The Stone Forest or Shilin is a notable set of karst formations located in Shilin Yi Autonomous County, approximately 90 kilometres east of the provincial capital Kunming. The tall rocks seem to emanate from the ground in the manner of stalagmites, with many looking like petrified trees thereby creating the illusion of a forest made of stone. Since 2007, two parts of the site, the Naigu Stone Forest and Suogeyi Village, have been UNESCO World Heritage Sites as part of the South China Karst.
Shilin National Scenic Area covers an area of 350 square kilometres and is divided into seven scenic areas as follows:
- Greater & Lesser Stone Forests - also known as the Lizijing Stone Forest
- Naigu Stone Forest;
- Zhiyun Cave
- Lake Chang
- Lake Yue
- Dadie Waterfall
- Qifeng Cave
These formations, caused by the dissolution of limestone, are believed to be over 270 million years old and are a tourist attraction for both overseas and domestic tourists, with bus tours bringing tourists from Kunming. There are also a number of hotels in the area.
According to legend, the forest is the birthplace of Ashima, a beautiful girl of the Yi people. After falling in love she was forbidden to marry her chosen suitor and instead turned into a stone in the forest that still bears her name. Each year on the 24th day of the sixth lunar month, many Yi people celebrate the Torch Festival, which features folk dances and wrestling competitions. (wikipedia)