category: Natural heritage
Selection Criteria: Based on the standards N(III) for selecting natural heritages, the Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area was listed on the World Heritage List.
Assessment of the World Heritage Committee:
The Huanglong Scenic Area is located in the northwestern part of Sichuan Province. It is a valley that consists of many snow-capped mountain peaks and has the most glaciers in eastern China. In the area, visitors see many high-altitude landscapes and various forest systems, as well as splendid limestone landforms, waterfalls and hot springs. A lot of endangered animals live in the area, including giant pandas and the Sichuan Snub-Nosed Golden Monkey.
Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area
The Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area is located in Songpan County in the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province in western China. It is next to the Jiuzhaigou Valley. The area is in the joint zone of three geological structures and its geological condition is extremely complex. The area covers over 1,340 square kilometers, and many snow-capped mountain peaks stand upright in the area including seven with altitudes over 5,000 meters.
The Huanglong Valley leans on the Xuebaoding Peak and faces the clear currents of the Fu River. The snow water coming down from the Yucui Peak and the cavern water welling up join together. Due to the different flow speeds, the fluctuant landform, and the debris obstacles in the current, the abundant calcium carbonate in the water will agglomerate and calcium compounds have formed on the bottom. When the water flows on the calcium compounds, large pools of colorful water will appear. The water looks like natural picture of the Huangong Valley. When the calcium carbonate agglomerates, it will also mix with other organic substances and minerals, thus different calcium compounds would form. When the sunshine shines on these compounds, the water will show many different colors. For this reason, people call the pools there the “Five-Color Pools.”
The Wucai Pool cannot fill so much beautiful scenery so it flows with spoondrift all the way through the 2.5 km-long sloping field to form another magnificent spectacle – the Golden Sands Floor. Originally, along the landscape, the slope was covered with layers of cream squamous travertine. Under the sun, accompanied by turbulent waves, the whole valley glitters, looks just like a huge yellow dragon soaring down from the mountains, with embossed squama on its waist and back just like pieces of armor; hence the name Huanglong Valley. The Huanglong Temple was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368—1644) to worship the yellow dragon. The Huanglong Valley is well known in the world, with strange, absolute, beautiful and secret natural landscapes.
There are many pools ranging in size with the larges one at about one or two mu, and small ones at a few square meters. They convey different poses and expressions and have unguis, palms, water chestnuts, and lotuses. They flow along the valley and pour into lakes, falling level by level, and traversing the forest, crossing the embankment, and rolling onto the beach. The first pool group into the ravine is set off in the verdant jungle and they flow through the grey branches and jade green leaves. More than 20 various pools are staggered and scattered, with glimmering waves, falling layer by layer, with an acoustic “Ding Dong” sound. Some pool group banks are low, and water overflows into small pools which are white, with the water color being blue. They look colorful in the sunlight. In some lakes, there are ancient wood and old vines clumps, some that look like an eagle spreading its wings, some like a tiger running down the mountain. They are vivid and lifelike. In some pools, pine, cypresses and other trees grow, higher than the water, or submerged in the water, graceful and lovely, shaped like "water bonsai."
The Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area also has precious animals and plants resources, with more than 1,500 species of higher plants that are unique to China. Among which, 11 species of plants are belong to the first to third grade state protection, as well as the rare animals such as giant pandas, golden monkey, wildebeests, clouded leopards and other national key protected animals.
