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Feb 19

Colorful Fairy WorldIn the end of Sep. 2005, I went to Sichuan with friends for a 8 days wonderful travel. Now I will first introduce some information about it.

Sichuan, home of the Giant Pandas, is located in southwestern China and is known as the "Land of Abundance". Sichuan’s beautiful landscapes and rich historic relics have made the province a major centre for tourism. The Jiuzhaigou is listed among the "World Legacies of Nature" by the United Nations.

sichuan Jiuzhaigou Valley (simplified Chinese: 九寨沟; traditional Chinese: 九寨溝; pinyin: Jiǔzhàigōu; lit. "Valley of Nine Villages"; Tibetan: Sicadêgu) is a nature reserve in northern Sichuan province of China. It is known for its many multi-level waterfalls and colorful lakes, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. It belongs to the category V (Protected Landscape)in the IUCN system of protected area categorization.

Jiuzhaigou Valley is located in Nanping County, 450 kilometers (about 280 miles) to the north of Chengdu City. Its name is due to the existence of nine stockaded villages of Tibetan origin, and it is always regarded as a holy mountain and watercourse by the Tibetan people.

Jiuzhaigou Valley is a great masterpiece of nature having dreamlike scenery and abundant natural resources. It combines blue lakes, waterfalls, verdant forests, snow-covered mountains, and the folk customs of the Tibetan and Qiang peoples.

Before introducing the scenery of Jiuzhaigou please first let me tell you a legend about it.That long, long ago the deity of mountain named Dago had a crush on the goddess Semo, and he gave a mirror that was made from wind and cloud to the goddess. However, the devil appeared and made trouble to Semo. Inadvertently, Semo broke the mirror into 108 pieces, which fell down to the earth and then turned to 108 colorful lakes. The lake is also called Haizi by local people.

jiuzhaigou map Jiuzhaigou is composed of three valleys arranged in a Y shape. The Rize and Zechawa gullies flow from the south and meet at the centre of the site where the form the Shuzheng gully, flowing north to the mouth of the valley. The mountainous watersheds of these gullies are lined with 55 km of roads for shuttle buses, as well as boardwalks and small pavilions. The boardwalks are typically located on the opposite side of the lakes from the road, shielding them from disturbance by passing buses.

Most visitors will first take the shuttle bus to the end of Rize and/or Shuzheng gully, then make their way back downhill by foot on the boardwalks, taking the bus instead when the next site is too distant. Here is a summary of the sites found in each of the gullies.

 Rize Valley

The Primeval Forest (原始森林 Yuánshǐ Sēnlín) is a preserved ancient woodland. It is fronted by spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and cliffs, including the 500 m high blade-shaped Sword Rock (剑岩 Jiàn Yán). About 52% area of Jiuzhaigou Valley is covered by virgin forest and the forest at the top of Rize Valley is part of it. Seeing the luxuriantly green trees, walking on thick and soft lichens, smelling the fragrant and moist air, and listening to the sound of wind and bird-song you will find that you are coming into a new isolated world. In the lower part of the south of mountains, Chinese pines, oaks and spruces grow thickly and in the north Chinese hemlocks, maples, birches and fir trees are flourishing. In the upper part of mountains are alpine shrubs and alpine meadows.Swan Lake

Swan Lake (天鹅海, Tiān’é Hǎi) is a 2250 m long, 125 m wide picturesque lake named for its visiting swans and ducks. 

Grass Lake (草海, Cǎo Hǎi) is a shallow lake covered in intricate vegetation patterns.

Arrow Bamboo Lake (箭竹海, Jiànzhú Hǎi), covering an area of 170,000 m², is a shallow lake with a depth of 6 m. It lies at an elevation of 2,618 m, and was a main feature site for the 2002 Chinese film Hero.

Panda Lake (熊猫海, Xióngmāo Hǎi) features curious color patterns of blue and green. It empties into the multi-stream, multi-level Panda Waterfalls, dropping 78m in 3 steps. Pandas are regarded as lucky and endearing animals. It is said that pandas in Jiuzhaigou Valley like to drink water and play in this lake, so the lake is called Panda Lake. It is 2,587 meters (about 8,488 feet) above sea level and 14 meters (about 46 meters) in depth. The water is clear and transparent. Especially on fine days, the blue sky and white cloud are mirrored in the lake. There are inverted images of cliffs with strange textures in the lakesides and the white stones with black lines in the lake, all of them have made the Panda Lake an interesting and beautiful place.

