In China’s Yunnan Province is the famous stone topography of Shilin, meaning “stone forest.” Covering an area of three-hundred square kilometers (or 186 miles) the stone forest is a massive otherworldly landscape of karst formations over 270 million years old. Over the millennia seismic activity and water and wind erosion have carved the present-day limestone formations.
The giant stalagmite-like pillars create huge arrays of labyrinths that are easy to become lost in. Shilin is divided into many smaller stone forests and features caves, waterfalls, ponds, a lake with an island, and even an underground river. Two of the smaller individual stone forests, Naigu Stone Forest and Suogeyi Village, are a part of the South China Karst, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One of Shilin’s most famous attractions is the Ashima Stone, which legend says was formed after the beautiful Sani girl, Ashima, ran into the forest and was turned to stone after being forbidden to marry the man she loved. Every year on June 24 the local Sani people hold the time-honored Torch Festival at Shilin, which features many “traditional performances such as wrestling, bull fighting, pole-climbing, dragon-playing, lion-dancing, and the A-xi Moon Dance.”