Natural Heritage Value:
Large surface travertine landscapes
The large-scale, various surface travertine landscape with distinctive configuration and abundant color is the main landscape of Huanglong (Table 1), and it is a unique scenic area in China. The comprehensive landscape is outstanding and has magnificent plateau scenery and specific ethnic customs as the tone for the integrated landscape of Huanglong. The Ferris mountains, vertical and horizontal valleys, gray jungles and rippling waterscapes, are inlaid with elaborate pools, lakes, beaches, waterfalls, springs, caves and other kinds of travertine landscape, dotted with all native style custom such as mysterious villages, temples, farms, herds, song and dance. The view is comprehensive and the landscape forms are specific, while the combination is organic and harmonious and under the unique blue sky and white clouds, sun and brash, twilight and dark seasonal aspects in the plateau, it presents a natural and infinite dynamic picturesque scene with landscapes everywhere constantly. The main feature of Huanglong is a ditch that is 3.6 kilometers long and 30 to 170 meters wide with a light yellow surface travertine accumulation, the shape of which is like a golden "dragon.” The pools cascading, waterfalls roar, flowing spring gently singing, flowers and herbs, ancient wood and vines embellish the travertine, rare animals such as giant pandas and others are enjoying themselves. More than 3,400 travertine pools are clean in the sun. Each has their own charm and spirituality. There is an old saying about Huanglong, "Yu Zhang (a cultural relic of Shang Dynasty) reaching the sky, facing white blood through grey pines; golden sands flooring, thousands layers of clear water flowing through Huanglong.”
Known as "Jade pool in the world”
The Huanglong Valley, the main scenic zone, is just like the image of a "dragon" from the Chinese perspective, which has always been known as the "Jade pool in the world." In local villages, different ethnic villagers respect the valley and Tibetans call it the "East Sun or Searle Jun" meaning the East Conch Mountain (referring to Xuebao Mountain), golden Hai Zi (referring to the Huanglong Valley), and followed with the annual transfer mountain temple fair, which all the people in the northwestern provinces and regions participate in. The four wonders are the colorful pools, esplendidos jokul, winding and zigzagging canyons, and mysterious forests, and they are famous in the world. The grand, high, strange, wild landscape features take theis considered a world wonder and the “Jade pool in the world.”
The changeable state of the geographical structure
In space, Huanglong is located at the intersection area between units. In structure, it is located at the junction of three tectonic units, the Yangzizhun Platform, Songpan—Ganzi fold system, and the Qinling geosynclines fold system. In physiognomy, it is anterior China’s second step topography, and is the transition zone of the eastern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the western Sichuan Basin Mountain. In hydrology, there is the Three Rivers watershed of the Fu River, Mian Jiang and Jialing River. Climatically, it is on the edge of the northern subtropical humid climate of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the western Sichuan sub-boundary. In vegetation, it is in the intermediate zone of the humid forest zone in eastern China to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau alpine needle forest meadow shrub. There are animals from northern and southern regions. In Scenic Area, the east-west jokul fault, Huya fault, and south-north Minshan fault, Zhaga Mountain fault, all cross. For the ancient geological conditions, palaeogeographic tectonics and structural features such as the lithological characters, sequence, deposition, there are much difference between Huanglong scenic spots and Munigou Part. The transition state of the spatial location, resulting in the complexity of the natural environment, contains many mysteries, and provides the vast world to explore natural mysteries for the various disciplines.
Rare travertine landscapes in the world
The Huanglong travertine landscape including the travertine stone dams and color pots, travertine beaches, travertine fans, travertine lakes, travertine collapsed lakes and pits, as well as travertine waterfalls, travertine caves, travertine springs and travertine bonsai is a veritable natural travertine museum. The scale of the Huanglong travertine landscape is huge and a total of 3,600 meters of travertine sections are distributed in the Huanglong Ravine. The longest travertine beach is 1,300 meters long and the widest one is 170 meters wide. The number of travertine color pots is more than 3,400. The highest stone dam is 7.2 meters high and the Zhaga Travertine Waterfall is 93.2 meters high. They are the best travertine landscapes in China and very rare in the world. The Huanglong travertine landscapes assume a concentrated distribution. On the vast carbonate stratigraphy, the travertine landscapes are only found in four valleys including the Huanglong Ravine, Zhaga Ravine and Erdao Hai (Two Way Sea) between the altitudes of 3,000 to 3,600 meters above sea level. The Huanglong travertine landscapes possess all the evolution processes with the Huanglong Ravine, Erdao Sea and Zhaga Ravine being in the travertine formative period, decline period, and late degeneration period respectively. They provide a complete scene for the research of the travertine evolution process. The Huanglong travertine landscapes were skillfully combined and the 3,600-meter-long sections of travertine landscapes in the Huanglong Ravine have almost all travertine types and skillfully constitute a golden "dragon" flying in the snow mountains and forests, which is a real natural wonder.