Five Flower Lake (五花海, Wǔhuā Hǎi) iFive Flower Lake Is a shallow multi-colored lake whose bottom is criss-crossed by ancient fallen tree trunks. The pride of Jiuzhaigou Valley, Five-Flower Lake lies at the end of the upper reach of Peacock River, 2,472 meters (about 8,110 feet) above the sea level and five meters (about 16 feet)  in depth. Most of the colorful leaves are gathered in the lakefront and interlaced as brocades. Five Flower LakeThe water that contains calcium carbonate as well as hydrophytes with different colors presents a versicolor sight, azure blue, blackish green and light yellow, etc, so it is named Five-Flower Lake. The local people say that it is a holy lake, and where there is the water, there must be flourishing flowers and trees. When looking down from the mountain, you will find that the lake with hills on three sides is just like a huge upended cucurbit pouring colorful water to the lower place.

Pearl Shoal (珍珠滩, Zhēnzhū Pearl ShoalTān) is a wide, gently sloping area of active calcareous tufa deposition covered in a thin sheet of flowing water. It empties into the famous Pearl Waterfalls, where the shoal drops 28 m in a 310 m wide broad curtain of water. A scene of the television adaptation of Journey to the West was filmed there.

Mirror Lake (镜海, Jìng Hǎi) is another quiet lake casting beautiful reflections of the surroundings when the water is calm.  Mirror Lake, wrapped by forests, is a narrow and long lake about 1,000 meters (1,094 yards) in length. The mountain on the opposite side is like a huge stone screen. On the right is the lower reach of Mirror Lake, abutting the Nuorilang Mirror LakeLake Cluster and on the left is the upper reach that joins the Mirror Lake Valley.  In the rosy dawns, the lake is as smooth as a mirror and blue sky, white clouds, the mountains far away and trees nearby can all be seen reflected in the lake. What is more wonderful is that you can see the conjured images that the fish are swimming in the sky and the birds are flying in the lake! Near the lake there is a tree reaching the sky, which is tightly twisted by a long vine, just like two sweet lovers. Therefore, people gave Mirror Lake another romantic name, Love Park.

Zechawa Gully

The Zechawa Gully (则查洼沟, Zécháwā Gōu) is the south-eastern branch of Jiuzhaigou. It is approximately the same length as Rize gully (18 km ) but climbs to a higher altitude (3150 m at the Long Lake). Going downhill from its highest point, it features the following sites:

Long Lake (长海, Cháng Hǎi) is the highest, largest and deepest lakLong Lakee in Jiuzhaigou, measuring 7.5 km in length and up to 103 m in depth. It reportedly has no outgoing waterways, getting its water from snowmelt and losing it from seepage. Local folklore features a monster in its depths. The largest lake in Jiuzhaigou Valley, Long Lake, is located at the end of Zechawa Valley, covering an area of 930,000 square meters (about 230 acres). The source of Long Lake is melted snow from the mountains. Cedars all over the mountain encircle the lake. When looked at from afar, the lake is bathed in the sunshine, like the jade palace in the heaven. At the side of the lake there is an old tree, which is said to be the guardian of the lake. In winter, the lake is frozen 60 centimeters (about 24 inches) on the surface and is an ideal place for skating.

Five-Color Pond (五彩池, Wǔcǎi Chí) is one of the smallest but most spectacular bodies of water in Jiuzhaigou Five-Color Pond lakes. Despite its very modest dimensions and depth, it has a richly colored underwater landscape with some of the brightest and clearest waters in the area. The old Chinese legend said that there was a colorful lake, Jasper Lake, in the palace of the Queen Mother of the West. However, nobody has seen it with his Five-Color Pond own eyes. In Jiuzhaigou Valley you can truly appreciate the colorful lake, which is  the small but exquisite Five-Colored Pond in Zechawa Valley. The lake is 6.6 meters (about 21.7 feet) deep, 2,995 meters (about 9,826 feet) above the sea level and occupies an area of 5,645 square meters (about 6,751 square yards). On sunny days, the lake present various colors when the lake ripples, shining with red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue and purple light, as if you are in a dreamland.

