Sunday, August 10, 2008

Zhangjiajie Plants

Ancient trees are living relics. The ancient and famed trees here are characterized by five words, old, big, rare grotesque and abundant. At Shentang gulf and heicongnao the primitive subforests are well preserved. In Zhangjiajie there is a towering ginkgo tree , 50 m tall with a trunk diameter of 159 cm, known as a living fossil, of all these plants in Zhangjiajie , the Wuling pine is most common in distribution and in number, hence they say: in Zhangjiajie stand thousands of peaks, among peaks tower millions of pines. All these prototype genetic resources are of great scientific value.


According to studies of the area, 1300 species of plants can be discovered by discriminating the specimens collected, among which 600 species of xylophyta of 252 genuses in Zhangjiajie belong to 94 families. Species under first-class protection, include Davidia involucrate;11 species under second-class protection,including Bretschneidera sinensis, Pseudolaxus chienii, Cercis chinensis, Emmemopterys henryi, Diperonia sinensis, Eucommia ulmoides, Liriodendron Chinese; 16 species are under third-class protection, including Pseudotsuga gaussenii, Sassafras tsumu, Pterostyrax psilophyllus, Cercis chinensis, Pteroceltis tatarinowii, Tapiscia sinensis and Decaisnea fargesii. There are more than 200 species of marketable trees including Phoebe nanmu, Cinnamomum camphora, Cinnamomun bodiaeri, sassafras tsumu, Pinus massoniana, Cunninghamia lanceolate, Palbergia hupeana, Alniphyllum fortunei, Nyssa sinensis, Kalopanax septemlobus, Liquidanmbar formosana, Betula luminfera, Quercus glauca, Liquidambar formosana, Betula luminfera, Quercus glauca, Lithocarpus elasanifolia Quercus variabilis, Choerospondias axillaries, Emmemopterys henryi, and Tilia amurensis.


There are more than 700 species of medical plants, the most important of which include Gastrodia elata, Coptis Chinensis, Paeonia lactiflora, Subglobu larflower, Panaxjaponicus, and Eucommia ulmoides. In addition there are more than 400 species of ornamental plants. Forested areas constitute 85%of the total and vegetation-covered areas account for 99%.

Zhangjiajie Animals


The complicated topography, the steep cliffs and the deep gullies as well as the heavy rainfall and dense forests provide animals with an excellent environment of surviving and multiplying. According to preliminary investigation there are 116 species of vertebrates belonging to 50 families, among which here are three species under first-class state protection. Include in the list of Animals under special state protection, and over ten species are under second-class state protection. The largest animal population here is rhesus monkey, numbering more than 300.Giant salamander can be found in every stream, spring and pool.

The common animals in Zhangjiajie include Andrias davidianus, Geekko gecko, Trimeresurus stejnegeri,Deinagkitrodon acutus,Bambusicolat thoracica, Tragopan temminckii, Chrysolophus pictus, Acridotheres cristatellus, Manis pertadactyla, Lepus sinensis, Callosciurus erythraeus, Hystrix brachyura, Sus scrofa, and Moschus berezovskii, etc.

Zhangjiajie Longsheng

Located approximately 27 kilometers southeast of Longsheng County, a vast region of rice terraces stretches layer upon layer, coiling around from the base of Longji Mountain to its summit. This is the most amazing terrace in China, the Dragons Backbone Rice Terraces. Construction of the terraces began in the Yuan Dynasty , and continued until the early Qing Dynasty when construction was completed. The Dragons Backbone Rice Terraces are the culmination of both the profound wisdom and strenuous labor of the Zhuang people.

