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Dali Mount Cangshan UNESCO Global Geopark of China

2021-02-03 09:23 | View: 383

Source: Butterfly Spring


Dali Mount Cangshan UNESCO Global Geopark is in Dali Prefecture, Yunnan Province. It covers Mount Cangshan and its surrounding area belongs to the city of Dali and the counties of Yangbi and Eryuan, a 933 square kilometers area with the elevation of 1,700 ~ 4,122 meters above sea level. Approved by UNESCO in 2014, this Global Geopark is composed of the Cangshan Geological and Geomorphologic Landscape District, the Cultural Landscape District around Erhai Lake, and the Highland lake Landscape District.


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The Geopark is of unique and distinctive geological relics. The representative sceneries include: the quaternary glacial landform generated 15,000 years ago, which is the reason why the Dali Glacial Period is so named; the metamorphic rocks formatted by rocks of 2 billion years ago through complicated geological deforming, which is the “textbook” of metamorphic rocks and the reason why the Chinese “marble (Dali Yan)” is so named; the Erhai Lake that is a plateau rift lake caused by uplift of Mount Cangshan due to Himalayan orogenesis; the rock islands and lakeside wetland with erosional lakeshore geomorphic features of Erhai Lake.

This area is also abundant in biological species depending on the special geographic landform and climatic environment. There are 2,659 species of tracheophyte and 316 species of vertebrate, including 39 species of wild animals of national priority protection, 8 species of wild plants of national priority protection, 116 species of endemic plants and 396 species of type specimen plants of Mount Cangshan (consisting of subspecies, variants and metamorphosis). This area is one of the world-famous localities of flora and fauna type specimens.

Dali is a famous national historic and cultural city and an important stop on the ancient tea route. The Kingdom of Nanzhao and the Kingdom of Dali lasted for more than 500 years here. There are 25ethnic minorities besides Han people, such as Bai people, Yi people and Hui people, forming the special cultural diversity. The Geopark contains 24 provincial or higher levels of intangible cultural heritages, including the Bai People’s Rain-Praying Gala, the Bai People’s Tie-Dyeing Craft and the Dali Sanyue Street, as well as 21 provincial or higher levels of cultural relics protection sites, including Chongsheng Temple and the Three-Pagoda, Taihe City Relic and the Xizhou Ancient Bai Architectural Complex.


The scenic district has an area of 471 km2, covering Ximatan Glacial Erosion Lake, Gantong Temple, Shimenguan Pass, Huadianba, Butterfly Spring and other renowned attractions. Cangshan is an ancient and young mountain with a classical place in geology and biology. It is mainly composed of metamorphic rocks, of which marble is the most unique and make here the naming place of Chinese marble. Mount Cangshan is the southernmost point of the last glacial period of Quaternary of the Eurasia continent, and is the naming place of ‘Dali Glacial Period’.Mount Cangshan has significant biodiversity, with more than 2,600 kinds of higher plants, is an important origin of type specimens of alpine plant.

The scenic district is located on the eastern part of the geopark with an altitude of 1,970 m. It covers an area of 276 km2 comprising Erhai Lake, Nanzhao Customs Island, Xiaoputuo Island, Jinsuo Island and other famous attractions. The district was affected by the Himalayan orogeny and Erhai-Honghe Fault Zone in the past 65 million years. The western part has been uplifted to form Mount Cangshan, and the eastern part collapsed to form a rift lake - Erhai Lake. After hundreds of thousands of years of erosion and cutting by water, the hard and soft rock masses in Erhai Lake were transformed into rock islands. Local residents live by the water in the fishing village and gradually develop the unique thousand-year-old coastal fishing village culture.

The scenic district covers both sides of the Erhai Lake at an altitude of 1,970 – 2,200 m above sea level. The total area is 186 km2 comprising famous scenic spots like Dali Ancient Town, Chongsheng Temple, Three-Pagodas and Shuanglang Ancient Town. Following the formation of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in about 65 million ago, Mount Cangshan had be lifted and the geological structures, glaciers and weathering continued to shape the landscape with erosion and fluvial actions and deposition which finally created the fertile Dali Plain. With the settlements of Bai and other ethnic groups, the area prospered and became the location Nanzhao Kingdom and Dali Kingdom. Dali now has seven state level cultural relic protection sites, including Chongsheng Temple and the Three Pagodas and Taihe City Relics, and  seven state level intangible cultural heritage items, including Raosanling and tie-dye craftsmanship of Bai Nationality.


