Tengchong Guide – Known as the Natural Geological Museum, Tengchong (腾冲火山群) is one of the most famous volcano clusters in China.
There are 97 dormant volcanoes in total, and among them, 23 craters remain intact. Its main scenic spots are Mount Dayingshan, Mount Kongshan, and Mount Laoguipo.
Attention: 20 kilometers from the town, nonstop bus, Price: 3-5 Yuan.
Entrance Ticket: 20 Yuan.
West Yunnan Volcano and Hot Sea border Travel Zone are located in Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture and Baoshan City, with a total area of 31,200 square kilometers. Its geographic location puts it in a privileged position as a gateway to Southeast and South Asian countries. With its natural resources and peculiar ethnic cultures, this region has become an increasingly popular tourist destination, including 2 national tourist areas (Tengchong Geothermal and Volcano Scenic Area and Ruili and Daying River Scenic Area), 4 national 4A tourist attractions (the National Geological Park of Volcanoes, Mengbanaxi Rarity Garden, Official Residence of Nandian Xuanfu Chief, Moli Rainforest Scenic Area) and 2 key relics under state protection (Tengchong National Martre Graveyard and Heshun Library).
Table of Contents
Geographic location: in Tengchong County of Baoshan City
Scenic status: a 4 A national tourist attraction
Tour time: 2 days
- Crater: With the heat underground diminishing and the magma stopping breaking forth, the lava cools down, shrinks and sinks to form the crater. In the later period, when the magma begins to break forth violently, the crater will become larger, or even dilapidates in some part. Through the influence of corrosion, the crater turns to be flat, fragmentary and inconspicuous.
- Volcanic bomb: when the volcano violently breaks forth, the lava breaks up to the sky from the crater. During the course of whirling down with the heat reducing, the lava forms the contorted stone, which is called the volcanic bomb.
- Pumice stone: a large amount of gas and vapor exist in the fulgurites. When the magma breaks forth out of the ground, with the gas rapidly scattering and disappearing, and the magma quickly cooling down, the pumice stone, a special stone with pores, comes into being. The pumice stones will not sink to the bottom of the water.
- Columnar jointing: during the eruption of volcanoes, the crystallization and extrusion of the magmas helped to form regularly arranged pumice stones called columnar jointing. The jointing has six, five or four edges. The largest one has a diameter of about 3 meters while the smallest only 4 centimeters. They generally stand in clusters and groups.
Recommended Tour Route
- The National Geological Park of Volcanoes: volcanic museum →Dakongshan Mountain → Xiaokongshan Mountain → Heikongshan Mountain → Sister Lakes → Heiyuhe (black fish river) → Longchuanjiang River → “columnar joints”
- Hot Sea National Scenic Area: Zaotanghe River → Frog Mouth → Pearl Spring → Drum-beat Spring → the Pond of Beauties → Pregnancy-inducing Well → the Big Boiling Pot
Location, historical status, distribution and characteristics of volcanoes and hot springs, reasons for formation of volcanoes and hot springs, medical function of hot springs
Tengchong lies in the western part of Yunnan Province and is 750 kilometers away from Kunming, the provincial capital. With its unique tourist resources, Tengchong is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination, where visitors can fully appreciate natural sights of volcanoes, hot springs and other volcanic scenes as well as historical interests such as National Martre Graveyard and Heshun Town.
Tengchong County, with an area of 5,845 square kilometers, borders on Longyang District of Baoshan City in the east, Longling County in the south, Lianghe and Yingjiang Counties in the southwest, Lushui County in the northeast and shares a 148.7-kilometer borderline with Myanmar in the north and northwest. Its strategic location has won Tengchong the name of No. one Border Town in Southwest China. Situated in a zone of low-latitude mountain monsoon climate, the county seat of Tengchong enjoys an average annual temperature of 15℃, with the highest 21.5℃and the lowest 10℃. Its average annual rainfall is 1,489.1 mm and average relative humidity is 78%. The weather of the year is, on the one hand, characterized by fine, warm spring and winter, and cool summer and autumn, with an alternation of rainy and fine days. On the other hand, it is of typical low latitude highland vertical climatic style, vividly described by a saying, “A single mountain enjoys four seasons. The weather beyond this mountain is completely different.”
