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Jiuxiang Caves

CHINA | Sunday, 20 October 2013 | Views [896]

Jiuxiang Caves

 The caves, about 75 km to the east from Kunming, are part of a larger area, the Jiuxiang Scenic Area. Unfortunately, given the rain, I was unable to explore the sections beyond the caves, including the Buddhist cliff drawings near Alu which were painted during the 3rd C BCE.  The Karst Caves, however, were very interesting both as natural phenomenon and as a prehistoric habitat.  There have been traces of humans living in these caves as far back as 40,000 years ago. 

Some of the 66 or so caves are connected with waterways, while others are cut off from the others via deep gorges.  There is an excellent walking path that guides one through the main attractions and a chair lift at the end of the tour to take one back to the entrance.  As there are 2000 stairs within the complex, most people seem happy to have the chair lift take them back. (There were even palaquins in the middle of one of the caves to help take up those who couldn’t negotiate the stairs!)

 The Yi people in the region along with the geologists who have been excavating the caves, have named a number of the formations.  The names give some indication of the local religion.  The Yi did not build temples as the gods are in everything and everywhere, including in the belly of Mother Earth, which is where these caves are situated.  There are many different formations that relate to the deities, but there are no specific names for any one of them.  There is “the Drunken Celestial” or the “Gods Meeting” but no one recognizable deity, although the formations certainly do resemble some of the Taoist figures.  Other formations look like some of the places around Yellowstone National Park or Pammukale in Turkey.

 Most of the caves along the walkway are quite large, with ceilings that are well over 60 ft. high.  The pathway follows the river through some of the caves and in one, there is a double waterfall that brings two streams together with tremendous force.

The caves are also home to a unique blindfish.  It only grows to about four inches, and is entirely blind due to the lack of light in the cave rivers.  It is a form of mackerel that is unique to this region.

 The karst in the caves seems to take on a life of its own.  The formations often seem to be human-carved rather than naturally formed, but they really aren’t.  While this cave complex isn’t as large as the one at Mammoth in California or as deep as the Kartchner in So. Arizona, it is very impressive and the deities of the Yi people do a good job protecting them.

 P.S. Have spent this last week in Kunming lecturing at a couple of universities, so have not been out adventuring:)




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