Jiuzhai Valley National Park – Summer on Zechawa and Shuzheng Valley

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.

Long Lake, located on the end of Zechawa Valley (altitude 3,100m, length 5km, width 600m, area 93,000 sq.m), the crescent-shaped Long Lake (Chang Hai) is over 100 meters deep, it is at the highest altitude and has the widest surface area of all Jiuzhai Valley’s lakes. This is the highest point visitors will reach in the park. Its water appears ink blue, and the surrounding peaks are snow-capped almost all the year round. Surrounded by verdant forests, it collects thawed water from the mountains. In winter the frozen surface ice can be as thick as 60cm.
Jade Colored Pond, or also known as Five Colored Pond is a small lake of 5,600 sq m (60,000 sq ft) at an altitude of 2,995 m (9,826 ft) and with an average depth of 6.6 m (21.5 ft). This is one of Jiuzhai Valley’s smallest lakes but most impressive. Its colours are a result of travertine sedimentation on the uneven lake bed, as well as various algae. However, legend has it that the pond was where Goddess Semo washed and combed her hair and God Dage came everyday to bring her water. The pond’s colours are said to come from Semo’s rouge coming off her pretty face and colouring the water. The lake systems in the lower parts of Zechawa valley are seasonal and are often dry in summer.
Jade Colored Pond
Nuorilang Waterfalls are situated, at an altitude of 2,365 m (7,760 ft), at the junction of the Zechawa, Rize and Shuzheng valleys. This is the widest travertine topped waterfall in the world. Nuorilang in Tibetan means masculine God. During the late summer when the water level is at its highest, the noise of Nuorilang waterfall alone is impressive. During the winter the waterfall usually freezes creating an enormous ice curtain.
Rhinoceros Lake at 2,315 m (7,696 ft) and with a surface area of some 200,000 sq m (2,153,000 sq ft) is the largest lake in the Shuzheng valley, and also the deepest with an average depth of 12 m (39 ft). The lake derives its name from a legend that tells of a monk from Tibet riding a rhinoceros. When the monk came to this lake he was so entranced with the local scenery that he accidentally rode his rhinoceros directly into the lake. In spring and summer the dense woods and grasses are a lush green followed by autumn where the red, brown and green colours provide a stunning reflection in the lake’s surface.
Rhinoceros Lake
Tiger Lake or also know as Laohu lake, lying further up towards Shuzheng Waterfall, is 2,298 meters (about 7,539 feet) above the sea level. It is peaceful and tranquil, yet the vigor and enthusiasm cannot be hidden in the silence. The rushing water that is like falling snow of Shuzheng Waterfall is just too reminiscent of the lake’s burst. There are three sayings concerning the source of its name. One is that the sound of Shuzheng Waterfall is as the tigers’ roaring; the second is that in late autumn, the reflections of Five-Colored Pond forests shine upon the lake which look like the lines of tigers; the third saying is that the tigers in the mountain are fond of this lake and used to drinking the water of the lake.
Tiger Lake
Tiger Lake
Tiger Lake.
Little waterfalls at Tiger Lake.
Tibetan house beside the Shuzheng Lake waterflow.
Shuzheng Village which situated above the Shuzheng Lakes has the busiest of all the villages in Jiuzhai Valley. Log houses stand one after the other and prayer flags wave in the breeze. Many of the locals here operate small stores and sell various Tibetan souvenirs as well as yak butter tea and snacks.

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Copyright © 2011 Novri Wahyu Perdana. All rights reserved.
All images were taken by using Canon EOS 5D Mark II, and Canon EF 17-40mm F/4L USM.

4 responses to “Jiuzhai Valley National Park – Summer on Zechawa and Shuzheng Valley

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