Majestic limestone pillars of Shilin Stone Forest, China. Majestic limestone pillars of Shilin Stone Forest, China.

Ancient Formation, Modern Mystery: Can Science Explain the Wonders of China’s Stone Forest?


There are different unknown destinations and iconic places in the world that are one of a kind and sometimes it gets very difficult to even believe about its existence; but once you get to know about them, you will be completely awestruck.

One such iconic and beautiful place is the Stone Forest in China.

What is it, why was it formed and why should you actually visit it; let’s get to know all the details about the Stone Forest in China in the article below.

1. What Makes the Stone Forest in China So Fascinating?

Long back, the Stone Forest in China was known as the first wonder of the world because the Stone Forest is at an elevation of about 1625-1900 meters above sea level.

It is located 126 kilometers southeast of Kunming, in the province of Yunnan, and is connected with the Kunming highway and a railway station for good and accessible transport.

The Stone Forest in China
Source: Unlimphotos

The Stone forest is called so due to the presence of rock pillars which are highly concentrated in the area ranging between 5m and 30m in height.

It is a very vast area of about 26,000 ha but only 80 ha is open for public viewing. The entire area has these rock pillars like a forest of stones and all these pillars are preserved with utter care.

Along with these pillars, you will also find caves that have stalagmites, stone pillars, and corridors; plus underground ponds, lakes, and waterfalls.

It is an absolute scenic beauty and the water bodies have a high capacity of water storage available, that too filled with good quality water.

The Stone Forest in China
Source: Unlimphotos

Some of the famous rocks of the Stone Forest are Mother and Son, Buddha Stone, and Camel Riding in Elephant.

It has a very pleasing climate and beauty all along, with an addition of a huge variety of over 400 types of flora.

2. Why Visit the Stone Forest in China?

The Stone Forest in China was listed as a heritage site in 2007 by UNESCO. It is only one of its type of karst landform which is located in the subtropical plateau region.

It is around 270 million years old and has undergone a lot of geological evolution, environmental evolution as well as complex paleogeography.

Moreover, it has actually taken this shape and form after a lot of years of pressure, uplift, sedimentation, and erosion.

The scenic beauty is a big attraction but that’s not it, the Stone Forest also attracts tourists for its Yi ethnic culture and is very famous for Ashima the legend.

In this culture, there is a very famous “Torch Festival” which includes and celebrates an array of traditional activities like bullfighting, dragon-playing, and lion-dancing.

During this festive time, it is more lively and attractive as compared to the rest of the year.

3. The Must-Sees at the Stone Forest in China

The entire area is divided into 8 districts, let’s talk about the major ones and understand what to miss and what to not when you visit the Stone Forest.

3.1. Major Stone Forest

This area has dense stone peaks which are kind of steel-gray in color. The highest of these stone peaks can reach up to 40 meters.

While you walk in this area you will literally find new peaks at every turn you take and it will be like a whole new view each time.

Even if you’re not taking a guide, make sure to have a map while exploring this place.

3.2. Minor Stone Forest

As compared to the Major Stone Forest, this area is less dense and the peaks are not so tall, instead, it is spread out into small parks.

The Ashima Stone is located here which is among the biggest attractions.

The Stone Forest in China
Source: Unlimphotos

According to the mythological texts, it has been said that Ashima was a brave and beautiful Yi girl who fought to gain freedom and eventually turned into a stone while doing so.

3.3. Bushao Hills

Bushao Hills are located in the east of the major Stone Forest area and are the highest part of the area with an altitude going as far as 1800 meters.

The Stone Forest in China
Source: Unlimphotos

The sea world that the place possesses is amazing and sight to secure as they have coral fossils and giant gastropod fossils which are more than 250 million years old.

3.4. Lizi Yuanqing

Lizi Yuanqing is located outside the Ring Road which is built for sightseeing in the Stone Forest area.

It is covered by old pillars and rocks, some parts are sparse others dense but all in all they create that beautiful presence of nature which is a beauty to behold.

The biggest attraction in this area is a stone painting that was made in primitive times and holds a religious overview and is said to have been made by the ancient Yi people, probably their last words to us.

The Stone Forest in China
Source: Unlimphotos

It has drawings of beasts, humans, moons, and stars.

3.5. Naigu Stone Forest

This is located in the north of the Stone Forest area and the meaning of the term ‘Naigu’ is actually ancient and black.

This area’s highest peak has a black rock sea, which is symbolic of its name and is a great magnificent sight.

The Stone Forest in China
Source: Unlimphotos

The area is obviously ticketed for visiting by tourists but it is included in the whole Stone Forest ticket.

It has about 9 karst caves, which are underground.

3.6. Eternal Mushroom

This is located right next to the Lizi Yuanqing.

It is called so because it forms a mushroom-like shape, due to the fact that a top hill placed on a rock is 15 meters in height, which is large on the top, and small on the bottom and looks just like a mushroom.

4. Final Thoughts

The Stone Forest in China holds a sight that is absolutely stunning and is among the best tourist attractions in the country.

It is famous for its stone peaks along with other natural beauty avenues like waterfalls, caves, and ponds.

It is a sight not only for beauty aspects but also holds a historical importance.

Last Updated on March 22, 2024 by soubhik


Anushree Khandelwal
  1. Exploring the Stone Forest in China virtually through your detailed guide was truly captivating. The historical significance, unique karst landforms, and the rich Yi ethnic culture make it an exceptional destination. Your breakdown of the major areas within the Stone Forest, each with its own distinct features, adds a practical touch for potential visitors. This virtual journey provides a vivid and enticing glimpse into a remarkable natural wonder.

  2. I love stone architects and this stone forest seems marvelous. I would love to visit here one day. I didn’t know about it’s existence but through this article I came to know about it and I have grew an interest on it.

  3. The Stone Forest in China, a wonder at 1625-1900 meters above sea level, stuns with rock pillars, caves, and water bodies. Covering 26,000 ha, only 80 ha are open to the public, preserving these stone formations meticulously. UNESCO-listed, this karst landform boasts 270 million years of geological and environmental evolution. Mother and Son, Buddha Stone, and Camel Riding in Elephant are famed rocks. A true marvel worth exploring!

  4. I wish to project the greatness of such historical figures as Guo ShouJing (Yuan Dynasty mathematician, hydrologist, astronomer).

  5. Thanks for this article. Till now, I thought the Great Wall of China was the best place to visit in China. This stone forest is another place worth visiting as it is a UNESCO site. You have given a virtual walkthrough of the stone forest.

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