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World Heritage Site

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South China Karst

South China Karst

South China Karst can be considered as one of the two great karst regions of the world.

Within this 97,125 area spread out over 4 provinces, Shilin is regarded as the world’s best example of stone forests. Guilin Karst is widely acknowledged as having the world’s best expression of a tower karst landscape and has been internationally recognized as the type-site of continental tower karst.

The site consists of the following twelve parts:

- Shilin Karst – Naigu Stone Forest

- Shilin Karst – ‘Suogeyi Village’

- Libo Karst – ‘Xiaoqijong’

- Libo Karst – ‘Dongduo’

- Wulong Karst – Qingkou Giant Doline (Tiankeng)

- Wulong Karst – Three Natural Bridges

- Wulong Karst – Furong Cave

- Jinfoshan Karst

- Shibing Karst

- Huanjiang Karst

- Guilin Karst - Putao Fenglin Karst Section

- Guilin Karst - Lijiang Fengcong Karst Section

Map of South China Karst


  • Natural

Visit October 1994, November 2007

During my trip to Yunnan Province in 1994, I visited the Stone Forest (Shilin) that is close to Kunming. Already at that moment in time, before the Chinese tourist boom, Shilin was a popular getaway for many. What I remember is that many of the 'stone trees' had been given inspirational names (like Two Tortoise Stone or Sword Peak Pond), associations more meaning to the Chinese than the western mind.

October 1994, November 2007

In November 2007, I spent a few days in Yangshuo along the river Li near Guilin. This is a very touristy area, and so much different in atmosphere from the rest of China. I navigated the Li River in a small boat, the most relaxing way to see this landscape. The next day I biked to Moon Hill, to enjoy some different views of the area.

October 1994, November 2007

Community Reviews

Kyle Magnuson California - United States of America - 07-Jul-14 -

South China Karst by Kyle Magnuson

The South China Karst is a wonder to behold. During my time in Guangxi province in 2006 the skies were blue, there was often a pleasant breeze, and the Li River was stunningly picturesque.

After Beijing & Xi'an, Guangxi province was a welcome change of climate. The landscape is vivid green, the karst formations are as varied as the names & legends associated with them. The Nine Horse Mural Hill being one of the "highlights" that will be pointed out to you.

It is only recently, in 2014, that I learned of the "Phase II" expansion nomination of this unique WHS. Therefore, 8 years after my visit to Guilin, this stunning landscape is now included in the South China Karst WHS. While, I would love to visit other components of this worthy WHS, I am content with visiting the Guilin Karst.

Like numerous others, I took the ferry down the Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo. Moreover, I visited several Karst caves in the area. Yet, it escapes me which ones are included in the nominated property. Back in 2006, there were very few foreign tourists, yet Guilin is very famous within China. In the last decade however, there is a growing awareness of this site outside the country. Indeed, there will be plenty of tourists, you only have to look at the back of 20 RMB bill to confirm this particular karst landscapes iconic status. The Li River has inspired artists and poets for centuries.

I highly recommend Guangxi Province, it is a beautiful part of China. Lingqu Canal is not far from Guilin as well, so there are plenty of natural and cultural elements to explore.

Read more from Kyle Magnuson here.

Kim Semonick Canada - 09-Feb-14

I travelled to stone forest near Kunming in 1985 while backpacking through China with a friend. We found every street corner, every town, every moment to be fascinating. At that time there were few other travellers and we explored the forest by ourselves. I still have a colourful embroidered bag that I bought from a gracious woman. It reminds me of China, a mysterious, beautiful country and my amazing memories. I hope to return one day!

Frederik Dawson Netherlands - 24-Aug-10 -

South China Karst by Frederik Dawson

Yunnan, the land of Southern Cloud well known for its beautiful natural wonders and unique local culture of many tribes, was chosen by my Chinese Language Club for this year field trip. After wonderful experience from my last year Shanxi trip, I decided to join this program immediately and back to China again.

From all natural wonders of Yunnan, Shilin or Stone Forest, a part of South China Karst, seemed to be the most famous tourist attraction, located not far from Kunming, the capital and gateway of Yunnan, by superhighway in just 1.30 hours. Shilin was a fantasy land of complex bizarre gigantic stones in the beautiful well designed stylish park. With the hefty entrance fee of 175 Yuan, as of 2010, Shilin was still full with Chinese tourists who came to see their "national scenic area".

I was quite surprised to discover that Shilin was located next to the modern city of the same name and had asphalt road rounded Shilin to serve tourists for utmost convenient. However, the paths inside Shilin were really confusing and small, under the shadow of the rocks; all turns showed the different angle of labyrinthine strange stones and pretty ponds. The center point of Shilin was the small Chinese pavilion built on the top of one rock for view grazing; the view was quite nice and made me understand where the idea of stone decoration in Chinese garden came from.

Even though this was not my first time to see karsts or stone forest, I was really impressed with Shilin especially its size and the way Chinese turned this place into the beautiful garden. While in my feeling toward Shilin as a natural WHS was quite reluctant since I hardly thought this place was a Mother Nature creation, but as a big man made Chinese garden that fittingly in cultural site category making Shilin to be one of the most complicated place I had seen and felt.

janet peng china - 08-Dec-08

I was born in Kunming,so the Stone Forest is always our pride,each time my friends coming from other provinces or other countries ,i will show them the area.

Last year,I have been in England for almost one year,so i can look at the Stone Forest at different angle.

nowaways,i know very clear that we have to protect our world very carefully.