Such favorable geographical and climatic conditions help to form unique, splendid natural scenery in Tengchong. The most well-known scenic spots are clustered volcanoes and hot springs, the Gaoligong Mountain, a state-protected nature reserve, Beihai, a state-protected wetland and the Laifeng Mountain, a state-protected forest park. Its reputation as a geology museum, a natural botanic garden and a museum of nature is of great appeal to tourists home and abroad for sightseeing, for holidays or for scientific research.
Tengchong has a population of 600,000, which mainly consists of nationalities such as the Han, Dai, Bai, Lisu, Hui, Wa and Achang, and each group has its own rich and colorful culture and custom. The most stunning, for example, is the Lisu people’s performance of climbing sword-poles and plunging into a sea of fire.
With a long history and as a provincial famous historical and cultural city, Tengchong has witnessed many historical events such as the Margary Incident, a struggle against the British invaders, the Tengyue Uprising, one of the three important uprisings in Yunnan during the 1911 Revolution and the battles intended to recover Tengchong from Japanese invaders during the Anti-Japanese War. Besides, Tengchong has produced many outstanding people such as Li Genyuan, a leading statesman during the 1911 Revolution, Zhang Wenguang, a leader of the Tengyue Uprising during the 1911 Revolution, Cun Haiting, “leader of overseas Chinese and hero of the nation”, so named by Sun Yat-sen, Cun Shusheng, a well-known educator and Ai Si-qi, a famous Marxist philosopher.
With its geographical advantage, Tengchong used to be a strategic point on the old Southern Silk Route and a distributing center of China’s land trade to South and Southeast Asian countries. In the Qing Dynasty (1644—1911), foreign trade was very thriving in Tengchong, so this area is regarded as a birthplace of Yunnan modern industry and commerce. Tengchong is especially famous for its jadeite processing and trading, thus gaining the reputation of “City of Jadeite”.
Situated between the India Plate and the Eurasia Plate, where crustal movements are active, earthquakes frequently happen and volcanoes often erupt, Tengchong is a land of earthquakes. In the last 500 years, Tengchong has registered over 70 earthquakes measuring at least 5 on the Richter scale. Besides, Tengchong abounds in geothermal resources, second only to Yangbajing in Tibet. Such peculiar landscape constitutes rich resources for various forms of tourism. No wonder in recent years Tengchong has received increasingly growing attention from tourists both at home and abroad.
The National Geological Park of Volcanoes
Tengchong County is one of the most famous areas with dense clusters of volcanoes in China. As an old saying goes, “In Tengyue County, nine out of ten mountains are headless.” The headless mountains are volcanoes. Within an area of over 1,000 square kilometers in the central and southeastern part of Tengchong, there are altogether 97 volcanoes, among which 22 have well-preserved craters. Scientists have confirmed that 68 of those volcanoes are now in their dormant phase. Therefore, the volcanoes in Tengchong constitute the largest and most magnificent museum of dormant volcanoes in China.
The Dayingshan Mountain, the most magnificent volcano, stands only 14 kilometers north of the county seat. It is 2,614 meters high above sea level with a relative height of 600 meters. Its crater has a diameter of 300 meters and a depth of over 60 meters. At the bottom are three seasonal volcanic lakes. Treading the red-brown pumice through the woods to the top, visitors cannot help but picture the eruption of the volcano.
To the northeast of Dayingshan Mountain stands the highest volcanic cone, the Longzong Mountain, with an elevation of 2,783 meters. Every morning, the mountain is shrouded in mist and clouds, which forms one of the twelve scenic wonders in Tengchong—Morning Clouds in Longzong.
Twenty-five kilometers north of the County seat is the National Geological Park of Volcanoes, where there are eight well-preserved volcanoes — Dakongshan Mountain, Xiaokongshan Mountain, Heikongshan Mountain, Chenziloushan Mountain, Changposhan Mountain, Datuanshan Mountain, Xiaotuanshan Mountain and Jiaoshan Mountain, of which the main scenic spots are Dakongshan Mountain, Xiaokongshan Mountain, and Heikongshan Mountain.