Now, the Dragons Backbone Rice Terraces covers an area of 66 square kilometers and spans an altitude between 300 meters and 1100 meters . It is said, Where there is soil, there is a terrace, be it in the valley, with swift flowing river to the mountains summit with its swirling cloud cover, or from bordering verdant forest to the cliff walls. Even though the Dragons Backbone Rice Terraces is large, it is made up of numerous patches no more than 1 mu . The smaller ones like snails while the bigger one like towers. The outline is very smooth with gradients between 26 degrees and 35 degrees.
The Dragons Backbone Rice Terraces is a beautiful natural picture. The linked together rice terraces vary from season to season. In spring, the water is irrigated into the fields and the terraces look like great chains or ribbons hung on the hillsides. When the onset of summer, green waves rush continuously down the mountainside from the heaven. The theme of autumn is the harvest, with the mountainside decorated with the gold of ripened millet. Coming into winter, the whole mountain will be covered with white snow, just like dragons playing with water.

As well as its amazing scenery, Longji is also the area to visit to experience Chinas ethnic minorities culture. The Zhuang and the Yao nationalities live here, though mainly it is the Zhuang people. The women dress in unique and colorful costumes, singing and dancing. Guests also can join in with them to enjoy the original Zhuang life and culture, and even stay with local families enjoying both the Longji tea and the Longji wine.

Panorama Hotel: Dazhais Highest Hotel
Outstanding views of Dazhai Rice Terrace Valley. The ex- and interior are entirely made of wood which gives the place a wonderful atmosphere. Cheap too: 20 yuan per bed and you can stay under your blankets watching the sunrise! See my Things To Do chapter for more pictures.

Li Qing Guesthouse
We did not spend a night in Lonji Titan, with hind sight, we should have. There are plenty of guesthouses like this one in Ping An . Check and pick the one you like. Please note that, not all of them are operated by locals. Some are owned by people from Yangshuo or Guilin, cashing in on the new tourist spot.

guesthouse front
The guesthouse offers a kind of free leaf tea that has quite unique flavor. According to the owner, its picked on this mountain which can freshening you up.

Elegant Hostel: Strategic Accommodation
The Hostel is owned by the local - Hong Yao Tribe. Facilities are reasonable - hot shower, clean toilet, good local food, and wine to keep body warm. The Owner - Auntie Shu - is a friendly and warm person. From guide to chef, Auntie Shu and her family will try their best to look after fellow travellers. We feel like being part of the family.

Cozy home feeling. It is a strategic move - to stay at this hostel as it is only abt 10 mins walk from the Da Zhai town. Once u unloaded your heavy backpack , you can go trek up the 3 scenic points way up - but at an enjoyable pace. Auntie Shu is always smiling and enjoying the company of foreigners =) Note: The other hostels are high up - this means u have to walk up abt 45 - 1 hr up . Of cos, you can get a porter.

Zhangjiajie Sanjiang

In Guangxi Province, there are several different ethnic minorities, including the Miao, Zhuang, Dong and Yao. Each lives in a different area of Guangxi. Sanjiang County in particular is famous for the stockade villages built by the Dong ethnic minority. The Dong people also erect covered bridges with porches and pavilions which provide shelter even when it rains. The local people call these types of bridges by a beautiful name - Wind and Rain bridges. Of them, the Chengyang Wind and Rain Bridge is the most famous.

Chengyang Wind and Rain Bridge, also called Yongji Bridge or Panlong Bridge, spans the Linxi River of Sanjiang County. Built in 1916, it is 64.4 meters long, 3.4 metes wide and 10.6 meters high. Constructed with wood and stones, the surface of the bridge is paved with wooden boards and both sides are inlayed with railings. On the bridge itself, there are five tower-like kiosks with horns and eaves which resemble the flapping wings of birds.
To ones surprise, the builders of this bridge did not use any nails or rivets. Instead, talented Dong people dove-tailed many pieces of wood. Though several decades old, the bridge is still very sturdy. In a word, it is grand and looks like a brilliant rainbow crossing over the river.
Walking out onto the bridge, you can sit on the bench and appreciate the picturesque scenery. Looking far ahead, you will be intoxicated with what you see: the Linxi River meandering from the horizon; tea trees growing on the hills; local peasants working hard in the fields; and waterwheels turning, sending water cascading down the river.
Many visitors like to spend time here enjoying the perfect pastoral life and to experience the customs of the Dong people. There are eight famous stockade villages here that offer a peek into the Dongs life and customs. They are Maan, Pingzhai, Yanzhai, Chengyang-Dazhai, Pingpu, Pingtan, Jichang and Guandong.
Accommodation: Near the bridge, there are several hostels. If you want to have a spectacular view of the charming scenery, you may want to stay in the Drum Tower Folk Hostel built on the hill.
Food: You will have a chance to taste the local snacks, such as rice noodles and the fish with sour taste.
Getting there: Take the Sanjiang to Chengyang bus and get off at the Chengyang.

