China Underground > Travel to Yunnan > Travel to Lijiang > The Tiger-leaping Gorge, Lijiang

The Tiger-leaping Gorge, Lijiang

Last Updated on 2020/11/03

One of the world-famous grand canyons, the Tiger-leaping Gorge is squeezed between the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain of Lijiang Prefecture and the Haba Snow Mountain of the Shangri-la County.

The Gorge has 18 dangerous shoals, and the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful.

虎跳峡 The Tiger-leaping Gorge map

Basic Information

Geographic location: on the Jinsha (Golden Sand) River of the cross-borders of Shangri-La County and Lijiang City
Scenic status: along with the Three Parallel Rivers and the adjacent Haba Snow Mountain, Tiger-leaping Gorge is a world-renowned natural scenic area
Tour time: 3~4 hours by vehicle, 2~3 days on foot

Travel Tips

  1. Tourists who want to hike the Tiger-leaping Gorge should be prudent, especially in the wet season when rockslides often occur. The temperature in the gorge can be high in the daytime; so shorts and T-shirts are necessary. Due to the surrounding high mountains, it has a variable micro-climate and can suddenly cool down, so good waterproof and ventilating clothes are necessary. Food containing high calories is also a must because hiking is very energy-consuming.
  2. Bus-touring, car, and motorbike tours are convenient, but you would gain a greater appreciation of the Gorge’s wonders if traveling on foot. There is an ever-present danger of rockfalls in the Da Shen Gou waterfall area between the Walnut Garden and the Zhongxia Hotel. It can be very dangerous so check with locals concerning conditions. To traverse Tiger-leaping Gorge on foot may take 2 to 3 days (or even longer if one wants to relax and enjoy the scenery).

Recommended Tour Route

The Tiger-leaping Rock → the Tiger Head Peak → Man Tian Xing → Guanyin Pu → the Walnut Garden → Hua Shi Ban

Key Points

Basic facts, the origin of the name “Tiger-leaping Gorge”, features of main scenic spots

虎跳峡 The Tiger-leaping Gorge

There is a popular legend about Tiger-leaping Gorge. It is said that the Jinsha River was originally a beautiful girl, who had an indomitable and persevering spirit. She told Mother Bayan Kara that she wanted to go to the East Sea to track down the place where the sun rose. However, two brothers, Yulong and Haba stood in the way. This clever girl sang and danced for seven days, which sent the two brothers to a contented dreamland. Then she carved her way between them and rushed into the distance.


Located in the southeast of Shangri-La County, 96 kilometers from the county capital Shangri-La (formerly Zhongdian), Tiger-leaping Gorge is bounded by Yulong (Jade Dragon) Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain. The gorge extends 20 kilometers with a drop of 213 meters over this distance and includes 18 rapids. The narrowest span of the river is only 20 meters. The mouth of the gorge is at an altitude of 1,800 meters lower than that of Lijiang city and from the mountain-tops to the river is a distance of 3,900 meters thus forming the world’s deepest valley as well as one of the top ten charming gorges in China. Tiger-leaping Gorge is a world-class gorge, known for its beauty, ruggedness, majesty and splendor. It can be divided into three sections: the Upper section, the Middle section, and the Lower section.

The Upper section is the narrowest, with a width of only 20 meters in one part. The 13 meters high Tiger-leaping Rock stands upright in the mildest of the impetuous torrent of water. This part of the river is accessible from either side of the river. It is said that a huge tiger jumped the gorge with the rock providing a midstream landing and launching spot. The water bumps against the rock, giving forth a pealing sound over the valley.

Stretching north from the Upper section is the Middle section. There is a tiger-like peak to the north of the gorge, known to local people as “Hu Tou Feng” (Tiger Head Peak). The tiger is staring at the south as if it is going to jump. It turns out that there is a lion-like rock on the other side, preventing the tiger from jumping across the river and stepping into the central part of China. Thus the tiger has kept waiting for hundreds of thousands of years for the lion to give up guarding its side and leave. This section, known as “Man Tian Xing”, is bounded by steep, rugged cliffs. The river here falls 100 meters in less than 5 kilometers. The impetuous water dashes against the indented rocks, raising multi-layers of white breaking waves. The whole gorge is pervaded by water, with the roaring river, waterfalls, frequent showers and storms, snow, and ice. The Jinsha River turns into a fierce dragon, especially in the wet season, which makes every tourist’s heart stir.

After “Man Tian Xing” is a tumbling waterfall halfway up the mountain, and a peak shaped like Guanyin (the Goddess of Mercy) known as “Guanyin Pu” by the locals. Often the gentle breeze, with the spray of the waterfall flying onto one’s faces, adds a refreshing interlude to the exploration of this fascinating gorge.


Not far from “Guanyin Pu” is the Walnut Garden, a village perched on the side of the hill. Slab stone-roofed houses and thick walnut woods set each other off, making it an oasis of freshness and green. Tourists to Tiger-leaping Gorge often stay overnight at this attractive village. Accompanied by the sound of the wind and the roar of the river at night, tourists would have a sense of being refreshed.

After the Walnut Garden and going along the road for about 3 kilometers, tourists can reach the Lower section. Below is the ever-widening gorge and far behind the two mountain sentinels. What is about to be viewed is the snow-capped peaks of the Yulong Snow Mountain to the left and the Haba Snow Mountain to the right.


There is a perilous section not far from the Lower section, the well-known “Hua Shi Ban”—a flat and smooth giant stone slab. It is 300 meters wide and at an angle of 85 degrees from the bottom of the valley to halfway up Haba Snow Mountain. The surface of it is so smooth that even grass doesn’t grow on it. People traversing it have to be careful or the consequences may be disastrous. It was known as the gate of hell in the past; and even now that a new highway has been built, people still feel terrified when contemplating it. The Tiger-leaping Gorge is famous for its majesty and beauty. It attracts innumerable tourists from both China and abroad.

Words and Expressions

ruggedness n. 险峻
midstream n. 中流
multi-layers of 多层
oasis n.(沙漠中的)绿洲;舒适的地方
the impetuous torrent of water 奔腾的激流

Images: Oliver Huang, Chinese web

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