The Seasonal Lakes (季节海, Jìjié Hǎi) are a series of 3 lakes (Lower, Middle and Upper) along the main road, that change from empty to full during each year. There are Lower Seasonal Lake and Upper Seasonal Lake in Zechawa Valley. Lower Seasonal Lake is near Zechawa Village and has a grove of birches at the lakeside. Strawberries and other wild fruits can be found in the grove. The upper Seasonal Lake is next to Five-Colored Pond surrounded by cliffs. All the lakes have plenty of blue water due to the ample rainfall in autumn and are at a low level of green color water in spring and winter. While in the early summer, the water dries up and turns into grassland as lots of grasses grow in the riverbeds.

Shuzheng Gully

The Shuzheng Gully (树正沟, Shùzhèng Gōu) is the northern (main) branch of Jiuzhaigou. It ends after 14.5 km at the Y-shaped intersection of the three gullies.Shuzheng Valley is a main tourist route of Jiuzhaigou Valley. It is about 14 kilometers (about nine miles) in length with over 40 lakes, representing 40% of all the lakes in Jiuzhaigou. The major scenic spots in Shuzheng Valley are Double-Dragon Lake, Bonsai Beach, Reed Lake, Spark Lake, Tiger Lake, Shuzheng Waterfall, Rhinoceros Lake, and Nuorilang Waterfall, etc. Going downhill from the intersection to the mouth of the valley, visitors encounter the following: Nuorilang Falls

Nuorilang Falls (诺日朗瀑布, Nuòrìlǎng Pùbù), near the junction of the valleys, are 20 m high and 320 m wide. They are reportedly the widest highland waterfall in China, and one of the symbols of Jiuzhaigou.

Nuorilang Lakes (诺日朗群海, Nuòrìlǎng Qúnhǎi) and Shuzheng Lakes (树正群海 Shùzhèng Qúnhǎi) are stepped series of respectively 18 and 19 ribbon lakes formed by the passage of glaciers, then naturally dammed. Some of them have their own folkloric names, such as the Rhinoceros, Unknown, and Tiger lakes.

Shuzheng Waterfall(树正瀑布,Shùzhèng Pùbù)
Shuzheng Waterfall is the first waterfall you will encounter in the valley. It is 62 The Shuzheng Valleymeters (about 203 feet) wide and 15 meters (about 49 feet) tall. Though it is the smallest of the four main   waterfalls in Jiuzhaigou Valley, it will bring heart quakes to first time visitors. The green forests surround nineteen lakes of different sizes and levels. The lake water in the upper reaches flows slowly along the shoal and is divided into countless streams by the groves in the lake. Then the streams join on the top of Shuzheng Waterfall and suddenly drop down to the lower lakes. The sprays fly in the air, creating an elegant screen.

Sleeping Dragon Lake (卧龙海, Wòlóng Hǎi) is one of the lower lakes in the area. With a depth of 20 m, it is notable for the clearly visible calcareous dyke running through it, whose shape has been compared to a dragon lying on the bottom.

Reed Lake (芦苇海, Lúwěi Hǎi) 2,140 meters (about 7,021 feet) above the sea level and is 22 kilometers (about 14 miles) in length. There are reeds grow thickly in the lake. Clear streams wind through the reeds and aquatic birds fly above the lake. In spring and summer, the water is as verdurous as flourishing reeds, overflowing with vigor. In autumn and winter, golden reeds greet the eye everywhere. While during the florescence season, downy reed catkins joggle tenderly in the breeze, just like water waves. Egrets and widgeons sport in groups on the lake, presenting picturesque views.

Double-Dragon Lake (双龙海,Shuanglong Hǎi)
Double-Dragon Lake lies below Spark Lake Waterfall, and it got its name from the two zonary calc-sinter reefs hidden in the bottom of the lake, which are just like two dragons. It is said that in ancient times, two evil dragons always brought disasters by making hailstones or rainstorms to the Tibetan people in Jiuzhaigou Valley. Afterwards, they were faced down by King Gesar (a figure in a Tibetan hero epic) and were locked with chains in the lake. From then on, the lake was peaceful and tranquil. Now there are many beautiful swans and mandarin ducks inhabiting the lake. Sometimes, you can appreciate the sight of wild duck groups roaming in the lake and swans flying in the sky above, and this really adds more pleasure to your visits.

