The Stone Forest or Shilin (Chinese: 石林; pinyin: Shílín) is a notable set of limestone formations about 500 km2 located in Shilin Yi Autonomous County, Yunnan Province, People’s Republic of China, near Shilin approximately 90 km (56 mi) from the provincial capital Kunming.
The tall rocks seem to fall to the ground in the manner of stalagmites, with many looking like petrified trees thereby creating the illusion of a forest made of stone. Since 2007, two parts of the site, the Naigu Stone Forest (乃古石林) and Suogeyi Village (所各邑村), have been UNESCO World Heritage Sites as part of the South China Karst. The site is classified as a AAAAA-class tourist site.
Shilin National Scenic Area (昆明市石林风景区) covers an area of 500 km2 (190 sq mi) and is divided into seven scenic areas as follows:
- Greater & Lesser Stone Forests (大、小石林) – also known as the Lizijing Stone Forest (李子菁石林)
- Naigu Stone Forest (乃古石林)
- Zhiyun Cave (芝云洞)
- Lake Chang (长湖 literally Long Lake)
- Lake Yue (月湖 literally Moon Lake)
- Dadie Waterfall (大叠水)
- Qifeng Cave (奇峰洞)
These formations, caused by the erosion of limestone, are believed to be over 270 million years old and are a tourist attraction for both overseas and domestic tourists, with bus tours bringing tourists from Kunming. There are also a number of hotels in the area.
Stone Forest was some 270 million years a shallow sea. Extensive deposits of sandstone overlain by limestone accumulated in this basin during the Permian period of geologic time. Uplift of this region occurred subsequent to deposition and exposure to wind and running water shaped these limestone ridges. These formations extend as far as the eye can see, looking like a vast forest of stone, hence the name “the Stone Forest”.