Stone Forest Geological Park is located 87 kilometers away and 1.5 hours of drive from Kunming city. The totality of the park measures about 400 Square kilometers and consists of numerous scenic locations in addition to small and large forests. This park was referred to as the First Wonder of the World during the Ming Dynasty.
The steep, strangely magnificent setting of the Stone Forest produces innumerable labyrinth vistas that all feature varying formations of stones. Human, animal and animal figures can be seen in the park. There are varying styles all present, with some being rugged, others elegant. Nevertheless, every figure has its own unique characteristics while being lifelike.
Stone Forest has been said by geologists to be an archetypal illustration of karsts topography. Almost all Karst stone forest land forms found all over the world are present in the Stone Forest. It is said that this area about 270 million years ago (Palaeozoic Carboniferous period) was a large sea region. Years and years of movement by the lithosphere caused the gradual retreat of water, therefore, increase limestone landscapes. As a result of erosion caused by weather elements, this region formed into today’s Stone Forest. When viewed from a distance, the large high stone pillar groups which measure about 20 to 50 meters, appear to resemble a forest, which is why the area got named Stone Forest.
This park is a world natural heritage site as it not only holds the world’s oldest recorded karst landform evolution history but also has the widest dispersion area which is complete with unique types of Palaeozoic karst landform clusters. The Stone Forest as a large natural stone treasure trove is a great place for people to visit, discover and think freely.
Referred to as the Sword shaped karst terrain because of its main features of karst landforms, Stone Forest has numerous scenic areas which include the northwest Bushao Mountain, the small and large stone forest located in the centre, Ganoderma lucidum said to be 10,000 years old located in the south and 5 plum orchards with a total area of around 12 kilometres2 in the east.
The newest developments of the park’s scenic spots are Bushao Mountain, the plum orchards, and the Ganoderma lucidum. The scenic spots of the Stone Forest have an overall theme of remoteness, deep, risky yet serene. Once the scenic spots come into view, visitors will see stone mountain rocks and pillars in varying styles and formations.
The stone formations are different in the park, and they paint a great picture which has helped to entice visitors from all over the world every single day. It has been the source of inspiration for countless poets and writers all through time. It can be described as living and spiritual, as the stones are breathtakingly life-like. Also, apart from animal shaped stones, there are numerous plant stone forms such as mushrooms, bamboo shoots etc.
Culture and Folk Customs in Stone Forest Area
Apart from the natural wonder of the stones, visitors are able to get a glimpse of the culture and folk customs of the Stone Forest Scenic Area like Ashimar, torch festival, and Mizhi festival.
The Torch Festival typically occurs annually on the 24th of June of the Chinese lunar calendar. This festival is a tradition of the Yi ethnic people where they celebrate the recent harvest. Everyone regardless of sex and age dresses up in holiday clothes to congregate at the wrestling pits for the day’s celebrations.
The narrative poem Ashimar is a unique national icon of the Sani and Yi people. It is a poem that is both moving and beautiful. It has been translated into over 20 languages to help spread its message across the world. The beautiful, and rich national culture and folk customs of the people of Stone Forest, won it the numerous reputations and acclaims it has; Home of Song and Dance, Modern Folk painting of the township, and the home of wrestling.
Stone Forest is renowned for its illustrative Ashima rock. The legend behind the character makes it even more enticing. Ashima was known to be a beautiful and kind-hearted girl from the Yi ethnic group, she fell in love with a brave but poor country boy, A-hei. A day came when Ashima was abducted by a local tyrant that wanted her to marry his dumb son. A-hei bravely came to rescue her amidst numerous difficulties and they were able to escape. During their escape, however, A-hei was injured and while they crossed a river, the surging waters washed him away. Ashima kept faith that A-hei would find her one day. With this, she waited by the river bank for years until she became a rock. As soon as the rock is sighted, it reminds people to keep faith with their love.
How to Get to Shilin Stone Forest
Visitors can head to Stone Forest by train or bus at the east bus station. They can also as a tour group or charter a private car.
- By bus
There is a direct bus that heads to the Stone Forest Geological Park at the east bus station. It only departs once it is full. Usually, when a ticket is being purchased, the conductor asks if the destination is the scenic or country spot. The last bus to arrive in Kunming from the scenic spot leaves at 18:00
- By public bus
The trip begins from Shilin County to the scenic spot via the No 5 bus.
- By train
Taking a train to Shilin from Kunming train station is possible. It has departure times of 7:35, 12:20, 14:50, 19:20, and 20:15. The cost of a ticket ranges from 8 RMB to 19 RMB. Once visitors arrive at the Shilin train station, they can board a public bus to the Stone Forest.
- Chartered bus
Chartering private buses to visit all of Shilin County is achievable and chartering for a day costs about 300 RMB.