Zhangjiajie Jiuzhaigou

Jiuzhaigou Valley is a nature reserve in northern Sichuan province of China. It is known for its many multi-level waterfalls and colorful lakes, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. It belongs to the category V in the IUCN system of protected area categorization.
Geography and climate
Jiuzhaigou lies at the southern end of the Minshan mountain range, 330 km north of the provincial capital of Chengdu. It is part of the Jiuzhaigou County in the Aba Tibetan Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of northwestern Sichuan province, near the Gansu border.
The valley covers at least 240 km², with some protection organizations giving the area as 600 to 720 km², with buffer zones covering an additional 400 to 600 km². Its altitude, depending on the area considered, ranges from 1,998 to 2,140 m to 4,558 - 4,764 m .
The climate is cool temperate with a mean annual temperature of 7.2 °C, with means of -1 °C in January and 17 °C in July. Total annual rainfall is 661 mm, 80% of which occurs between May and October.
The remote region was inhabited by various Tibetan and Qiang peoples for centuries, but was not officially discovered by the government until 1972. Extensive logging took place until 1979, when the Chinese government banned such activity and made the area a national park in 1982. An Administration Bureau was established and the site officially opened to tourism in 1984; layout of facilities and regulations were completed in 1987. The site was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1992 and a World Biosphere Reserve in 1997.
Since opening, tourist activity has increased every year: from 5,000 in 1984 to 170,000 in 1991, 160,000 in 1995, to 200,000 in 1997, including about 3,000 foreigners. Visitors numbered 1,190,000 in 2002. As of 2004, the site averages 7,000 visits per day, with a quota of 12,000 being reportedly enforced during high season. The Town of Zhangzha at the exit of the valley and the nearby Songpan County feature an ever-increasing number of hotels, including several polished five-stars.
Jiuzhaigou takes its name from the nine Tibetan villages along its length. Few of them remain today, depending on what classifies as a village inside the valley. The main agglomerations are Heye, Shuzheng and Zechawa along the main paths, plus Rexi and Heijiao in the smaller Zaru Gully. Maps also indicate villages named Jianpan, Panya and Guwa near the end of a small gully opposite Zaru. Finally, the Penbu, Panxing and Yongzhu villages lie along the road that passes through the town of Jiuzhaigou/Zhangza outside the valley.
In 1997, the permanent population of the valley was about 1000, made up of about 130 Tibetan and Qiang families. Due to the protected nature of the park, the residents are forbidden from agriculture activities and rely on government subsidies as well as tourism.
Jiuzhaigous ecosystem is classified as temperate broad-leaf forest and woodlands, with mixed mountain and highland systems. Nearly 300 km² of the core scenic area are covered by virgin mixed forests. Those forests take on attractive yellow, orange and red hues in the autumn, making that season a popular one for visitors. They are home to a number of plant species of interest, such as endemic varieties of rhododendron and bamboo.
Local fauna includes the endangered giant panda and golden snub-nosed monkey. Both populations are very small and isolated. Their survival is in question in a valley subject to increasing tourism. Jiuzhaigou is also home to approximately 140 bird species.
Geology and hydrology
The Pearl Waterfall.
Jiuzhaigous landscape is made up of high-altitude karsts shaped by glacial, hydrological and tectonic activity. It lies on major faultlines on the diverging belt between the Qinghai-Tibet Plate and the Yangtze Plate, and earthquakes have also shaped the landscape. The rock strata is mostly made up of carbonate rocks such dolomite and tufa, as well as some sandstone and shales.
The valley includes the catchment area of three gullies , and is one of the sources of the Jialing River, part of the Yangtze River system.
Jiuzhaigous best-known feature is its dozens of blue, green and turquoise-colored lakes. The local Tibetan people call them Haizi, meaning son of the sea. Originating in glacial activity, they were dammed by rockfalls and other natural phenomena, then solidified by processes of carbonate deposition. Some lakes have a high concentration of calcium carbonate, and their water is very clear so that the bottom is often visible even at high depths. The lakes vary in color and aspect according to their depths, residues, and surroundings.
Some of the less stable dams and formations have been artificially reinforced, and direct contact with the lakes or other features is forbidden to tourists.
Notable features
