Carst caves are natural wonder Scenes change in Jiuxiang
By Xiao Chao(China Daily)
KUNMING _ I was never very interested in cave exploring, until I visited Jiuxiang two weeks ago.

       Now, I'm as interested in caves as I am with any other natural sites. I always thought of dark, damp caves, when compared with mountains and lakes, as cold and gloomy.

        It required a lot of imagination and07p72.gif (27061 bytes)patience on my part before I couldrecognize "Two Dragons Playing Ball" or
"Rhinoceros Looking Back At Moon" in the stalagmites and stalactites.

        I did not visit Jiuxiang after a three-hour, bumpy ride on bus from Kunming because the karst caves had a good reputation.

        I went to hear the symphony staged in an underground cave, about 80 kilometres east of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province.

       The cave is 30 kilometres from the famous Stone Forest. The concert, the first of its kind in China, was held on May 17. It aimed at creating a unique atmosphere and attracting tourists to Jiuxiang.  It accomplished both feats.

       More than 1,000 people, including myself, listened to the "underground" concert performed by the Kunming Symphony Orchestra. I enjoyed the beautiful melodies, the echoes and the sound of running water.

       I also visited the karst caves after the concert and, for the first time in my life, was amazed and excited about a fantastic, underground natural wonder.

      They were the best karst caves I have seen in China. I no longer think of karst caves in the same way.

      I was impressed with Lion Hall, where the concert was
held. The cave is big. There was enough space for a
rock exhibition and a fossil show, even with the 70
performers and 1,000-member audience.

      Based on information in the brochure published by the
local administration, I knew the cave was one of the
largest underground halls in China.

     There are several holes in the cave, in addition to the entrance. I could see the beautiful mountains and hear the subterranean Maitian River running through the
cave.

     The cave's name is appropriate, based on the rock in front of the grotto. From inside the cave, the silhouette of the rock looks like a sitting lion.
     
     I also entered a cavern, known as "Fairy Tale Palace," located near the hall.  The cave, unlike Lion Hall, contains numerous stalactites and stalagmites.

     They look fantastic andgorgeous with themulticoloured lighting.   From Fairy Tale Palace, I headed for Twin Falls. The Maitian River, roaring from a huge holebeneath Lion Hall, caught my attention first.

     I eventually crossed a bridge and then entered another huge cave. The thundering sound of rushing waterresonated throughout the grotto.

    It was damp and cool. The river, which zig-zagged through the cave, pounded against the banks and filled the cave with a spray.

    Eventually, I rounded a corner and caught a glimpse of the Twin Falls.
  
    I would not have believed how beautiful the falls were, except for the fact I was standing less than 30 feet from them.
   07p71.gif (21360 bytes) I crossed a bridge and eventually reached a platform, in front of the falls, built by the local administration. I was caught up in their beauty _ especially the sensation caused by the roar and spray of the water.
The cave is huge _ long and deep.  While approaching a slope stretching towards the bottom of the cave, I saw
another natural wonder _ the Saint Terraced Fields.
There are no plants growing in the cave. The fields are actually spectacularly terraced, coloured ponds _ yellow, white and green _ covering the slope.
    
     They reminded me of similar terraced fields found in the famous Huanglong Scenic Area in northwestern Sichuan. Under the dim lighting, the ponds' glistening water looked mystical.

     Through a tiny hole in the cliff at the bottom of the cave, I entered another huge hall. There was a unique rainfall in the cave.

     It took more than two hours to complete the trip. When I finally stepped out of the long cave, I realized I had ascended from the bottom of the cave to the top of a hill.

     I paid the 15 yuan (US$1.80) to ride the cable car to the bottom of the mountain, and also purchased an informative brochure about Jiuxiang.

     I read the booklet, and learned more about the area, on the ride back to Kunming.

    I learned there are 66 groups of caves, covering 255.5 square metres, in the region. There are also beautiful gorges.

   I plan, if possible, to visit Jiuxiang again _ even though there are damp, muddy caves.

( Photo: top: Tourists explore the karst cave in Jiuxiang;
next to top: Beautiful stalactites and stalagmites in the karst cave.)

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