The Stone Forest or Shilin is a remarkable group of limestone formations located in the autonomous county of Shilin Yi, in the province of Yunnan, People’s Republic of China, about 86 kilometres from Kunming, the provincial capital.
Many of the tall rocks look like petrified trees that together create the illusion of a forest made of stone. In 2007 two parts of the site, the stone forest of Naigu and the village of Suogeyi have declared a Unesco World Heritage Site as part of the Karst of southern China.
In total, the national scenic area of Shilin occupies an area of 350 square kilometres and is divided into seven scenic areas, which include several stone forests:
- Major and Minor stone forests, also known as Lijiang stone forest.
- Stone forest of Naigu.
- Chang Lake (literally Long Lake).
- Lake Yue (Lake of the Moon).
- Cave of Zhiyun.
- Dadie waterfall.
- Qifeng Cave.
Karst is a form of relief caused by chemical weathering of certain rocks, in this case, the Stone Forest is caused by the dissolution of the limestone and is about 270 million years old.
Unlike the majority of stone forests in the world, which are inaccessible due to their dangerousness or their isolated situation, this national panoramic area of Kunming is available to everyone.
Stone forests in China are an attraction for both foreign and local visitors, thanks to the tourist buses that depart from Kumming and the hotel establishments and services in the area. For that reason, if what you want is to observe it in solitude, you can choose some fewer tourist points or choose the first hours of the day.
Like every peculiar place, the Shilin Karst has its own legend. According to tradition, the Stone Forest is the birthplace of Ashima, a beautiful girl of the Yi ethnic group, who could not marry her true love, so it became stone.
Every year, on the 24th day of the sixth lunar month, many members of the Yi people celebrate the Torch Festival, in which folk dances and wrestling competitions are held.
The stone forest in China not only has elongated rock formations (the highest reach 50 meters), others are smaller and wider, there are curious forms of animals, plants, Chinese mythical figures … so that the imagination can fly admiring it in all its extension.
Three billion years ago this area was covered by the ocean and its current appearance is the result of a long period of geological transformation. Its extension and the wide variety of karst make the Stone Forest in China a unique place that has led experts to consider it a true geological museum.
Taking into account the years that these formations have on Earth and its dimensions, the visitor feels small in front of this work of art of nature, the Stone Forest in China, sculpted over time.