The altitude of the tourist area is more than 3,800m, and the length of the sightseeing gallery road is about 2.500km. People can enjoy the glacial geological relics represented by horn, arete, cirque and glacial lake, as well as ecological landscapes represented by abies delavayi Franch forest and rhododendron lapponicum along the way. The tourist area is characterized by high altitude and low temperature. Please pay attention to avoiding altitude reaction, wind protection and cold protection.

Yudai Road

Yudai Road is a sightseeing footpath at the halfway of Mount Cangshan, with a total length of 18km and an altitude of about 2,600m. From south to north, there are many geological relics as Qingbixi Gorge, metamorphic rocks of Mount Cangshan and Qilongnv Pools, and ecological landscapes as Pinus armandii, pinus yunnanensis and rhododendron spiciferum.

Qingbixi Gorge

Qingbixi Gorge lies between Malong Peak and Shengying Peak. It was formed by the Himalayan orogeny within the last 50 million years. Mount Cangshan is cut by transmeridional fractures during the uplifting process, and also influenced by water corrosion, glacial scour, and gravity collapse, thereby forming the gorge. The altitude difference between the peak and the gorge bottom is about 150 meters, and the gorge floor is 5meters wide. The rocks on the precipice were formed during the Paleoproterozoic, 1.9 billion years ago. They were originally sedimentary rock, and transformed into metamorphic rocks through subsequent metamorphism.


The tourism area is located in the southern part of the west slope of Mount Cangshan. It has a lowest altitude of 1,700 m and comprises famous attractions such as Shimenguan Pass, Qidaoshui Waterfall, Yuhuang Pavilion and Walnut Ecological Base. Mount Cangshan is continuously uplifted by powerful regional tectonic forces inside the Earth to create a series of nearly east-westward tension fracture segment, joint fissure and other terrains. Streams extend and cut through these relatively weaker areas to form scenic attractions such as the ‘Heavenly-opened Stone Gate’ and ‘Clouds on Cliffs’.


With an area of 240.22km2 and an elevation from 2,200m to 3,572m, Huadianba Tourist Area is situated in the northwestern part of the Geopark. Rock mass in this scenic area is predominant in soluble carbonatite. Huadianba and Jiciba Karst Depression form as stream constantly erodes those soluble rocks in a certain direction under the control of Honghe fault zone, and finally shape into relative flat prairies after deuteric proluvium and deluvium fill those low-lying areas. The Tourist Area boasts magnificent and lofty mountains together with beautiful and exquisite prairies. When azaleas bloom in spring and summer, flowers, grasses and cattle are all over the mountains and prairies, which will make you linger.

Butterfly Spring

Seated against Yunnong Peak and facing Erhai Lake, the Butterfly Spring Tourism Area is 25 km away from Dali Ancient Town. Its main attractions include Butterfly Archway, Statue of Xu Xiake, Butterfly Spring, Lake View Pavilion, Butterfly Museum, Spring View Pavilion and Lover's Lake.


Located east to Erhai Lake and west to the Yunnong Peak of Mount Cangshan and adjoining to the Butterfly Spring, Dali is well-known for the four romantic elements of ‘Wind, Flowers, Snow and Moon’. Among them, the ‘Flowers’ refer to Shangguan Flowers (manglietia fordiana). This tourism area consists of Shangguanhua Ecological Park and Tianlong Karst Cave with four special activities of ‘Watching Erhai Lake’, ‘Appreciating Famous Flowers’, ‘Exploring Caves’ and ‘Discovering Ancient City’.

Jiangjun Cave

Jiangjun Cave is located at the foothill of Xieyang Peak of Mount Cangshan and adjacent to downtown Dali. The tourism area is named after Jiangjun Temple, comprising Jiangjun Temple, Lingrui Nunnery and Dragon Spring. It is famous for its beautiful and tranquil environment with cliff and waterfall and is also known as the ‘wonderful scenery of Xieyang Peak’. Visitors can have a panoramic view of Xiaguan Town as well as learning the history of the Nanzhao Kingdom.