Jiuzhaigou is composed of three valleys arranged in a Y shape. The Rize and Zechawa gullies flow from the south and meet at the centre of the site where the form the Shuzheng gully, flowing north to the mouth of the valley. The mountainous watersheds of these gullies are lined with 55 km of roads for shuttle buses, as well as boardwalks and small pavilions. The boardwalks are typically located on the opposite side of the lakes from the road, shielding them from disturbance by passing buses.
Most visitors will first take the shuttle bus to the end of Rize and/or Shuzheng gully, then make their way back downhill by foot on the boardwalks, taking the bus instead when the next site is too distant. Here is a summary of the sites found in each of the gullies.
Rize Gully
The 18 km long Rize Gully is the south-western branch of Jiuzhaigou. It contains the largest variety of sites and is typically visited first. Going downhill from its highest point, one passes the following sites:
The Primeval Forest is a preserved ancient woodland. It is fronted by spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and cliffs, including the 500 m high blade-shaped Sword Rock .
Swan Lake is a 2250 m long, 125 m wide picturesque lake named for its visiting swans and ducks.
Grass Lake is a shallow lake covered in intricate vegetation patterns.
Arrow Bamboo Lake , covering an area of 170,000 m², is a shallow lake with a depth of 6 m. It lies at an elevation of 2,618 m, and was a main feature site for the 2002 Chinese film Hero.
Panda Lake features curious color patterns of blue and green. It empties into the multi-stream, multi-level Panda Waterfalls, dropping 78m in 3 steps.
Five Flower Lake is a shallow multi-colored lake whose bottom is criss-crossed by ancient fallen tree trunks.
Pearl Shoal is a wide, gently sloping area of active calcareous tufa deposition covered in a thin sheet of flowing water. It empties into the famous Pearl Waterfalls, where the shoal drops 28 m in a 310 m wide broad curtain of water. A scene of the television adaptation of Journey to the West was filmed there.
Mirror Lake is another quiet lake casting beautiful reflections of the surroundings when the water is calm.
Zechawa Gully
The Zechawa Gully is the south-eastern branch of Jiuzhaigou. It is approximately the same length as Rize gully but climbs to a higher altitude . Going downhill from its highest point, it features the following sites:
Long Lake is the highest, largest and deepest lake in Jiuzhaigou, measuring 7.5 km in length and up to 103 m in depth. It reportedly has no outgoing waterways, getting its water from snowmelt and losing it from seepage. Local folklore features a monster in its depths.
Five-Color Pond is one of the smallest but most spectacular bodies of water in Jiuzhaigou lakes. Despite its very modest dimensions and depth, it has a richly colored underwater landscape with some of the brightest and clearest waters in the area.
The Seasonal Lakes are a series of 3 lakes along the main road, that change from empty to full during each year.
Shuzheng Gully
The Shuzheng Gully is the northern branch of Jiuzhaigou. It ends after 14.5 km at the Y-shaped intersection of the three gullies. Going downhill from the intersection to the mouth of the valley, visitors encounter the following:
Nuorilang Falls , near the junction of the valleys, are 20 m high and 320 m wide. They are reportedly the widest highland waterfall in China, and one of the symbols of Jiuzhaigou.
Nuorilang Lakes and Shuzheng Lakes are stepped series of respectively 18 and 19 ribbon lakes formed by the passage of glaciers, then naturally dammed. Some of them have their own folkloric names, such as the Rhinoceros, Unknown, and Tiger lakes.
Sleeping Dragon Lake is one of the lower lakes in the area. With a depth of 20 m, it is notable for the clearly visible calcareous dyke running through it, whose shape has been compared to a dragon lying on the bottom.
Reed Lake is a 1375m-long, reed-covered marsh with a clear turquoise brook zigzaging through it. The contrast is particularly striking in the autumn when the reeds turn yellow.
The Zaru Gully is a smaller valley that runs southeast from the main Shuzheng gully; it begins at the Zaru Buddhist monastery and ends with the Red, Black, and Daling lakes.
The Fairy Pool lies 42 km west of Jiuzhaigou and features travertine pools very similar to those of the nearby Huanglong Natural Reserve.
Access to the site
Jiuzhaigou, compared to other high-traffic scenic spots in China, is notoriously difficult to access by land. Most tourists reach the valley by a 10 hour bus ride from Chengdu along the Minjiang River canyon, prone to frequent rockslides and mudslides that can add several hours to the trip. As of 2004, further delays were incurred by the construction of a new highway which, when completed, should greatly facilitate the journey. Since 2003, it has been possible fly from Chengdu or Chongqing to an airport on a 11311 ft. high mountain side near Songpan County, and then take an hour-long bus ride to Jiuzhaigou, or a two-hour bus ride to Huanglong. From 2006, a daily flight to Xian had been opened in peak season. There is also a new helipad near the valley.