Entering the gate of the park, visitors can first visit a museum, where they can get a general idea of the volcanic scenes in the park by watching videos and pictures, and by reading a literal introduction to volcanoes. Meanwhile, they can also appreciate artistry made out of pumice stones. What is peculiar about volcanic pumice stones is that they will float on water. So, the idiom “stone will sink into water” does not apply here. This is because the volcanic pumice stones look like beehives with many pores, thus are very light.
Coming out of the museum, visitors can see three volcanoes standing in a line from the north to the south. The one in the middle is Dakongshan Mountain; the other two are Xiaokongshan Mountain and Heikongshan Mountain. Their craters range in diameter from 300 to 400 meters and have a depth of several dozen meters. These mountains are named Kongshan (hollow mountains) because their craters are very deep as if the mountains were hollowed. If tourists stamp on the mountains, they can hear echoes made by their steps and feel as if the ground were shaking under their feet.
Climbing up 598 A-shaped steps, tourists can come to the top of Dakongshan Mountain, a unique spot in the park. The Dakongshan Mountain is 2,050 meters above sea level, with a relative height of 150 meters. The crater is about 400 meters in diameter and 50 meters in depth. The top of the mountain is covered with green grass and trees, and wildflowers of various colors. Looking afar, tourists can see a great many volcanoes around and enjoy the splendid surrounding landscape.
Near Dakongshan Mountain, Xiaokongshan Mountain, and Heikongshan Mountain, there are two volcanic lakes closely connected with each other, so they are called “Sister Lakes” by local people. The lakes are very deep and the scenery around the lakes is picturesque —— green pine trees and red camellia flowers reflected in the blue water. The camellia here is called red-flower camellia oleifera, which is confirmed to be the ancestor of Yunnan camellia. The red flower camellia oleifera is well-known not only for its beautiful flowers but also for its fruit. As the oil extracted from its fruit is of high curative and nutritious value, the red-flower oleifera is reputed as “Green Oil Reservoir”.
In the northeast part of the volcano park is Heiyuhe (blackfish river) Scenic Area. The river is named so due to its abundance of black fish. The Heiyuhe River is formed by underground water gushing out of volcanic caves. After pouring out of the outlet, the water flows into two streams, one directly running into the Longchuanjiang River; the other first flowing calmly for a few dozen meters and then going into the Longchuanjiang River, too. The water in the calmly flowing section is as clear as crystal, with waterweeds visible at the bottom. During the rainy season in summer, tourists will see a peculiar landscape: the two streams of water flow side by side, yet one with muddy water while the other with clear water.
Along the 10-kilometer Longchuanjiang River, especially in Qushi Township, tourists can enjoy another volcanic wonder in Tengchong. On some cliffs along the river banks, they can see numerous ten-meter-high stone columns: thin and thick; curved and straight; vertical, like pillars supporting the sky; horizontal, like bundles of firewood. Almost all of them are hexagonal columns. These columns were formed during the magma condensation after the eruption of volcanoes 34,000 years ago. They are geologically named “columnar joints” and also called “holy columns” by local people.
Up to now columnar joints have been found only in three places in China: Mount Fangshan in Nanjing, Peak Jingding in the Ermei Mountian and Tengchong. But the edges of the columnar joints at Mount Fangshan have been eroded and those at Peak Jingding have irregular shapes. The “holy columns” in Tengchong, with an area of 1.5 square kilometers, is the largest and best-preserved clusters of columnar joints in China.
Hot Sea National Scenic Area
As one of the three major geothermal areas in China, Tengchong boasts over 80 springs of hot water and hot vapor, called “Hot Sea”. The Hot Sea National Scenic Area, with an area of 9 square kilometers, lies 20 kilometers southwest of the county seat and in the center of the geothermal area. Its unique geothermal landscape has won the Hot Sea the fame of one of the twelve scenic wonders in Tengchong. The geothermal activity of the Hot Sea is characterized by 7 landscapes: pant pore, steaming surface, boiling spring, fountain, hot water sinter, hydro geothermal outbreak and poisonous gas pore. The whole area is surrounded by mountains and the Zaotanghe River (Bathing-pond River) winds its way through the mountains, thus forming a great many fascinating scenic spots.
