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Towering grandeur of Naigu stone forest in Yunnan

By Li Yingqing and Guo Anfei (China Daily)

09:00, May 03, 2013

The karst formations in Shilin have long been a tourist draw in Yunnan province, but the Naigu stone forest in Lunan county just 10 kilometers away is now emerging as a popular destination.

A central part of Stone Forest Park that was listed as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site in 2007, the 30-square-kilometer Naigu scenic area is known as a natural museum of karst landforms.

The word naigu means "ancient and black" in the language of the Yi ethnic group, a fitting description of the mass of blackish limestone that formed about 270 million years ago.

Compared with the Shilin landscape and its sword-shaped stones, the Naigu attraction has much sturdier stone columns that appear as shapes ranging from animals and figures to towers and blockhouses. The highest is more than 40 meters tall.

To date, management at the Naigu stone forest has developed around 100 scenic spots.

Seen from the top of nearby mountains, the dense collection of rock looks like a petrified stormy black sea with huge waves billowing high into the sky.

Walking through the mass of stone, one easily has the feel of great wildness. On the periphery of the area stand weathered rocks that look like horses and some are compared to blockhouses, so locals call it an "ancient battlefield".

No wonder the area was chosen as one of the shooting locations for the TV version of the classic Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

In Contrast to the huge awe-inspiring rocks, lakes in the scenic site add a touch of gentleness.

Past the entrance lies White Cloud Lake, a reservoir with two islands. Boats on the lake float in the shimmering sunlight, while a tour of caves and underground streams have an aura of mystery.

One of the nine caves in tourist use is also named While Cloud. It has 18 scenic spots, all linked to a folk myth.

Coming out of the dark and narrow caves, visitors are impressed with the vast grassland amid surrounding lofty mountains. In spring and summer the grassland is blanketed with brightly colored wild flowers with towering bluestones in the distance.

While the stone forest has growing appeal, local authorities have recently initiated a ticket discount promotion designed for Yunnan residents to draw more tourists.

The Naigu stone forest has been closed for four years for ecological restoration as the local government bid for World Natural Heritage status. Nearly 50 million yuan ($8.11 million) was spent to restore the environment and buildings, and to add amenities.

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