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A Secret River Beneath Beijing

4 September 2007

About five years ago in a freezing cold winter day, two Chinese villagers who shared their taste for exotic meat chased a badger in the western slope of the Motuo Mountain situated in the outskirts of Beijing near the General’s Pass (将军关) in the Great Wall.

The badger had a quality of a? experienced guerrilla fighter and quickly vanished into a small cave about half a meter in diameter at the entrance. The meat-lovers were seemingly overtaken by their passion for hunting down their game, and used fire to smoke the besieged out of its refugee camp. But the cave, peculiarly, appeared like a black hole, keeping sucking in the smoke without puffing out. After a lengthy scratching of their heads, eventually the amateur hunters noticed a smoke in a short distance curling up from a narrow gap between the rocks.

The pair rushed over for an investigation. After they removed some stones in front of the gap, a one-metre wide cave revealed itself. And the grotto looked so deep and mysterious that it produced no echo when stones were thrown in.

At that point, the hunters decided to invade the cave. Once edged in, they soon found themselves stepping into an entirely different season: outside was cold and dry, but here, the air was humid and warm.

They revisited the cave the next day with searching lights and ropes to brave through the hot fog. After crawling their way down for about 70 metres which took them two hours to complete, they began to feel the thick air flowing more briskly. Gradually the narrow tunnel widened up and eventually expanded into a giant hall with about 200 sqms floor space and over ten metres in height. Around they saw countless accesses to smaller caves and tunnels, while on the rocky surface dampen sands were abundant and the wet marks clearly visible. From a short distance, the sound of flowing water was heard.

Ever since their first adventure into that deep and dark region, the pairs lost their initial obsession over the badger and developed a new passion for the underground stream, to the point that they spent their whole savings on digging a tunnel leading to the secret river. Tow years later, a 70-metre long passageway supported by timber columns was materialised.

The latest preliminary examination by experts confirm that this 1.5-billion-year old river was 1500 meters long with the deepest part measuring 3 metres and the shallowest part just over one metre. Alongside the watercourse which in some phrases is big enough to sail a boat, the crystal-like stones were growing upwards from the cave floor and stalactites hanging everywhere in the ceilings. That is a world of magic.

Stalactites in Stone Flower Cave in Beijing, which has a total length of 1 kilometres with the biggest grotto containing six vertical layers. Beneath this six storey natural terrace structure is a basement that is the home to a hidden stream.

The Stone Flower Cave was first discovered by Buddhist Monk Round Broad (圆广) in 1446 in the Ming dynasty. During the World War II, the invading Japanese armies occupying Beijing made a doomed attempt to retrace the footsteps of Round Broad but only got themselves badly injured before ventured down from the entrance floor. It was until quite recently, a expedition down the basement was complete.

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