The Stone Forest lies about 80 miles to the southeast of Kunming. A geological phenomenon, the Stone Forest was a vast expanse of sea during the Paleozoic era——some 270 million years ago. Later, the movement of tectonic plates altered the earth’s crust, causing the sea to recede and its limestone bottom to appear, thereby forming land.Due to the constant seeping ofrain through the cracks in the limestone, some of the stone formation dissolved and the fissures broadened, producing a group of great sculptures of different shapes, all molded by nature.
In the midst of the forest, there is a huge rock screen on which two words——Stone Forest——are engraved in official script (in a calligraphic style typical of the Han Dynasty, 206 B.C.-220 A.D.). Among the scenic sights is the "Sword Peak Pond" with jadeite-colored water so clear that one can see the bottom of the pond. Other astonishing sights include "Figure of Ashima," "Shi Ba Xiang Song" (its name originating in the Chinese love story, "Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai"), and "Lotus Peak."
The splendor of the Stone Forest is enhanced by the local customs of the native Sani people (who are part of the Yi minority). Sani people are industrious and hospitable——and unconstrained. Sani women are expert at spinning, weaving, and embroidering. They like to wear rainbow-colored headgear and bright-colored dresses. The young people especially are very good singers and dancers. Every day at sunset, under the moonlight, boys and girls gather at the village platform. While the boys play the three-stringed plucked instruments, the girls clap their hands and dance the strong-rhythmed traditional "A’Xi (Ah-shi) Dance in the Moon" with great enthusiasm. If you happen to witness the event, you will be invited to join in the festivity.
Note that every lunar year, on June 24th, the Sani people celebrate their national festival——the Torch Festival. On that day, the entire Stone Forest is permeated with a celebratory atmosphere. There are traditional performances of wrestling and bull-fighting. Finally, when the land is enveloped in the curtain of night, the young men (holding torches in their hands) run after the young women to propose marriage in the light of colored lanterns.
1. Stone Forest 石林
2. Sword Peak Pond 剑峰池
3. Figure of Ashima 阿诗玛像
4. Lotus Peak 莲花峰