Lime Sinter Terrace Landscape Huanglong (World Heritage)
Within an impressive mountain landscape, spectacular calcareous sinter terraces stretch over several kilometers through the high valley in the Sichuan province. They were formed over millennia through the deposition of calcium carbonate sediments. The valley is also the habitat of the giant panda and the snub-nosed monkey.
Lime Sinter Terrace Landscape Huanglong: Facts
|Official title:||Lime sinter terrace landscape Huanglong|
|Natural monument:||pronounced limestone formations, especially along the 3.6 km long Huanglonggou, among others. Jinshatan lime sinter 40-125 m wide and 1300 m long; Area of 600 km², of which 580 km² are under protection; Heights from 1700 m (Shanzidong) to 5588 m (Xuebaoding) with the easternmost glacier in China|
|Location:||Southern part of the Min Shan, north-northwest of Chengdu|
|Meaning:||spectacular limestone formations; Home to the endangered panda bear and snub nosed gold noses|
|Flora and fauna:||65.8% covered with forest; 1700-2300 m of dragon spruce and Chinese hemlock as well as Father David’s maple, 2300-3600 m also Wilson’s spruce and Tibetan larch, 3600-4200 m of alpine mats and over 4800 m of permanent ice; 16 known rhododendron species, as well as endangered species such as the magnolia species Magnolia officinalis and important forage plants of the bamboo bear such as the bamboo species Fargesia denudata and F. scabrida; 59 species of mammals such as bamboo bear (panda bear), collar bear, western cat bear, scechuan takin, red dog, serau, goral and wild sheep; 155 species of birds such as glossy green-tailed pheasant|
Where the “yellow dragon” winds its way into the valley
According to philosophynearby, “Huanglong” means “yellow dragon” and anyone who wants to penetrate his area has to cross high mountains. The pass road winds up to 4100 meters and finally flows into that valley in which striking limestone formations spread out.
Gray mists billow through green high valleys lined with snow-capped peaks, which, when they are lifted, reveal bizarre rock formations. Splashes of color along the way are blue and white tents, pitched by Tibetans who have lived here for centuries. If you move towards these tents, children come closer with wiry little horses, on which, for a small fee, you can ride a few laps across the plateau.
Still completely filled with the sublime beauty of the highlands, one is confronted down in the valley with a landscape that is no less spectacular, perhaps even unique in the world: a karst formation with countless lakes or ponds. These emerald-green or blue dots in yellow-brown limestone mount rise over 600 meters on the slope, and they are reminiscent of rice terraces or a huge flight of steps: a miracle that was created by a whim of nature.
Originally the valley was buried under a glacier. Carbonate-saturated meltwater worked its way through cracks and crevices in the subsoil over the millennia, leaving behind a pattern of white dams cut into the rocks, which dammed the water and thus formed the crystal clear lakes.
In some, algae and bacteria grow and expand the spectrum of colors. Nuances of red, orange and chestnut brown are mixed in with the dominant blue and green tones. It is a dazzling kaleidoscope that gives the limestone terraces of Huanglong an “almost unearthly aspect”.
Visitors can hike the area on wooden footbridges that wind for kilometers through the terraced landscape. Viewing platforms and the picnic niches adapted to nature always invite you to linger in order to take in the overall composition of the Yellow Dragon Valley framed by mighty mountains.
Those who follow the hiking trail are rewarded with constantly changing views: the numerous trees that are grouped around the water are a green contrast to the yellow of the ground. Water runs like silver threads over the rock; it has flowery names such as “golden fan”. The “river”, dubbed “golden sands” by the locals, is around 1,300 meters long.
The end of the hiking trail is marked by the “Temple of the Yellow Dragon”, near which the so-called “five-color pond” extends. It consists of 400 smaller ponds and is the biggest attraction of the landscape park.
Legend has it that the temple was built in honor of a monk who, thousands of years ago, helped the founder of the Xia dynasty to shape the course of the Min River and make it flow into the Yangze to prevent the floods in the region to end.
Another legend reports that the valley of the Huanglong is the incarnation of a dragon. The head of the mythical beast is formed from the mighty rock peaks, its body is made up of the fairy-tale pond terraces, and its tail is the river Fu, which flows through the valley.