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The Stone Forest near Kunming

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China

The Stone Forest is a creation of prehistory. In the Permian period, roughly 270 million years ago, the earth flexed its muscles, caused an ocean to drain and the limestone seabed to rise up.

The wash of the receding waters, time, wind and acidic rains, all lent to the erosion of the limestone until only tall narrow karsts remained dotting the otherwise barren landscape. Of course, Chinese legends have far more fanciful tales than this.

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One says that a young boy, seeking to create a dam to help his starving village, stole a magic whip with the power to move mountains from the tomb of the gods. Unfortunately, the whip's powers failed with the rising sun and the mountains ceased their journey to the dam site - inadvertently creating the Stone Forest.

The young man was to have much worse luck for, finding their magical whip missing, the gods howled out of their tomb and found the boy still trying to move the mountains. They extracted a merciless punishment and the cracks in the karsts are said to be the whip marks from the boy's subsequent flogging.

As with the karsts at Halong Bay, in Vietnam, the locals have given names to many of the rock pillars - names that say a lot about how they see the rocks. 'Mother and Son Going for a Walk', 'Rhinoceros Looking at the Moon', and 'Phoenix Preening its Wings' are some of the more unusual monikers given to the many karsts.

Stone Forest

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