The village of Guoliang had a problem. High in the Taihang Mountains of the Henan Province, the only access to civilization were some steep, narrow stairs embedded in the mountainside called the “Sky Ladder”, a treacherous, slippery climb even for the most nimble and sure-footed of the villagers or their rare company callers.
For several years, the 350 inhabitants of this isolated location beseeched the government for a roadway to connect them to the outside world, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Undeterred, they decided that if the officials refused to help them, they would do it themselves.
Selling their animals and other necessities for supplies, the people of Guoliang sent down 13 of their strongest workers. The team of men, not an engineer among them, set about carving a roadway inch by inch, using nothing but hand tools, patience, and determination.
In 1977, 5 years after beginning their colossal undertaking, the villagers had managed to dig out 0.75 mi. of tunnel, 16 ft. tall and 13 ft. wide. While quite the amazing feat, a do-it-yourself mountain tunnel dug by hand is obviously not the pillar of safety, in fact in many spots of the tunnel, roughly carved pillars are the only thing keeping you from plunging to your death.
Several villagers died during construction, and the road itself is only wide enough for the very slow, careful passing of oncoming cars. This is made terrifying by the fact that the road was built on the path of least resistance. The tunnel twists, turns and dips in unpredictable places, enough to leave any driver white-knuckled in terror at what could be coming at them around the slippery blind spot of a bend.
Originally intentioned to provide the Guoliang residents with some convenience, the tunnel has become quite the tourist attraction, giving the village a little too much unwanted attention, but some very welcome revenue. There are now hotels and bridges that have been built for hikers and travelers, but access isn't always granted, so make sure to check the internet for updates on the current visiting status.
Know Before You Go
The Village of Guoliang is about 120 kilometers or 75 miles north of the city of Zhengzhou in the Wanxianshan Scenic Area. If you want to go there by train, the nearest train station is at Xinxiang at (新乡) that is about 50 miles southeast of the Wanxianshan Scenic Area. From there, you can take buses to the town of Huixian 辉县. Get off at the Huxian Bus Station, and then take another bus to the Wanxianshan Scenic Area. This leg costs about 6 RMB or 1 USD and takes 30 minutes. From there, there are buses that cost 11 RMB that go the the scenic area. This leg takes about two hours though it is only about 40 miles away because the buses make many stops. The bus lets you off at the scenic area at a place where you can hire another ride or hike the 4 kilometers to Guoliangcun or 2.5 kilometers to another village called Nanping.