Zhangjiajie: a Dreamland of Stunning Beauty

The Karst Stone Mountains, like shy beauties relaxing in their boudoir, seem to like to play games of hide-and-seek with us.

Text and Photos by Editor Kong Xiaoling

After a recent trip, I experienced the beauty of this marvelous scenic in the true sense.Beautiful, glamorous....thats all I can choose to describe it....

zhangjiajie-a-dreamland-of-stunning-beauty zhangjiajie-a-dreamland-of-stunning-beauty1
The travelogs I read before going to Zhangjiajie all seem to offer similar conclusions; expensive but worth it for the natural beauty on offer. Despite having been to Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan Province, the Lijiang River in Guiling, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and even Lushan Mountain in Jiangxi Province I still feel an urge to see more. As I prepared to leave and remembered the comparisons friends had drawn between Zhangjiajie and China¡¯s most famous spots my excitement began to grow.

The city of Zhangjiajie is in northwestern Hunan Province, 400 kilometers from the capital Changsha, and is well-known for its unique landscapes. Wulingyuan Scenic Resort is the most famous attraction and Huangshizhai valley is the most important area within Wulingyuan itself.

The Huangshizhai Valley which first came into view was bathed in fog following a week-long summer rain. The Karst Stone Mountains, like shy beauties relaxing in their boudoir, seem to like to play games of hide-and-seek with us. They wrap themselves in the fog of the lower mountain, only to reappear further up then tuck themselves away again. Not as steep as Zhangjiajie Mountain in Anhui; waters not as graceful or elegant as the Lijiang River in Guilin, Huangshizhai remains however uniquely beautiful, stunning in fact.

