Huanglong – Land of the Yellow Dragon

22 January 2017

The Minshan Mountain Range is situated in the north of China’s Sichuan Province.  An area of outstanding natural beauty it is home to a four kilometer stretch of travertine landforms and pools.  Even in its home country the place is relatively little-known. Yet Huanglong, literally Yellow Dragon, is a place of wonders.

Over the millennia the springs around this small crease in the mountains have deposited limestone which has built up to create a series of pools – over 3,000 of them - which extend to almost four kilometers in length.  The chain of pools are said to resemble a huge golden dragon, which gives the place its name.

It is a mystical place, made even more numinous by the presence of an ancient Buddhist temple at the top of the valley from which the water springs.  It was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and as such has been a functioning place of worship for over 600 years.  As the pools are in such an isolated place it looks now very much as it did when it was first built.

Image Credit Flickr User Culantor
Image Credit Flickr User Matthias Book
Image Credit Flickr User Ben Beiske
The varying colors of Huanglong’s waters, from yellow and green to blues and browns, all contribute to the site’s otherworldly appearance. Despite the colors, the water is as clear as glass and the contents of the pools, felled trees centuries old, can be spied from the sometimes precipitous banks.

Image Credit Flickr User qchen
Image Credit Flickr User Ben Beiske
Around the pools the calcite has formed often huge, globular formations and all around the Minshan mountains rise, graceful and silent.  The nearest city with an airport is Songpan, itself ancient and charming but there is a two hour bus journey to the land of the Yellow Dragon. 

Image Credit Flickr User qchen
Image Credit Flickr User Shanidov
Image Credit Flickr User Inaba Tomoake
The legend around the name is that a sage who helped control five rivers in the province, retreated here once his task was done and became a hermit.  Through Buddhist meditation he eventually achieved immortality in the form of a yellow dragon.

Image Credit Flickr User Gill_Penny
Image Credit Flickr User Shanidov
Image Credit Flickr User Inaba Tomoake
As you might expect from such an ancient site, as well as the collective Yellow Dragon name, many of the ponds have their own designations. Their titles often illuminate their aesthetics – there is the Yingbin (welcoming guests) ponds by the temple and the Whirling Flower pond. If you throw in one of the azalea flowers which grow in abundance here, it will swirl to the rhythmic flow of the water as it wells continually upwards.

Image Credit Flickr User Wilson Loo
Image Credit Flickr User LaCitadelle
Image Credit Flickr User Ming1967
Visitors who reach the pools early in the morning get the place virtually to themselves yet the place can get busy later in the day during the peak periods of April to November.  However, tourists from outside the Republic of China are few – almost as if the place has been kept secret from the outside world.

Image Credit Flickr User Jason Pang
Image Credit Flickr User Ming1967
Huanglong has been a National Park for only a few decades, receiving its status in the early 1980s. This was followed, in 1996, with its recognition by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, a place of important cultural and physical significance.  It is easy to see why it has been judged of outstanding importance to the common heritage of humanity.

Image Credit Flickr User Culantor
First Image Credit Flickr User Ming 1967


Give a Gift

If you enjoyed this article, please consider making a gift to help Kuriositas to continue to bring you fascinating features, photographs and videos.
Thank you!



Pick your favorite way to stay updated

Amung Feedjit
Follow Kuriositas on Facebook