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Caverns and Cliffs—China’s Danxia on Display

Living in the vast beige that is Beijing, forms of majesty come in modern technology and morphing landscapes are found in constant urban construction. When the daily routine is trudged through honking traffic jams and ticked away at an office cubicle, knowledge of China’s natural splendors can easily elude the mind’s awareness. However, out in […]

10·22·2010

Caverns and Cliffs—China’s Danxia on Display

Living in the vast beige that is Beijing, forms of majesty come in modern technology and morphing landscapes are found in constant urban construction. When the daily routine is trudged through honking traffic jams and ticked away at an office cubicle, knowledge of China’s natural splendors can easily elude the mind’s awareness. However, out in […]

10·22·2010

Living in the vast beige that is Beijing, forms of majesty come in modern technology and morphing landscapes are found in constant urban construction. When the daily routine is trudged through honking traffic jams and ticked away at an office cubicle, knowledge of China’s natural splendors can easily elude the mind’s awareness. However, out in the more remote pockets of Chinalay a series of danxia landforms to remind urban dwellers that life is more, and grander, than steel and concrete.

Danxia” not in your vocabulary? Wasn’t in mine, either, until yesterday when I discovered this geological phenomenon in a collection of images online and immediately all other work priorities were tossed on the shelf. The danxia landform (丹霞地貌, dānxiá dìmào) is a landscape built from layered beds of red sandstone morphed by winds and chewed at by running streams. (丹 dān refers to the color red and 霞 xiá translates into “rosy clouds” or “morning or evening glow.”)

A geopark in GansuProvince, for instance, appears as if a pre-historic volcano erupted with Skittles and the resulting multi-colored lava petrified into the craggy sinkhole present today. Another danxia spectacle inZhejiangProvince belongs toMountJianglangshan, in which a deep sliver sliced out of the rock allows a narrow passageway illuminated by a distant gap of light.MountWanfoshan, on the other hand, is a series of layered sandstone mounds capped with what resembles curly green toupees. In fact, nothing else around the Mount Wanfoshan landscape–not a construction crane, not a coal truck, not a Starbucks–lays in sight for miles except for rock and lush green forest.

This dinosaur-age landform acquires its name from MountDanxia, one of the most famous examples of them all, but the phenomenon occurs all over the world, including Egypt, Wales, the U.S.and Afghanistan. This year, China’s six danxia regions—Mount Langshan and Mount Wanfoshan (Hunan Province), Mount Danxia (Guangdong Province), Taining and Guanzhishan (Fujian Province), Mount Longhushan and Guifeng (Jiangxi Province), Fangyan, Mount Jianglangshan (Zhejiang Province), and Mount Chishui (Guizhou Province)—were accepted into UNESCO’s list of natural world heritage sites. Personally, I have a new mission to track down the mythical creatures and hidden treasures I imagine must be nestled within the caverns and cloaked behind the waterfalls of these natural Chinese wonders.

Zero down, six to go…