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Legendary Life in the Land of Lupanshui
2005-11-02 16:27:52
The scenery of caverns and canyons and the legend of mysterious Yelang Kingdom.

Life first appeared in Lupanshui, Guizhou Province, during the Permian and Triassic periods, around 200 to 300 million years ago. At that time, the entire area lay under the ocean. Then in the Paleolithic days, land emerged, and early man appeared on the scene. Still more time passed, and the kingdom of Yelang arose among the wooded mountains, more than two millennia ago. These days, many parts of China where ancient cultures once thrived are being buried under a sweeping wave of urbanization. Modern man, however, has left the wild landscapes of Lupanshui largely unchanged, and local ethnic groups still live their lives as they might have done in ancient times.


Standing 2,900 meters tall, Wumeng Mountain's Jiucaiping (chive peak)is the highest point of Guizhou. It is so called because it is covered in a sea of wild chives. Hundreds of millions of years ago, the entire area lay beneath a tranquil sea. Volcanic eruptions and crustal movements caused land to appear around 300 million years ago, and it underwent further transformations as the years passed. Different layers of soil have different colors, ranging from brownish to greenish gray, and russet to oyster clay.

The vegetation changes as the altitude rises. There are evergreens, coniferous forests, broadleaved forests and submontane brushwood. And covering the top 100 meters of the mountain is a chive prairie. Wild chives grow taller than most grasses, and fill the air with a strong aroma. The white stone forest, made up of large rock clusters, is another beautiful site on the mountain.

Panxian Great Cavern

Lupanshui is made up of three counties, Luzhi, Panxian and Shuicheng. In Panxian is a Great Cavern thought to be the earliest human settlement in the province. An excavation there in 1992 sent ripples of excitement through the world's paleoanthropoligical circles, and sparked off major research into early human existence in southern China. The cavern is also the world's largest early human dwelling site. Five human teeth that were found there link the evolution of man from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens. A stone shaping technique, called the Levallois technique, was also detected in the making of stone tools in the cavern and found to be the first time the technique had been used in Asia.

Another famous grotto called Biyun (Blue Cloud) lies south of Panxian's county seat. Its upper part, the Heavenly Cave, is about half way up the mountainside. The lower part, Earthly Cave, lies at the foot of the mountain. Rays of sunlight beam down from the Heavenly Cave to the Earthly Cave, bouncing off the limestone walls as they fall.

Site of Yelang Kingdom

Yelang was an ethnic tribe that made its home on the Yunnan and Guizhou Plateau. Its sudden demise around 26 B.C. remains a mystery to historians. But many ancient historians, including Sima Qian and Ban Gu, recorded the Yelang way of life. From their books, we know that the Yelang people practiced witchcraft, had strange hairstyles, and were an agricultural society with fierce warriors. Further studies show that the kingdom was actually composed of several ethnic tribes from southwestern Guizhou and the neighboring provinces of Sichuan, Hunan and Yunnan.

It's thought that the ancient capital of Yelang was located in today's Maokou Tounship in Lupanshui. Many curious tourists visit Maokou to discover the stories of its past. According to one, when the Yelang chief was selecting his capital he looked for a place with 100 peaks. He climbed nearby Jiuceng Mountain, and counted only 99, failing to include the peak he was standing on. So the disappointed chief went to Maokou, and set up his base there.

The decision turned out to be a good one. The Lang and Dai mountains flank the Datie Pass, which is the only way in to Maokou. They served as natural, impregnable fortifications, and helped to keep the peace within the foggy mountain ranges.

Lang Mountain is also known as the Old King Mountain. According to local legend, the Yelang King Duotong strolled out of the city one night and caught sight of a mystical crescent-shaped cave in Lang Mountain. The king was so awestruck by the cave that he wanted it as his final resting place. From then on, the locals called it the Old King Mountain, and the burial site became known as the Moon Cave.

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