Jiuzhaigou has been listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992 and a World Biosphere Reserve in 1997 and it is one of the most amazing places in the world that I have visited so far. This nature reserve as well as National Park is situated in the county of the Aba Tibetan Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in the northern part of Szechuan, China. Jiuzhaigou when translated means ‘Valley of Nine Villages’.
Shuzheng Valley is the main tourist route of Jiuzhaigou and it stretches over 14km with over 40 lakes concentrated here. This makes up about 40% of all the lakes found in the whole eco-park.
The Shuzheng Boardwalk spans about 500m starting from the Waterfall to the Mill. It is a lovely and relaxing walk with a good view of the temperate forest and vegetation, pouring waterfalls and rushing waters that gradually taper off into the tranquil lakes.
The chirping birds, splashing waters and the occasional gentle breezes heightens the experience and it is a delightful feast for the senses. It was about 4 deg Celsius when we started out and quite cold at this time in mid Autumn and you would be well advised to dress appropriately.
Prayer wheels feature prominently in Tibetan culture. Prayers are either written on or place within the drums and believers would turn their ‘universe’ in clockwise direction thus mimicking the oral recitation of scriptures and incantations. It is believed that the water that touches the prayer wheel is blessed and carries its purifying power to all life forms in the lakes and oceans that it feeds into.
The major scenic spots in Shuzheng Valley includes Double Dragon Lake, Bonsai Beach, Reed Lake, Spark Lake, Tiger Lake, Rhinocero Lake, Shuzheng Waterfalls and Nuorilang Waterfall.
The word ‘Stupa’ in Sanskrit literally means ‘heap’. Tibetan stupas are usually mound-like or semi-hemispherical structures that contain either sacred scriptures or the remains of holy monks. Just behind the stupas are a continuous row of stationary prayer wheels that a passerby can easily turn by sliding a hand over them. The Tibetans would visit and offer their prayers to bless all beings, bring peace to our surroundings and the entire world and to destroy all negativity, bad karma and diseases.
Darchor prayer flags are usually large single rectangles attached to poles along their vertical edges and are planted on the ground, mountains, cairns and rooftops. The 5 colours used represent the elements and the Five Pure Lights. Blue symbolizes the sky and space, white – the air and wind, red – fire, green – water and yellow the earth. According to traditional Tibetan medicine, health and harmony is produced through the balance of the 5 elements.
Of the 9 Tibetan villages only 7 are still populated today. Heye, Shuzheng and Zechawa are more accessible and lie along the tourist thoroughfare catering to tourists, selling handicrafts, souvenirs and snacks.
The elevation of the Shuzheng Valley ranges from 1998 to 2140m above sea level and Jiuzhaigou lies at the southern end of the Minshan ranges some 330km north of the provincial capital, Chengdu.
Reed Marsh Lake lies some 1375m above sea level and is a lengthy lake. A clear turquoise brook zigzags through the flourishing reeds which attract different species of aquatic birds. In Summer, it is very attractive when the reeds turn into a golden sea and their catkins gently swaying in the wind.
Jiuzhaigou is broadly divided into 3 valleys; Shuzheng being the largest, Rize and Zechawa valleys. Nuorilang Waterfall is located near the junction where the 3 valleys converge. This is believed to be the widest highland waterfall in China.
Nuorilang Waterfall is an impressive 20m high and 320m wide waterfall and it is the widest travertine-topped waterfall in the world. What a beautiful sight to behold and enjoy. This is an awesome symbol of Jiuzhaigou and rightly so!