A landscape unlike any other awaits those who are curious enough to wander deep into the lesser-known countryside of Guizhou province. Known poetically as Wanfenglin or “The Forest of Ten Thousand Peaks,” this breathtaking landscape is so-named because the verdant Karst mountains scattered across its expanse are so plentiful that they give the appearance of a strange and beautiful forest. From February to April, the area is blanketed in rich golden hues as the rape flowers blossom, which adds an extra layer of beauty to the region. As far back as the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the renowned geographer Xu Xiake decided to pay a visit to this unusual landscape and praised it highly, stating: “There are many peaks and mountains in this world, but only here can the peaks be truly called a forest.” If anything, Xu Xiake’s praise might be an understatement, as this stony “forest” is made up of nearly 20,000 peaks!
Nowadays, the Forest of Ten Thousand Peaks forms a major part of the larger Maling River Canyon scenic area and has been divided into two core regions: West Peak Forest, which is made up of a typical Karst plateau landscape and is open to the public; and East Peak Forest, which is characterised by clusters of Karst peaks and is currently closed to the public. This mountainous forest is located about 7 kilometers (4.5 mi) away from the city of Xingyi and takes up a colossal area of 2,000 square kilometres (772 sq. mi). To put that into perspective, it is nearly twice the size of the entire city of New York!
Within the “forest” itself, there are a few highlights that have been given special names based on their appearance. For example, the densest part of the peak forest is known as Liezhen or “Array-Like” Peak Forest, because it contains a large peak known as General Peak that is surrounded by his smaller array of soldiers. There are even two shorter peaks directly to the left and right side of General Peak, which represent his body-guards! Much like the Liezhen Peak Forest, there is another smaller peak that is surrounded by other miniature peaks, which is known poetically as A Myriad of Stars Surround the Moon.
Another area, known as the Dashun Peaks, is considered to be widely representative of the average type of peak that can be found in Wanfenglin, as it is made up of six tall cone-shaped peaks. Since the Chinese word for six (六) sounds like the word for “to flow” (流), six is considered a lucky number, so these six peaks were given the auspicious name of “dashun” (大顺), which comes from the Chinese idiom “Everything goes smoothly” (六六大顺). After all, when you’re surrounded by such beauty, it’s easy to see why the locals who live here feel blessed!
At the foot of West Peak Forest lies a shimmering strip of water known as the Nahui River, which acts as a natural string connecting several villages belonging to the Bouyei ethnic minority, such as Erzhai, Leli, Shuangsheng, and Yulong. The area has been home to the Bouyei people for over 300 years and the remote location has meant that they’ve been able to preserve their cultural customs throughout their long history. After a rewarding hike through the mountains, these villages represent the ideal place to rest and engage in authentic Bouyei culture.
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