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The Biggest Cave in China Found
& A Lone Family Nearby

7 November 2006
 

A joint expedition team consisted of the experts from China, England, Ireland, Australia and Hungary has discovered, in China’s central west Hubei Province, a group of grottoes previously unknown.

During this October, the team examined the Soaring Dragon Cave (腾龙洞). When they further explored its depth by entering the numerous channels and branches, they began to realise the true scope of this vast hidden world, which includes the caverns with openings in the top, with well-like cavities below, with underground waterways across and with the fields containing a large quantity of mammalian fossils of the Pleistocene era, from giant panda, ancient elephant stegodon to goat-like serow, dating back at least 200,000 years.

All together, the Soaring Dragon Caves are said to have reached nearly 60 kilometres in total length, 2 million square metres of floor space and 40 million cubic metres of total space volume.

The front cave alone has the length of 4,000 metres and the space volume of 1275 cubic metres - making it the longest and biggest cavern in the world.

The entrance is majestic, measuring 74 metres high and 64 m wide with an expansive elevational span that could allow 15 trucks to pass side by side. After about four kilometres of easy walk from there, a thunderous sound of rolling water can be heard, with the bellowing echo from all directions. You’ve come to the Hidden River (通伏河), a 17-kilometre-long cave stream which is so seclusive that few people on the earth have ever ventured to its shore.

A bridge over the Hidden River
Click on the image to enlarge it

If you keep waking, a few days later, you’ll found yourself arriving in a magnificent forest of dripstone, that spreads in a huge cave chamber 8 m from the floor to ceiling and 3 kilometres from one end to the other.

Looking out from the cave

There are numerous back doors and side exits along the tunnels and branches and chambers, but most are located in the middle of the cliff face. However, if you are lucky enough to land in the bottom of a canyon named Viewing Myriad of Colour (观彩峡), then you may get a cup of warm tea with a lone family settling in the valley. To attend the tea party, you’ll need to squeeze through a stone gap, and ascend a narrow passage to a stone room where you’ll find a timber gate opening to a spacious stone deck in front of the farmhouse.

Surrounded by hills on three sides with the stone gap on another as their only linkage to the outside world, Mr Wang and his wife live in this one family village contentedly as what his ancestors did, cultivating maize and bees around, raising chickens and cattle next door, drawing water from mountain streams nearby and collecting firewood in the hills behind their house. They are like the ancient hermits living in the 21st century. And often, to the visitors, they are just as fascinating as the Soaring Dragon caves.

还从峡谷穿三门,一门更比一门深。
武陵人往不知路,此地空余独家村。

(An ancient poem depicting a lone family in a valley)

初极狭,才通人,复行数十步,豁然开朗。土地平旷,屋舍俨然,有良田美池桑竹之属。
(The Peach Flower Verse portraying a hermit village by China’s most celebrated hermit Tao Yuanming)

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