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Yuanmou Earth Forest

Yuanmou Earth Forest is a wonderland area of clay formations which developed in the past 1.5 million years. This scenic area is located 210 km northwest of Kunming.

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Plunging into this hidden world, you will be bewitched by the spectacular clay formations, which project from the ground abruptly and glisten like yellow crystals. Coming in overwhelming quantities, they vary in shapes, heights and volumes. Seen separately, each is a piece of artwork with indescribable charm. 

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Viewed as a whole, they form an intricate maze imbued with mysterious air and sublime beauty. From those ingenious minds, they prefer to picture Yuanmou Earth Forest as a dilapidated golden monastery, a desolate gothic church or a giant shrine impaired by fierce bombardments.

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When bathed in the sunshine, these clay columns will dash out sparkling rays, which is a rare phenomenon. Hence, locals tend to compare it to China’s clay version of Parthenon. At twilight, these cute columns will define the skyline with gothic silhouettes, which look like ghostly phantoms and the fairyland will be reduced to a hellish territory. Great courage is needed to observe and even walk along them.

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To enjoy the zenith of Yuanmou Earth Forest’s beauty, you need to go up high. Take a bird’s-eye view, you will see the meandering Longchuan river, a tributary of Jinsha river (one upstream of Yangtze River), flows by like a silver ribbon, with its west bank embellished with attention-grabbing golden patchworks, among which the Earth Forests of  Banguo, Tiger Leaping Shoal, Wanbao, Xiaoleizai  and Xinhua, are main quarters. In no exception, they span more than 5km2.

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According to shapes and formation process, Yuanmou Earth Forest’s clay formations fall into four categories: Earth Bud Style, Castle Style, Bamboo Shoot Style and Mushroom Style. Small in size, Earth Bud Style clay formations serve as the forerunner of other types. Those of Castle Style are larger and usually measure 2 to 5 meters high. 

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However, under the joint forces of water erosion and gravity, they fall easy prey to collapse. The sand-clay Bamboo Shoot Style columns are the most impressive, which tower 5 to 10m above the ground like giant bamboo shoots. 

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Mushroom Style is the most common one. Years of erosion will wash away the mud, while minerals will deposit to form solid layers. These layers play great role to shield the columns from weathering.

Further photo impressions of this very special area can be found below.

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