What adds to the beauty of the natural attractions here is Tujia Ethnic culture. Zhangjiajie is densely populated with Tujia Ethnic groups . Its culture is an inseparable part of Zhangjiajies natural beauty. One such tradition is known in Chinese as the song reply. Every Tujia girl seems to be a born singer. Unlike ordinary people, they sing high and clear. Many, like Song Zuying, have gone on to be remarkably famous. From the echoing mountain, their beautiful songs can be heard from other mountains hundreds of meters away. All songs are ended with the invitation Yowei, a request for a male to sing back a response.

Song reply also had romantic uses. The man who could amply respond to the cry of a beautiful girl might take her as a wife. For those who failed three years of servitude, including tasks like fetching water or washing her feet, might follow. We honored the tradition and sang out loud and clear on the way up.

Summary: Beautiful and marvelous, a worthwhile trip.

Best places to go : Huangshizhai valley, Jinbianxi Valley, Baofenghu Lake, Tianzishan Mountain, Wulongzhai Valley and so on. Better stay for 2-3 days;

To get good price and service, contact the tourist companies first before you go although there are a great many choices here.

Off the beaten track, China is trying to open this area up to tourism - it is difficult for Westerners, but beautiful!

Arrival - We arrived at our hotel in the middle of the night after a bumpy flight from Chengdu and a bumpier ride from the middle of town. Our van driver received a couple of cell-phone calls while in transit and tried to divert us to a different hotel, but after a bit of an argument, and a firm B¨² B¨² from Judi he took us on to the Pipa Xi Hotel. Only Mr. Tang Ming spoke English, all signs were in Chinese characters only, and trying to order from the all-Chinese menu was a a real challenge , but we muddled through. The one surprise of the visit came the next night - the top Chinese Gymnastics Team came to Zhangjiajie for a visit and stayed at our hotel. They grabbed all of the management, as well as we 2 Westerners, and took the photos - hope the subversive monitors are not watching. Mr. Tang Ming was a great help and knowledgeable tour guide.

Beautiful scenery - This was a wonderful scenic area that appeared to be set aside for Chinese tourists. But the scenery made up for all of the ordeals: tall peaks remain as the rest of a large plateau had eroded 1000 from its original height. Natural bridges have survived the onslaught of time and steep cliffs overhang the trails.

Rare Westerners - On the first day a cable car took us, and hundreds of others, to the top of one of the peaks - where we were the only Western faces to be seen. The next day, we hiked 1000 up a nearby ridge, and met Sun Xiao-Feng and her husband, visitors from Northern China. We had a wonderful time communicating with them with a little English, a little Chinese, and lots of pointing, laughing, and pictures. Again, we were the only Westerners around.

Bao Feng - A picture on a brochure we had picked up in Singapore captivated us - a small boat on a clear lake amid steep hills. We chased that dream and found it at Bao Feng, a small lake in the mountains near Zhangjiajie, where peaks rose 500 from the waters edge as we tooled around in a quiet little boat. Unfortunately, we had to rush through this cruise on our way to an early rendezvous at the train station.

Tujia Folk Custom Village - Mr. Tang had provided us with information and advice during our stay, and recommended that we visit the museum in Zhangjiajie City. This turned out to be a theme village, dedicated to the Tujia, a minority in group in China trying to preserve their culture. The buildings were all wood, no metal fasteners of any kinds and served as rooms for the attached hotel. The museum had a few interesting pieces of carved wood and few geological items . During a performance of the Crying Bride legend, they asked for volunteers from the audience for some parts, but avoided us - probably felt we wouldnt understand the instructions.

Note: The crying bride legend comes from the dynasty period where a landlord had the habit of raping brides. He knew they were brides because they laughed and were happy. So the peasants collaborated, and decided that all brides should cry, pretending they were going to a funeral rather than a wedding. The pretense came unraveled once the landlord figured it out, but they fooled him by setting him up with a real cadaver for one of his sessions, so he dropped the rape habit and the custom stuck, even today the Tujia brides cry for the period around their wedding.