The Stone Forest
lies about 80 miles to the southeast of Kunming. It has long
been one of the most famous scenic spots in China (at least
since the Ming Dynasty, 1368-1644 A.D.) 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 of rain 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
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.