The Stone Forest, one of Chinaís most famous scenic spots and known as "the most fantastic scenery under heaven", is located in the Lunan Autonomous County of Yi Nationality, about 75 miles southeast of Kunming. It in fact is a massive collection of grey limestone pillars, split by rain water and eroded to their present fanciful forms. Covering a total area of 350 square kilometer, it includes the big and small stone forests, and other scenic spots such as the "Moon Lake", "Dadie Waterfall", and "Subterranean Stone Forest in Zhiyun Cave". Since the Ming dynasty, Stone Forest has long been one of the most famous scenic spots in China.
Taking the shapes of pagodas, walls, pillars, ganodermas, swords or animals, a huge number of vertically carved, fantastically shaped limestone pillars scattered here and there, in which one of them is engraved with two big words "Stone Forest", forming a marvelous landscape. Range between 6 ft and 98 ft in the height, these pillars, from a distance, look like a dense forest. No wonder that strolling among them, one would trow that he is in a maze.
Major scenic spots in Stone Forest include Sword Peak Pond, Jade Lake, Lotus Blossom Peak, Big Stone Forest, Naigu Stone Forest, Dadie Waterfall, Zhiyun Cave, Qifeng Cave, Long Lake, Moon Lake, and Peak View Pavilion.
As soon as the visitors enter the forest, the "Sword Peak Pond" would burst into your eyesight, with its purely jadeite-colored water. Leaning against the red railing by the pond, one can enjoy the peculiar sight of the countless stone peaks assuming a thousand different shapes, all fanciful and picturesque, and the goldfish leisurely wagging the tail in the pond. Walking on, the numerous fantastic stone peaks, rock pillars, stone flowers, rock levels, and rock flows which appear in succession would make you believe that you are in a kingdom which only exist in fairy tales.
The splendor of this place is enhanced by another feature, that is, the custom of the local Sani peope, which is a branch of the Yi nationality. Sani people are industrious, unconstrained and hospitable and all Sani girls are experts at spinning, weaving and embroidering. The Sani people, especially the young people, are very good at singing and dancing. Each day at sunset, boys and girls would gather at the village platform and colorful programs would be held there. The boys play the three-stringed plucked instruments while the girls dance enthusiastically with the drumbeats. If lucky enough, you would be invite to join the dancing and get a good guide at the same time.
The most attractive festival of Sani people is the Torch Festival which comes every lunar year on June 24 th. On that day the entire Stone Forest is permeated with a festival atmosphere. Traditional performances like wrestling, bull-fighting are shown in the forest. When the land is enveloped in a curtain of night, young men, holding torches in their hands run after girls to propose marriage in the light of colored lanterns. This tradition continues for many years and till today it has more fascination for visitors than ever.
About the formations of stone forest, legend goes that the immortals smashed a mountain into a labyrinth for lovers seeking some privacy. While about this unique phenomenon of Stone Forest, modern science gives a reasonable answer. According to geologistís studies and verifications, the Stone Forest was a vast expanse of sea in the carboniferous period of Paleozoic era which commenced 270 million years ago. Later the sea receded due to the movement of the earthís crust and the limestones deposited on the seabed rise up, hence formed the land. Eons of weathering and erosion dissolved the stone and broadened the fissures, and finally molded them into groups of pillars, which from a distance resemble a dense mass of trees.