Rhinoceros Lake (犀牛海,Xiniu Hǎi) is the largest lake in Shuzheng Valley. The story goes that in olden days, a  lama came here on a rhinoceros. He was Rhinoceros Lake seriously ill and was on the verge of death. After he drank some water of the lake, he recovered unexpectedly! Then the lama drank the lake water day and night and was reluctant to leave. Therefore, he came into the lake riding on the rhinoceros and dwelled in the lake forever. That is why the lake is called Rhinoceros Lake. It is one of the most changeable lakes in Jiuzhaigou Valley. Every morning the inverted images of clouds and mists are of enchanting beauty and people just cannot distinguish the sky from the lake. To the south of Rhinoceros Lake is a bridge where you can take in the beautiful scenery. To the north of the lake visitors can view Semo Mountain. Rhinoceros Lake is the only site that provides yachts for tourists to enjoy themselves, both for sport, sightseeing and life’s simple pleasures.


The Zaru Gully (扎如沟, Zārú Gōu) is a smaller valley that runs southeast from the main Shuzheng gully; it begins at the Zaru Buddhist monastery and ends with the Red, Black, and Daling lakes.

The Fairy Pool (神仙池, Shénxiān Chí) lies 42 km west of Jiuzhaigou and features travertine pools very similar to those of the nearby Huanglong Natural Reserve.

How to Access to the site

Jiuzhaigou, compared to other high-traffic scenic spots in China, is notoriously difficult to access by land. Most tourists reach the valley by a 10 hour bus ride from Chengdu along the Minjiang River canyon, prone to frequent rockslides and mudslides that can add several hours to the trip. As of 2004, further delays were incurred by the construction of a new highway which, when completed, should greatly facilitate the journey. Since 2003, it has been possible fly from Chengdu or Chongqing to an airport on a 11311 ft. high mountain side near Songpan County, and then take an hour-long bus ride to Jiuzhaigou, or a two-hour bus ride to Huanglong. From 2006, there has been a daily flight to Xi’an. There is also a new helipad near the valley.

By busRoad by Bus
Chengdu Xinanmen and Cha Dianzi Stations have daily buses to Jiuzhaigou departing at around 8:00am [Y100~Y120]. The journey is about 460km and takes 10~12 hours with a few short stops on the way.

For Leaving, Jiutong Bus station has buses to Chengdu via Songpan at around 7:30am daily. Backpackers usually head for Songpan to catch connection traffic. [Y29 / 2 hrs]

If you want to visit Huanglong National Park(not recommended), buy a direct ticket to Huanglong, in case of shortage, travel to Chuanzhusi [a county between Jiuzhaigou and Songpan] , then get transferred to Huanglong.

The way on roadTips:
1. Bus schedule changes slightly from time to time. Highly recommend book your tickets in advance in case of shortage.
2. Try to avoid sleeper buses from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou, as most passengers are local instead of travelers. As a result, the bus condition is horrible.

By air
Take a 40minutes flight from Chengdu to Jiuhuang Airport, which is 1.5 hrs away from Jiuzhaigou. Shuttles wait there for arrivals and leave when full. It takes much less time but is a very expensive way, full price for flight is Y980, best discount is 30% off, plus fuel, tax and shuttle, total is around Y1000.

The way on Road  xuebaoding

When to go

Best time is in autumn between mid October and early November, when the valley is rich in color. Take about two days enough.


No need to book in advance. Just get off the bus in Zhangzha Zhen, 5 minutes ahead of the destination, Jiutong Bus Station.

Legions of colorful Tibetan hostels along the riverside, Y25/bed or Y50/Rm,shared bath room and Chinese toilet. Standard hotel is Y60~Y100/Rm with attached bathroom.

1. Don’t follow any one who tries to guide you to a hotel, some of them are middleman who earn commissions.
2. Some Tibetan villagers inside the Park run hostels sneakily, it’s not recommended to stay there, as it limits your choice of fun, unless you want to capture the 6:00am scene of the gully.
3. Avoid the hotels around the park, as they are usually more expensive. It costs only Y4~6 and 5 minutes for a taxi ride from the town to the gate of Jiuzhaigou Park.

Loding in Tibetan Loding in Tibetan

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