The Stone Forest or Shilin is a remarkable region of limestone columns in Yunnan Province, China.
The formations has area of about 300 square kilometers (115 square miles).
It is part of a larger karst landscape called the South China Karst.
The tall rocks seem to arise from the ground in a manner somewhat reminiscent of stalagmites, or with many looking like petrified trees, thereby creating the illusion of a forest made of stone.
The Stone Forest area was a shallow sea some 270 million years ago.
Than the sea slowly disappeared.
The limestone in the rocks was then eroded by wind and water to create these spectacular stone pillars.
These formations extend as far as the eye can see, looking like a vast forest of stone, hence the name “The Stone Forest”.
In Chinese, Shilin means stone forest.
The main scenic areas include the Major, Minor and Naigu Stone Forests, Zhiyun Cave, Jibailong Cave, Qifeng Cave, Lunar Lake, Long Lake, and Big Water Fall.
The Major and Minor Stone Forests as considered to be outstanding examples of karst topography in the world. The rocks in these two parts are extremely weirdly shaped, looking like animals or human beings.
The Naigu Stone Forest, so named because of its weathered black surface ( Naigu means “black” in the local ethnic language, Sani), is 9 km (5.6 mi) northeast of the Major Stone Forest. It is developed in the dolomite and limestone and is represented by unique shapes like mushrooms, resulting from the differential dissolution of the different lithologies.
The rocks in Qifeng Cave are also very interesting, some of them are like the lighting torch, a number of them are like lotus and some look like mushrooms.
Dissolution lakes of enchanting and picturesque scenery, the Lunar Lake and Long Lake for example, are widespread in the Lunan region.
The Big Waterfall is situated in the southeast of Lunan County and 19 km (12 mi) away from the downtown area. It flows swiftly over the 90 m (295 ft) fall and is the most spectacular waterfall in Yunnan Province.
According to legend, the forest is the birthplace of Ashima, a beautiful girl of the Yi people. After falling in love she was forbidden to marry her chosen suitor and instead turned into a stone in the forest that still bears her name.
Each year on the 24th day of the sixth lunar month, many Yi people celebrate the Torch Festival, which features folk dances and wrestling competitions.
Since 2007, two parts of the site, the Naigu Stone Forest and Suogeyi Village, have been UNESCO World Heritage Sites as part of the South China Karst.
The site is classified as a AAAAA-class tourist site.
There is a very similar “forest” in Melarky, Madagascar, known as the Tsingy.