About Zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie - A Rarely Charming Belle in the Boudoir


Zhangjiajie is in the northwest of Hunan Province, about 400 km away from Changsha, capital of the province. Composed of the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, the Tianri Mountain and the Suoxiyu Valley, the Zhangjiajie City has a total area of 369 square km. It is a scenic area made up of sandstone from the primitive ecological system and the forest coverage rate reaches 97.7 %.

Zhangjiajie itself has not been officially open for business long as a tourist destination. In fact it is less than 20 years since locals had this grandeur all to themselves. In that time a lot has happened to the area. It was given the title of China‘s first national tourist park in 1982, which set the ball rolling and 10 years later Wulingyuan, one of the scenic spots, was included in the list of UNESCO‘s World Natural Heritage Sites. Like a magnet to every tourist in Asia, this title has opened the floodgates of human traffic.

It is easy to see why UNESCO gave the area the thumbs up. Being mostly mountainous -- the highest point is 1,890 meters above sea level -- nature has set about to carve some truly awesome statues from the quartz sandstone landform. These peaks rise like giant arthritic fingers, all named after legends and bearing imaginative likeness to beings from this and other worlds. Names like Treasure Box of Heavenly Books, Magic Sea-suppressing Needle, South Pillar of Heaven and Golden Tortoise Watching the Sea help to create a modern day fairyland.

In the park‘s Suoxiyu Valley, going from high above ground to way down into the bowels of the earth is quite an experience. You make the descent via the world‘s highest outdoor lift, which drops over 360 meters and gives you a view of the treasure house of natural resources on the way down. Emerging in the Yellow Dragon Cave, a 20-hectare wide cavern that seems to go on forever, it is time for scenery of a different kind. The cave‘s four levels means some serious climbing is involved as the vertical height is over 100 meters. It‘s home to an impressive collection of stalactites and stalagmites, illuminated in a variety of colored lights. A perfect place to film a horror movie. Its one outstanding feature is a 19.2-meter high stalagmite, named the Holy Needle, which legend has it protects the Dragon King who resides in the dark depths. This delicately balanced stalagmite, only 10 cm in diameter, was reportedly insured in 1998 for 100 million yuan (US$12.1 million). The cave has its own waterway and boats rush about like giant catfish on steroids. This combined with impossibly noisy and aggressive visitors gives the whole place a Disney vibe.

Zhangjiajie has moved from unknown forest, created over 1.5 billion years, to chaotic 500 square km tourist trap in less time, geologically speaking, than it takes to blink an eye.

Whether walk along the circular path of Wulingyuan, explore the damp depths of Yellow Dragon Cave, motor around the postcard perfect Baofeng Lake or hike along the bubbling Golden Whip Stream, tourists will be buffeted, jostled and rendered almost catatonic.