Zhangjiajie is a mountain town in central China. The small town is around 270 km away from Changsa, the capital of the northwestern province of Hunan. The Dayong Fucheng cultural center with museum and tourist information and the Tujia Folklore Park are well worth seeing. Zhangjiajie is a popular destination for study trips dealing with geology and nature. Adventure trips also lead through the bizarre landscapes
UNESCO World Heritage Wulingyan Landscape Area
Zhangjiajie is located in the center of the Wulingyan Scenic Park, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996 and was declared a World Geopark in 2004. The spectacular karst and sandstone landscapes of this region extend in all directions and are divided into several national parks.
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
This park impresses with its forests, mountain formations and a unique flora and fauna. The mountain Huanshizhai rises to 1,300 m above the landscape. A cable car leads to the large plateaus with the 5 km long panorama path, which offers spectacular views of the surrounding rocks. One of the most famous rocks is the impressive silhouette of Nantian Yizhu, the “Southern Pillar of Heaven”. The Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon with its 430 m long glass bridge is also impressive.
Tianzishan Nature Reserve
Tianzishan is located in the northwest of the Wulingyan landscape area. Here, hikers will find 5 first-class tours through subtropical primeval forests, rivers and waterfalls as well as bizarre rock formations. A cable car or, alternatively, a hiking trail leads to the summit of Tianzishan. Also worth seeing are the Yubi peaks and the Yuanjiajie landscape zone with its rock formations.
Suoxiyu Nature Reserve
Suoxiyu is the area of caves, waterfalls and rivers. Worth seeing are the karst caves Huanglong and Guanyin, the Baifeng Lake, the 5 km long Silihualang Gallery and the Suoxiyu River.
Tianmenshan National Forest Park
This park is located south of Zhangjiajie and is not part of Wulingyan. The internationally known sights include the “Himmelstor” cave, the heavenly staircase on the mountain slope, as well as the glass Skywalk Boli-Zhandao and the Tianmenshan temple on the summit plateau. A 10 km long serpentine road with 99 curves and a cable car leads to the sky staircase.
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Houses on stilts at the foot of green hills
For many connoisseurs of the Chinese provinces, the manageable small town of Fenghuang is the most beautiful place in the Middle Kingdom. It is a jewel of the Hunan Autonomous Prefecture, and the word Fenghuang has a double meaning in people’s mythology, not just on the banks of the Tuo Jiang River. Because Fenghuang is also used to describe the phoenix, the legendary firebird, which symbolizes the good and stands for longevity. Fenghuang’s picturesque houses nestle against green hills and are built on stilts near the river.
When the shadows get longer…
Fenghuang is said to have two faces. One can be seen during the day and is characterized by the peace and harmony of a small town steeped in tradition. The hustle and bustle often encountered in the major metropolises of China has no chance here. But that changes when the shadows get longer there, because then life takes place exclusively on the streets and squares by the river, and many residents seek conversation with holidaymakers from a world that is so strange to them. In the meantime, Fenghuang has blossomed into a “party town”. Then it presents itself with bright colors, and the voices of cheerful residents waft from the bars and restaurants onto the narrow streets.
A castle from the Tang Dynasty
Anyone who is out on the river in a rowing boat in Fenghuang uses a comfortable transport device. Two parts shape the place – the new quarter and the old city of antiquity. Their history goes back to 770 BC. The old town, which is still very well preserved today, was built in the Qing Dynasty. The legendary conqueror Kangxi was the builder, and the three hundred or so remarkable legacies from that time are indications of the culture and tradition of the people of Tuo Jiang. The best preserved is the Huang Si Qiao Castle, which according to old documents was built in 687 and is considered an exceptionally beautiful Setin Castle from the Tang Dynasty. The cuboids of the border wall date from the period of the Ming Dynasty. Today, many ethnic minorities live in the area around Fenghuang.
Largest Buddhism school in the world in China
As the world’s largest school of Buddhism, Larung Gar is a unique study trip destination. Known as “the city of a thousand monks”, Larung Gar in the Chinese highlands is a magnet for Buddhists who want to learn here. Up to 50,000 monks and nuns live in Larung Gar at peak times.
The city of Tibetan Buddhism is rather hidden in the province of Sichuan and so it is mainly Tibetans who want to study Tibetan Buddhism who are drawn to the city. But the oversized school is open to anyone who wants to study here, so there is no age limit. While some find their way to the Buddhist education center as a child, other students are 50 years or older when they arrive in Larung Gar.
Those who complete their training in Larung Gar usually need 15 years before they can take the highest exam. Monks and nuns who have completed this apprenticeship in Larung Gar afterwards move to other monasteries and they are shown a lot of respect by Buddhists from all over the world.
Big but simple
Tourists traveling to this very special attraction are often unaware of the size of the city. The simply timbered dwellings are rather sparse and do not have running water. On the other hand, there is a power supply, but the power grid is usually overwhelmed and reception is only very poor with a cell phone.
Well trained monks
At the center of Larung Gar is of course the temple school, which has existed since 1980 and was created to carry on the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Another highlight is the large prayer wheel, which is located on a hill. Many pilgrims gather here. Since the young monks and nuns are not only taught in the faith, but also in the English language, visitors can get a direct description of the structured life in the amazing city from the monks.