Can earth forms 'forest'? Yuanmou County of China's Yunnan Province is well-known for such natural wonders. The earth forest is basically in color of yellow and the color varies in different part. Xu Xiake, China's famous tourist of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) once said that standing in the earth forest was just like being among the 'auspicious cloud' and 'golden millet'.
Actually, the earth of Yuanmou Earth Forest is rock, a kind of sand rock mixed with clay. It has yellow color and loose texture. The rocks are seriously weathered thus their surface looks very much like earth. The yellow rocks gleam under the sunlight as if they are built with gold. Larger ones are like castle while smaller ones are like pylon, in various shapes. Really magnificent! The earth forest is widespread in Yuanmou Basin. Different areas have different features due to extent they have been weathered and eroded. The three notable scenic sites are Tiger Leaping Sands, Ban Guo and Xin Hua. Each of them has its own distinguishing feature.
The Tiger Leaping Sands is considered as the most spectacular site of the earth forests in Yuanmou. Seen from beyond, the rocks are like a deserted ancient castle. The forceful tall and straight rock pillar appears to be remains of a shrine. And the range of rock wall seems to be the enclosure wall of the ancient palace. What is the most peculiar is on the top of the 'castle', there is a three-color 'roof' - in red, brown and black. That is because after the rock was permeated by the rain, the ferum and calcium substances coagulated into a impermeable layer; when the other parts was eroded, this layer naturally protruded and became un 'umbrella' of the rocks below. Just because of this umbrella, the 'castle' has been well preserved.
Covering an area of 14 square kilometers (3,459 acres), the Ban Guo site is the largest earth forest in Yuanmou. The forest here is mainly in form of separate pillars, scattered in a sparse way. Rocks in Ban Guo contain minerals like agate plate that can reflect light. So the earth forest here sparkles glaring light as if the rocks are beset with countless gems.
The Xin Hua Earth Forest is huge, thick and quite rich in color. As for the most of the earth pillars here, they are purple on the top, grey-and-white in the middle and yellow at the root. Under different lights, the earth pillars turn out into more colors, just like a naturally-formed abstract painting. Such wonderful color show profits from the rich minerals in the rock. Under the weathering of wind and rain, various minerals dye the rocks into a riot of color.
The earth forest is formed by extensive rock layers through a long period of erosion. Weak part was gradually worn away while the firm part remained. Today, the weathering and erosion process is till continuing. Yuanmou Earth Forest, this 'Golden Shrine' is thus changing its image yearly. That is why we never tire of seeing it.
It will be very late when you get to Yuanmou Earth Forest, so you are recommended to spend the first night in hotel in the scenic area and start your visit the next morning.
CNY 80; CNY 60 (subscribed online)
A. Take Railway No. K114 from Kunming (12:38) and get off at Yuanmou (16:32; CNY 40), then take the bus to Tulin, and change to the carriage to the earth forest.
B. Take Train No. 6162 from Kunming (07:43) and get off at Huangguayuan station (15:27), then take the bus to Tulin.