World Natural Heritage: Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area
Chinese Name: Wu Ling Yuan Feng Jing Ming Sheng Qu
English Name: Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area
Approval Date: December 1992
Heritage category: Natural heritage
Selection Criteria: Based on the standards N(III) for selecting natural heritage, the Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area was listed in the World Heritage List.
Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area
Assessment of the World Heritage Committee:
The splendid and fantastic Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area is located in China’s Hunan Province, and covers an area of over 26,000 hectares. The most distinctive landscape of this area is the more than 3,000 gritstone columns and peaks, most of which are over 200 meters high. In the area, mountains, valleys and gorges are widely scattered and streams, pools and waterfalls can be seen everywhere. There are also over 40 caves and also two huge natural stone bridges. In addition to the charming natural landscapes, the area is also attractive for being the home of many endangered animals and plants.
The Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area is located in the northwest of Hunan Province in central China. It is made up of three parts, the Zhangjiajie Forest Park, the Suoxiyu Nature Reserve in Cili County, and the Tianzi Mountain Nature Reserve in Sangzhi County. The area is about 500 square kilometers. Recently, the Yangjiajie new scenic area was also founded. Billions of years ago, Wulingyuan was a vast expanse of the ocean, and the continual changes to nature in the past billions of years created Wulingyuan’s current landscape of gritstone forests and valleys. In the area, you can see rare plants and flowers, thrifty pines and cypresses, unique stones and mountain peaks, as well as fog-surrounded streams, valleys and cliffs. The natural value and the pure wildness of Wulingyuan can easily conquer people hearts. The area is well known in the world for its “five unique landscapes,” the special peaks, the strange stones, the deep and secluded valleys, the beautiful water, and the karst caves.
The Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area was founded in the 1980s. In the area, the landscapes are purely natural, and you can see stone columns and peaks, steep cliffs and rock faces, ancient and rare trees, dense fog, flowing streams, splendid waterfalls, and rare birds and animals everywhere. Standing in the area, you will feel you are in an amazing and fantastic world or in an art gallery designed using nature. According to air surveys, there are over 3,000 peaks in the Wulingyuan area which covers over 360 square kilometers, including over 1,000 with an altitude higher than 400 meters. The stone columns and peaks here are straight and dense, and different from other places. The unusual stones, peaks and cliffs look like silks, bamboo shoots, or screens spread out widely, and can give people impressions that they have never had. On the Tianzi Mountain and in Zhangjiajie, there are over 80 sightseeing stands where people can enjoy the sceneries in peace and in detail. The names of the peaks and stones are also dramatic, including large ones such as “Shentang Bay” and “Long Roll of the Western Sea,” and small ones such as “Blossom-Scattering Fairies,” “Qu Yuan Reciting Poems” and “Arhat Peak.”
The unique quartzite sandstone pillars of the Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area can rarely be seen in other places in the world. Within an area of over 360 square kilometers, over 3,000 peaks have been discovered so far, all of which are magnificent and majestic. When the sun shines through just after a rainfall or during rainy days, the fog and cloud will appear in the valleys, and cloud seas will form. It is amazing to see the stones and peaks floating in the cloud seas. The peaks are hard and stiff, but the fog can make them look tender, elegant and mysterious. The best season for admiring the fog is summer and the best place is Tianzi Mountain, which is also a place photographers frequently visit.
The mountains are always surrounded by water in Wulingyuan. It is said that the Zhangjiajie Forest Park alone has over 800 waterscapes. The countless waterfalls, springs, streams, pools and lakes are all very wonderful. The Golden Whip Stream is a stream about 10 kilometers long, and people can walk from Zhangjiajie to Suoxiyu along it. On the two sides of the stream are green mountains. The stream flows slowly through the Zhicao Pool, the Jumping Fish Pool, the Nanmu Ground and the Tianzi Sandbar, and finally into the Li River. While walking on the path along the stream, you can feel the cool freshness of the stream, admire the colorful fish swimming in the pools, and hear the singing of cuckoos.
The Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area has many karst caves which are usually very large and unique, notably the Yellow Dragon Cave, Guanyin Cave, Water Sound Cave, Tortoise Nest Cave, Feiyun Cave and Golden Snail Cave. Of them, the most renowned one is the Yellow Dragon Cave in the Suojiayu. It is 7.5 kilometers long in total and has four parts. The cave has one reservoir, two rivers, three waterfalls, four pools, 13 halls and 96 corridors inside. The fascinating “Toll from Ice,” “Green Bamboo Path” and “Dragon Palace Dance” are the essential landscapes of the Yellow Dragon Cave, and makes it one of the most renowned scenic spots of the Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area.
The climate of the Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area is mild and has abundant rainfalls. The temperature is about 15 degrees Celsius all the year round and never gets too high or too low. Such a climate is very good for plants and animals to live and grow, and the pastoral scenery and natural scenery form a delightful contrast. The area is the dwelling place of many minority nationalities, including the Tujia, Bai and Miao nationalities. The terraced fields, trees and houses are scattered among the green mountains and rivers, and you may also see smoke from kitchen chimneys. If you are there during local festivals, you may also be able to watch some folk dances. The sceneries and the mountains and forests of Wulingyuan combine together harmoniously, and it looks like a great painting.