Why is Jiuzhaigou Valley National Park special?
Locally known as Jiuzhaigou (Chinese for “Nine Village Valley”) and more official name as “Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area”, Jiuzhaigou National Park is a nature reserve in the Min Shan Mountain range, Northern Sichuan, Southwestern 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 National Park Highlights
More than just spectacular scenery, Jiuzhai Valley National Park is home to nine Tibetan villages, over 220 bird species as well as a number of endangered plant and animal species, including the giant panda, Sichuan golden monkey, the Sichuan takin and numerous orchids and rhododendrons.
Nine Tibetan Village
Jiuzhaigou means “Nine Village Gully” and refers to the region’s nine Baima Tibetan villages, whose residents number is about 1000. According to legend, Jiuzhaigou was created when a jealous devil caused the goddess Wunosemo to drop her magic mirror, a present from her lover the warlord god Dage. The mirror dropped to the ground and shattered into 118 shimmering turquoise lakes.
Jiuzhaigou is composed of three valleys arranged in a Y shape. The Ri Ze and Ze Cha Wa valleys flow from the south and meet at the centre of the site where they form the Shu Zheng valley, flowing north to the mouth of the valley.
Ri Ze Valley
Ri Ze Valley runs for 18km from Nuo Ri Lang in the centre of the park to the Virgin Forest at the top of the right branch of the “Y”. It is home to some of the most fascinating colored lakes in Jiuzhai Valley, the tallest waterfalls and some of the parks most impressive forests.
The Virgin Forests
With coverage of 540 hectares and an altitude of 3,060m, the Virgin Forests grow arbors that mainly include firs and spruces, shrubs such as honeysuckles, azaleas, arrow bamboo, as well as thick lichens.
Panda Lake features curious color patterns of blue and green. It empties into the multi-stream, multi-level Panda Waterfalls, dropping 78m in 3 steps.
Five Flower Lake
Regarded as one of the wonders of Jiuzhai Valley, the Five Flower Lake enjoys its breathtaking colors that are a result of its lake-bottom travertine and colorful algae. In autumn, especially, the Five Flower Lake presents a spectacular display of nature.
Pearl Shoal 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 Shaols Waterfalls, where the shoal drops 28 m in a 310 m wide broad curtain of water.
Pearl Shoals Waterfall
Enjoying an altitude of 2,433m and a width of 310m, Pearl Shoals Waterfall is the most photographed waterfall in Jiuzhai Valley and is a very popular place for Chinese couples to have their wedding photos taken here along with many places in the park.
For its perfect reflection of the surrounding mountains that can be seen in the still surface of the water, Mirror Lake fairly deserves this special name. One famous Oscar film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, directed by Ang Lee, has ever caught scenes here.
Ze Cha Wa Valley
The Zechawa Gully is the south-eastern branch of Jiuzhai Valley. It is approximately the same length as Rize gully (18 km) but climbs to a higher altitude (3150 m at the Long Lake).
Five Colored Pond
Five-Color Pond is one of the smallest but most spectacular bodies of water in Jiuzhai Valley 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.
Located at the end of Ze Cha Wa Valley, the U-shaped Long Lake is the highest, largest and deepest lake in Jiuzhai Valley, measuring 7.5 m in length and up to 103 in depth. It reportedly has no outgoing waterways, getting its water from snowmelt and losing it from seepage.
The Seasonal Lakes contains two ones, the Lower and the Upper one, in Za Cha Wa Valley with quite a distance from each other and distinctive features.
The Lower Seasonal Lake
Close to Ze Cha Wa Village, the Lower Seasonal Lake enjoys a stretch of birches, wild strawberries, grass and fungi in between.
The Upper Seasonal Lake
The Upper Seasonal Lake neighbors the Five Colored Pond, with steep cliffs surrounding, which is said to be the place where fierce dragons hide themselves and is also called the “Tibetan Dragon Lake”.
Shu Zheng Valley
The Shuzheng Valley is the northern (main) branch of Jiuzhai Valley. It ends after 14.5 km at the Y-shaped intersection of the three gullies.
Nu Ri Lang Waterfall
Near the junction of the valleys, Nuo Ri Lang waterfall are 20m high and 320m wide that are reportedly the widest highland waterfall in China and one of the symbol of Jiuzhai Valley. Nu Ri Lang in Tibetan means masculine God.
Shu Zheng Lakes
Stretching for several miles, with a drop of about 100 meters, Shu Zheng Lakes has total 19 lakes of varied sizes, descending in terraces. Among these lakes grow dense groves of willows, poplars, pines, spruces and other arbors and shrubs. Due to their wonderful scenery, Shu Zheng Lakes are considered o be the “epitome of Jiuzhai Valley”.
Lying Dragon Lake
Lying Dragon Lake, also known as Sleeping Dragon Lake, 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.
He Ye Village
As the first and largest Tibetan village in Jiuzhai Valley National Park, He Ye Village is well-known for its Tibetan architecture and dramatic autumn scenery. Behind the village is a giant pine tree, some 100 years old, with exuberant branched, which is called the “Welcome Pine”.
The Zharu Valley runs southeast from the main Shu Zheng gully, beginning at the Zharu Buddhist Monastery and ending at the Red, Black, and Daling lakes.
Zharu is the home of all the eco-tourism activities in Jiuzhai Valley and is the only place that visitors can stay overnight inside the national park by joining one of the hiking and camping tours.
Approximately one kilometer into Zharu Valley against a backdrop of green mountains and facing the Mirror Cliff is Zharu Monastery. Built of wood and clay, it is a typical Tibetan monastery, comprising of six parts: the main hall, scripture tower, music platform, tea house and guest hall.
The giant and flat Mirror Cliff climbs 400 meters from the Emerald River below. Legend has it that the Mirror Cliff was built up by Zha Yi Zha Ga, the king of all mountains, to suppress a cruel demon.