Shihua Caves

    The working part of my assignment at China Institute of Atomic Energy lasted from Monday morning through Wednesday noon. On Wednesday afternoon, I was shown the nearby Shihua Cave by two good student-guides, Zhang Lanzhi and Huang Donghui. It was a very pleasant experience. I tried to photograph the scenes in the cave even though our schedule was tight (allowing us to see only two of the three levels, for example). Most of the pictures came out pretty well even though I didn't have any special equipment other than an external flash unit. Here they are, for your enjoyment.
    As background, I present this information drawn from the official brochure of the cave:
    "Beijing's Shihua Cave (Stone Flower Cave), formerly called Qianzhen Cave, or Shifo (Ten Buddhas or Stome Buddhas) Cave, is located at Nancheying Village in Fangshan District, Beijing, 50 km southwest of the city proper, or 15 km from the Yancun exit of the Jing-Shi Freeway.
    "Shihua Cave was cound and named Qianzhen Cabe by the Buddhist monk Yuan Guang, who was roaming there in Zhengtong in the11th year of the Ming Dynasty (1446 AD). On the southern cliff of the cave entrance were carved "Ten Kings of the Netherworld" and a stone inscription of the cave's name. "Netherworld Kings" Buddhist statues out of marble were engraved in the cave.
    "Shihua Cave developed in carbonate rocks [originally laid down as marine sediments] of the Majiagou Formation of the Middle Ordovician System. Because of crustal movement, multiple elevations, and relative stabilization, the sea floor was elevated and became the land. About 70 million years ago, orogeny occurred and the Western Mountains of Beijing were formed. Subsequently, the carbonates were gradually eroded by the water to form a series of caverns. Shihua is one of these multilayered cave systems.
    "Shihua Cave is a typical example of karst caves in North China. It is divided into seven layers. Layers I through V contain 2500 m of passages; layers VI and VII belonged to an underground river.
    "Layers I through III contain 1900 m of passages, 18,000 square meters of bottom area, 12 large halls, 16 chambers, and 71 branches with different forms and sizes.
    "The natural landscapes in Shihua Cave are wonderful multiforms with beautiful speleotherms formed by dripping, flowing, and standing waters, such as stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies, stone waterfalls, rimstone, dams, stone terraces, and by infiltrating, splashing, and capillary waters, such as stone flowers, helectite, crystal flowers, stone hair, stone chyrsanthemum, stone pearls, stone graps (?), etc. In Shihua Cave, there are deposits typical for Chinese caves such as brilliant straws, small and exquisite stone candlesticks, many colorful cave flags, and beautiful stone shields. A large number of moonmilk jade deposits were found here for the first time in China. Therefore, Shihua Cave has very high esthetics and scientific research value.
    "Based on the structure of the cave and the distribution of its landscapes, the cave has been divided into three layers for public viewing, such as "artificial and interesting," "exploration and sightseeing," and "scientific exploring." Altogether there are 99 wonderful landscapes in 16 scenic areas.
    "For the convenience of tourists, a large special bus leaves makes a daily round trip from the entrance to Taoranting Park to Shihua Cave.
    "The environment in Shihua Cave is very exquisite. Its air is pure, and its annual temperature is 13 degrees Celsius. It is a very nice place for sightseeing at any time of year."

Here is a general view of the Western Mountains. Zhang Lanzhi is on the left, and Huang Donghui on the right. Students of atmospheric chemistry may wish to note the regional haze shown against the slopes.

A different view, with some of the nearby buildings. A little restaurant is on the left, but we didn't have time to visit it.

K. Rahn on tour.

You enter the cave by following the lower path on the right. Notre the terraced slopes in the background.

A Chinese map and description of the area.

An English description of the cave, a shortened version of the one I gave above.

My guides standing in front of the photos of their guides. It was not clear whether we got to pick our guide. One appeared, and off we went.

Our guide in front of one of the beautiful stone statues.

Ahead to Cave II
Back to Beijing March 2002