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
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
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.
(An ancient poem depicting a lone family in a valley)
(The Peach Flower Verse portraying a hermit village by China’s
most celebrated hermit Tao Yuanming)
Is in the Eye of Beholders