Easternmost glacial remains in China
The Huanglong area, more than 3,000 meters above sea level, widely reserves the clear glacial remains of the Quaternary period. Xuebaoding, the main peak of Mount Min, is the most typical that remains. The features of the glacial remains are comprehensive, intensive distributed and in the easternmost regions. In this area, the scale of high mountains is wide. There are seven peaks above 5,000 meters high including three modern glaciers, the Baoxueding (5,588 meters), Xuelan Mountain (5,440 meters), and Mendong Peak (5,058 meters). Therefore, this area has become a preservation area of modern glaciers in easternmost China. Major ice erosion remains include the Jiaofeng (distributed above 4,000 meters above sea level), Renji (distributed above 3,800 meters) and the glacial dammed lakes (distributed above 3,900 meters). Major moraine landscapes including end moraine, medial moraine, lateral moraine and bottom moraine are distributed in glacier valleys and the end moraine is mainly distributed in the areas with altitudes from 3,000 to 3,100 meters, 3,550 to 3,650 meters and 3,750 to 3,850 meters. Modern glaciers, ancient glacier remains and their relations with travertine have important research value.
Typical and complete landforms of high mountains, valleys and river sources
The Huanglong Area generally features majestic mountains and valleys. The peaks look like a forest, the ridges look like blades, the valleys are deep, the cliffs are steep, and the numerous river braches are straight in the north and sinuate in the south. The altitude of the area varies from 1,700 to 5,588 meters. Generally, the height difference between the peak and valley is over 1,000 meters. Between 3,700 and 4,000 meters and above, there are generally glaciated landforms, which look splendid and powerful. The Huanglong Area also has many karst valleys where the landscapes are various, the cliffs and peaks are strange, the waterscapes are abundant and the vegetation is thrifty. The karst valleys include the Danyun Stream Valley, Zhaga Forest Valley and Erdaohai Forest Valley. The source of the Fu River is in this area, and it is a multi-branch water system, whose upper reaches has wide and flat river beds, lower reaches have deep and twisting valleys, southern branches are straight and northern branches are disorderly. Such a river source style is very special.
Treasury of plant and animal species
The Huanglong area is a green treasury of natural plants. It contains over 1,500 higher plants, most of which exist only in China. There are 11 plant species under the grade A, B and C national-level protection, including the Sichuan Arch, Mian Mountain Fir, Single-Leaf grass and Star-Leaf grass. Many plants have very high scientific research, medicinal and economic value.
The special geographic location of the Huanglong Area has made it the ideal place for wild animals, such as giant pandas, to live and reproduce. The animals there include a lot of rare species, many southern and northern species, and some special local species. Of them, 59 are animal species and 155 are bird species. There are about 100 animal species under the Grade-A, B and C national-level protection there, including giant pandas, golden monkeys, wildebeests, clouded leopard, white-lipped deer, and Red-Bellied Tragopan. The research on the “living fossil” panda will help us uncover the deep mysteries of the natural ecologic system.
High-quality mineral water and hot spring
The source of the Huanglong Mineral Water is in the Moni Valley scenic zone. Its flow speed is 0.58 liters per second, temperature is between 9.5 to 9.8 degrees Celsius, pH is 6.3, and mineralization degree is 1,159 milligrams per liter. The assessment of relevant departments shows that the water is high-quality drinkable mineral water with strontium and carbon dioxide. In addition, there is also a group of hot springs in the Erdaohai Valley of the Moni Valley scenic zone. The temperature of the water is about 22 degrees Celsius and the water column sprayed from the largest spring is 30 centimeters high above the ground. The concentration of sulfur (H2S) in the water is 0.16 milligrams per liter.