Dali Ancient City

Dali Ancient City, adjoining Erhai Lake in the east and neighboring Mount Cangshan in the west, can be dated back to Yangxiemie City in Tianbao years (AD 742 -756) of Tang Dynasty. Dali City was the capital of Nanzhao Kingdom and built by Ge Luofeng. The Ancient Town has an area of 3 km2, where streets run north-south and east-west, like a chess board. Since used to be an important political, economic and cultural centre of Yunnan for over 500 years in Tang and Song dynasties, the city is listed in the first batch of 24 historical and cultural cities by the State Council.

Chongsheng Temple 

Chongsheng Temple is located about 1.5km northwest of Dali Ancient Town. It is a famous royal temple and a political and religious centre during the periods of Nanzhao Kingdom and Dali Kingdom. The Three Pagodas inside the Chongsheng Temple were originally built during the period of Nanzhao Kingdom and completed in Tang Dynasty. The Three Pagodas, comprising one main pagoda and two sibling pagodas, are multi-eaved hollow square-shaped brick pagodas which are typical in Dali. Currently, the Three Pagodas are an important heritage site under state protection. It is also a national 5A tourist attraction.

Taihe City Relic

Taihe City Relic is located at the foothill of Foding Peak. It is the original capital of Nanzhao Kingdom and also the only city connecting Longwei Pass to Dali Ancient Town. The relic is composed of ‘Nanzhao Dehua Monument’ which is an important stele in Tang Dynasty and recorded the relationship between ethnic groups in Nanzhao Period. It became a national cultural relic protection unit in 1961.

Jinsuo Island

The small island is located in Haidong Town and is about 1.8km long. It is made of dolomite of the Kanglang Formation and controlled by faults and shaped by water erosion. The shape is like a shuttle, hence the name ‘Jinsuo Island’, meaning ‘Golden Shuttle Island’. It is a perfect place where visitors can view Mount Cangshan, Erhai Lake, explore the karst caves and enjoy the local folk songs and dances.

Luoquang Peninsula

Luoquang Peninsula is located on the east bank of Erhai Lake facing the Dali Ancient Town. Its bed rock is limestone belonged to the Changshuijing Formation. The peninsula is formed by crustal movement along the Erhai-Honghe Fault Zone and by river erosion. It is surrounded by water on three sides and extends in south to north. Major attractions include Kwan-yin Pavilion, Tianjing Pavilion, Luoquan Tower and Luoquan Temple. It is a sightseeing and relaxing area for tourists.

Nanzhao Island

Nanzhao Customs Island is located in Shuanglang Town. It is an island made up of limestone of Yangxin Formation and is dissected by two intersected faults and affected by fluvial erosion. The island looks like a huge spindle that is about 500 m long and around 100 m to 250 m wide. It is one of the three major islands of Erhai Lake which possesses rich cultural and natural scenic resources.

Shuanglang Ancient Town

Shuanglang Ancient Town is comprised of several tourist attractions including the streets in town, Yuji Peninsula and Nanzhao Customs Island. It has been described as the ‘town endowed with the best scenery of Mount Cangshan and Erhai Lake’. It is a thousand-year-old fishing village giving birth to civilizations of the Neolithic Age and the Bronze Age in Dali region.

Cangshan garden 

The garden is located at the entrance of Tingmingxi Gorge on the eastern slope of Mount Cangshan adjacent to Taihe City Relics. It is a camellia-themed garden integrating culture, sightseeing and scientific research of camellia. It is therefore acclaimed as ‘the Gene Pool of Chinese Camellia Resources’. It has collected nearly 1,000 kinds of featured woody flowers and herbaceous plants with over 80 kinds of camellia plants and nearly 50 kinds of azaleas. Therefore, it can be regarded as an epitome of plants in Mount Cangshan.

Category: Travel Guide
Tags: Dali Cangshan
Editor: ygzhang 2021-03-07 02:26