In addition, the springs of hot water and vapor contain various minerals. Taking a bath in a spring of hot water or of vapor can not only improve one’s health but also help to cure many diseases. Therefore, the Hot Sea is becoming a more and more popular resort for therapeutic rehabilitation and holiday-making activities in Yunnan Province.
Walking along the Zaotanghe River, tourists will come to the Hot Sea Valley, where hot springs are compactly distributed. Here steam seems to be rising from everywhere, from the river, from the springs, and from the ground, so the whole valley is shrouded in vapor and mist. No wonder the area is vividly named “Hot Sea”. Each spring has its own feature. Frog Mouth, with a temperature of 95℃, ejects water about every three seconds. Pearl Spring is so named because bubbles keep coming out from the bottom. Drum-beat Spring produces sounds like beats of drums in the ancient battlefields. Spectacles Spring is made up of two springs looking like a pair of spectacles. On the northern bank of the Zaotanghe River is a swimming pool called the Pond of Beauties. It is said that a beautiful fairy used to bathe in the pond, thus the name. The water here is nutritious to the skin and has curative effects on skin diseases. What is even more incredible is Pregnancy-inducing Well. It is said that married women who have drunk the water will become pregnant. It has been scientifically confirmed that the water in the well contains radon, which has some curative effects on women’s diseases.
The most spectacular view in the Hot Sea is the Big Boiling Pot, around spring of 6.12 meters in diameter and 1.5 meters in depth. As hot water is ejected in bounding streams intermittently with a thunderous roar, it is so named by local people. On a rock 300 meters away from the Big Boiling Pot are inscribed two Chinese characters Re Hai (Hot Sea) written by Mr. Li Genyuan, a famous democracy revolutionary pioneer in China. The surface temperature of the spring is 96.6℃and at its bottom, the temperature is as high as 102℃. It is said that a bull grazing on the slope over the Big Boiling Pot slipped and fell into the pot. In no time, its flesh and bones were separated. When the owner came to rescue it, he could only find its bones.
Near the boiling spring are a few troughs where people can make use of the heat to steam rice and eggs. Some vendors bundle up eggs with rice straw or bamboo strips and cook them in the troughs. Then they sell eggs in bars to tourists. This is one of the 18 well-known oddities in Yunnan — Eggs are sold in clusters.
With the development of tourism, the Hot Sea has been built into a well-equipped bathing resort. Along the bathing, valley corridor is 19 bathing ponds, each containing a different traditional Chinese medicine. Each pond is intended to cure a particular illness. Mineral-rich spring water and vapor have wonderful curative effects on more than ten serious diseases such as rheumatism, osteoproliferation, apoplexy sequel and skin diseases. So the Hot Sea is indeed an ideal place for sightseeing, holidays and therapeutic rehabilitation.
Words and Expressions
monsoon n. 季风
humidity n. 湿度
climbing sword-poles and plunging into a sea of fire 上刀山下火海
the Margary Incident 马嘉理事件
the 1911 Revolution 辛亥革命
strategic point 战略要地
distributing center 集散地
jadeite n. 翡翠
pumice stones 火山石
memorial halls 祠堂
the India Plate and the Eurasia Plate 印度板块和欧亚板块
crustal movements 地壳运动
geothermal adj. 地热的
crater n. 火山口
dormant volcanoes 休眠火山
red-flower camellia oleifera 红花油茶
of high curative and nutritious value 具有很高的药用和营养价值
columnar joints 柱状节理
pant pore 喷气孔
hot water sinter 热水泉华
hydrogeothermal outbreak 热水喷爆
poisonous gas pore 毒气孔
therapeutic rehabilitation 康复治疗
the 18 oddities in Yunnan “云南十八怪”
CHINA-UNDERGROUND. Matteo Damiani is an Italian sinologist, photographer, author and motion designer. Matteo lived and worked for ten years in China. Founder of CinaOggi.it and China-underground.com.