Stone Forest Fantasy: Yunnan Province, China


Well, really not a fantasy but Shilin, the Stone Forest in Yunnan Province, China, looks as if it were created by some god or space alien who turned the opposition to stone. Quite the opposite if you believe a local legend. It is about a girl of the Yi tribe named Ashima who petrified herself after being denied the right to marry her lover. Every year in June, modern Yi honor her in a celebration called The Torch Festival where families light a torch and shine it corners of the house and in the fields to drive out bad spirits. It all culminates in a huge bonfire and all-night celebration.

Stone Forest, Yunnan Province, China
Stone Forest, Yunnan Province, China (c) Russell Johnson

In reality, the Stone Forest was born some 270 million years ago after limestone sediment on the floor of a sea built up to a land mass which was pummeled by rain and wind. Flash forward 70 million years when stone peaks, pillars and stalagmites rose abruptly (in geological time) and created what now looks like a forest of stone. The Naigu Stone Forest and Suogeyi Village have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Li Girl, Yunnan Province, China
Yi Girl, Yunnan Province, China (c)Russell Johnson

Shilin is quite spectacular even though, like many world heritage sites, it is sometimes jammed with tourists and touts. The Stone Forest is only 78 miles from Yunnan’s capital city of Kunming from which it is easy to arrange a visit.

Li Village, Yunnan Province, China
Yi Village, Yunnan Province, China (c)Russell Johnson
Stone Forest, Yunnan Province, China
Stone Forest, Yunnan Province, China (c)Russell Johnson

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