Solivagant UK - -

South China Karst by Solivagant

With the inscription of “S China Karst” in 2007 the WHS list contained at least 12 (??) examples of Karst scenery (eroded limestone/dolorite). Since around 12% of continental land worldwide is Karst that might not be so surprising, especially as such landscapes can be extremely interesting and attractive. Enormous areas of Southern China are Karst and, in my mind at least, such scenery is also very “Chinese” in atmosphere because of its use in Chinese painting and garden design. So perhaps it is not unreasonable for yet another Karst site to be inscribed - but which of the many possible examples should China have chosen?

Surprisingly, it hasn’t selected the most famous and, in my view the best, example – the scenery around Guilin/Yangshuo, but decided to go with a “serial” proposal of widely spread locations in Yunnan, Guizhou and around Chongqing as a “Phase 1” with Yangshuo and many others to follow in future phases. Coincidentally (???) another site inscribed on the same day at Christchurch in 2007, the Atsinanana Forest in Madagascar, adopted exactly the same approach of serial, physically unconnected sites in what is intended to be a multi phase inscription linked by an overarching “theme”. Has there been some policy guidance from above or have countries seen that this gives them several “bites at the cherry” in getting at least one site inscribed?

Indeed the evaluation of both proposals followed a similar trajectory with a few areas being jettisoned along the way as a “sacrifice” on the altar of “Universal Value” in order that the rest could slip through! In the case of S China Karst the areas around Chongqing were removed. If it had failed completely, then the “jewel in the crown” of Yangshuo, separately identified on China’s T list, could still of course have been wheeled in later!

Our view of the Karst scenery around Guizhou has been limited to that visible from a train window from Guiyang to Guilin. This was still quite fine but not that close to the inscribed area which is further east in the province. Luckily we have also visited one of the sites chosen in Yunnan – the so called “Stone Forest”.

We visited as long ago as 1989 (just 2 months after Tien An Men). It is situated a few hours bus ride from the provincial capital Kunming and is set in an area inhabited by the Yi tribes-people who were well in evidence, dressed in national costume and selling their handicrafts. Even in those days the site was a very busy “Chinese tourist attraction”. Anyone who has been to such attractions will appreciate what this means – the place will be heaving with people, all legitimately having a “good time” with no problems, but in that very Chinese noisy/shoving sort of way! The passage of 18 years, which have transformed the Chinese economy and many of its people’s access to travel and leisure, can only have increased the numbers, let alone an increase in foreign visitors who were totally absent when we were there.

When agreeing this inscription, UNESCO/IUCN were conscious of the variety of types of Karst scenery which exist and, quite reasonably, hoped that China can extend this inscription to include all of the major ones and their stages of development, above and below ground, so perhaps Yangshuo will get inscribed via that route now. “Stone Forests” constitute a specific type and are in fact already represented on the WHS list in Madagascar and Malaysia. We haven’t seen these for comparison but did find the formations of the Chinese example (photo) quite remarkable and well worth the side trip from Kunming. The photo shows some of the paths and steps laid out among the pinnacles – there are also bridges, railings and steps cut into the rock. The push of people trying to reach the highest vantage points, often quite precipitously located, can be considerable and, to anyone suffering from vertigo, probably somewhat frightening!

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Community Rating

Community Rating 3.78. Based on 9 votes.

Site Info

Full name: South China Karst

Unesco ID: 1248

Inscribed: 2007

Type: Natural

Criteria: 7   8  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 2014 - Extended now includes 12 elements spread over the provinces of Guizhou, Guangxi, Yunnan and Chongqing
  • 2007 - Revision Includes former TWHS Lunan Stone Forest Scenic Zone (1996)
  • 2007 - Inscribed 
  • 1992 - Rejected Bureau - Did not meet WHS criteria (as former TWHS Lunan Stone Forest Scenic Zone)


The site has 12 locations. Show all

  • South China Karst: Guilin Karst - Lijiang Fengcong Karst Section
  • South China Karst: Guilin Karst - Putao Fenling Karst Section
  • South China Karst: Huanjiang Karst
  • South China Karst: Jinfoshan Karst
  • South China Karst: Libo Karst – 'Xiaoqijong'
  • South China Karst: Libo Karst – Dongduo
  • South China Karst: Shibing Karst
  • South China Karst: Shilin Karst – 'Suogeyi Village'
  • South China Karst: Shilin Karst – Naigu Stone Forest
  • South China Karst: Wulong Karst – Furong Cave
  • South China Karst: Wulong Karst – Qingkou Giant Doline (Tiankeng)
  • South China Karst: Wulong Karst – Three Natural Bridges


The site has 15 connections.



Human Activity

Religion and Belief


  • Triassic: The nominated property contains a cross-section of key features of the regional geology of the area including the deposition of carbonates up to the Triassic period (250 million years ago) and the subsequent tectonic evolution of the area (AB ev)


  • One million visitors or more: Guilin Lijiang River Karst (2,096,000 visitors in 2012)
  • Star Wars: The limestone karst mountains around Guilin were depicted as Kashyyyk, the Wookie planet shown in “Revenge Of The Sith.” It was the first time that a “Star Wars” movie had been filmed in Asia.

WHS Hotspots

  • Guangzhou hotspot: Guilin - just 2.5 hours from Guangzhou (but worth more than a day trip).

WHS on Other Lists

World Heritage Process


125 community members have visited South China Karst.