Jiuzhai Valley is locally known as Jiuzhaigou (Chinese for “Nine Village Valley”), a national park which located in the Min Shan mountain range, Northern Sichuan in South Western China. It is best known for its fabled blue and green lakes, spectacular waterfalls, narrow conic karst land forms and its unique wildlife. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992; the park joined the Man and Biosphere Conservation Network in 1997 and has also received IUCN and ISO 14,001 accreditations. 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. The superb landscapes of Jiuzhai Valley are particularly interesting for their narrow conic karst land forms and spectacular waterfalls and lakes.
It is China’s premier national park and is located at elevations ranging between 1,990m (6,529 feet) to 4,764m (15,630 feet) above sea level. Jiuzhai Valley is part of the Min Shan mountain range on the edge of the Tibetan Himalayan Plateau in Northern Sichuan Province and stretches over 720 sq km (72,000 hectares) with an extra buffer zone of 598 sq. km (60,000 hectares). The Min Mountains are one of South West China’s most important biodiversity typezones. The elevation of the national park ranges from almost 2,000m (6,500 feet) at the entrance to over 4,500m (14,760 feet) on the mountain peaks and the series of forest ecosystems are stratified by elevation. Jiuzhai Valley provides spectacular scenery throughout the year making it one of China’s most treasured scenic sites.
Jiuzhai valley is composed of three valleys arranged in a Y shape which are Rize valley – the 18 km (11 mi) long in the south-western branch of Jiuzhaigou, contains the largest variety of sites and is typically visited first, Zechawa valley – stretches 18km from Nuo ri Lang to Long Lake (Chang Hai) at the joint highest point of the park. The valley features overlapping, high valleys, 3 seasonal lakes and Jiuzhai Valley’s largest lake, and Shuzheng valley – reputed as the epitome of Jiuzhai Valley National Park. Its renowned, unpredictable independent lakes and lake clusters, colourful forests, colourful “beaches”, century-old grinding wheels, wooden bridges and powerful waterfalls are one of the high points of a visit here. The Rize and Zechawa valleys flow from the south and meet at the centre of the site where they form the Shuzheng valley, flowing north to the mouth of the valley.
The enchanting legend of Jiuzhai Valley accounts for the crystal clear lakes pattered amongst the lush mountain forests of the park. A tale of devoted love begins with a young boy named Dage. Heart and hopes heavy with unfailing love, Dage bestows a unique token of admiration to the goddess Woluo Semo. A gift only worthy of her beauty, Dage lays at her feet a mirror made of wind. Unforeseen circumstances, however, bring evil in the lovers’ path. The goddess breaks the mirror and 114 sparkling gem-like lakes of Jiuzhai Valley are formed on earth from its shattered pieces. “The Fairyland of Earth” was created. There are legends linked to many of the lakes and waterfalls in Jiuzhai Valley National Park.
Jiuzhai Valley has a subtropical to temperate monsoon climate. Valleys are warm and dry, the middle mountain slopes cold and damp. At Nuo Ri Lang Waterfall & visitor centre at an altitude of 2,400m (7,875 feet) the mean temperature is 7.3ºC, the mean January temperature is -3.7ºC and the mean July temperature is 16.8ºC. Although the official temperatures are not too high, a warm summer day, at such altitude feels a lot hotter.
The total annual rainfall is 761mm but in the cloud forest between 2,700m and 3,500m it is at least 1,000mm. 80% of the rain falls between May and October as the monsoon moves up in the valley giving mild, cloudy, moderately humid summers. Above 3,500m the climate is colder and drier. Snow falls vary but usually falls between October and April with December to February receiving the heaviest falls.