Diqing – Plateau Wonderland

Feilaisi, a quiet village at the foot of the mountain, has become busy receiving visitors from China and abroad. From the village, you can observe this white mountain standing right in front of you. With its pureness and magnificence, the mountain resembles the dwelling of celestial beings.

Meri Snow Mountain is also known as Prince Snow Mountain. French writer Mader Davis was the first to use the name Meri in his 1908 book Yunnan. The massive mountain range stretches north to south. Meri is the name of the northern part, while the middle and southern parts are called Prince and Biluo. Meri, however, generally refers to the northern and middle sections.

The mountain range consists of more than 100 peaks, of which 27 rise to over 4,000 meters above sea level, 20 are over 5,000 meters above sea level and six over 6,000 meters. At 6,740 meters above sea level, Kawagarbo is the highest point in Yunnan Province. It is surrounded by 12 lesser but no less imposing peaks. This cluster is known as the Prince’s 13 Peaks.

Kawagarbo means “white snow mountain” in Tibetan. It is said to be the transfiguration of a demon with nine heads and 18 arms. Enlightened by Padmasambhava, the demon converted to Buddhism and became one of the guardians of King Gesar and the Pure Land.

Meri Snow Mountain is one of the eight sacred mountains worshipped by Tibetans, and Kawagarbo is the site for many religious rituals. Every year from late autumn to early winter, thousands of Tibetan pilgrims circumambulate around the peak to pay homage. They chant scriptures and express their reverence to holy spirits, expressing their good wishes to all life.

Meri is best viewed from Feilaisi Village. Standing out in the open, the Prince’s 13 Peaks ascend right before your eyes. Among them the lovely shaped Miancimu is said to be Kawagarbo’s wife.

Down the Kawagarbo Peak, cirques (steep bowl-shaped hollows occurring at upper ends of a mountain valley, especially forming heads of glaciers or streams) and glaciers wriggle their way like huge white dragons. The 8-km-long 500-m-broad Ming-yong Glacier is the most spectacular among them, undulating down from an elevation of 5,500 meters all the way to the forest zone at around 2,700 meters above sea level. It is rare to find permanent glaciers at such low latitudes where the temperate is comparatively mild. As people describe it: “It is chilly to sit beside the glacier, yet flowers are spread all over the banks.”

On the southern side of Kawagarbo Peak is the fabulous Yubeng Waterfall, whose water is deemed holy by Tibetans. Plummeting from a breathtaking height of 1,000 meters, the cascade produces a torrential flow of water that splatters on the rugged rock face to produce a dense mist and splendid rainbows in sunny days.

Potatso National Park

Potatso is the first national park on China’s mainland. In Tibetan, the name means a lake that delivers all living creatures from suffering to the other shore of the sea of bitterness. Located at the center of the “Three Parallel Rivers” world natural heritage site, the park stands out with its sublime natural scenery, rich wildlife and many places of cultural interest.

Potatso National Park includes Shudu Lake in the north, Bitahai Lake in the south, Luorong Village in between, and a large expanse of alpine meadow laced with primeval forests. These four scenic sites are linked by a 69-km figure-8-shaped road, which allows only green-fueled vehicles.

Shudu is a Tibetan word. Shu refers to yoghurt and cheese, while du means picking up. Together they indicate that on this land, abundant in water and grass, residents can raise large herds of animals and hence live a bountiful life.

One can trek the 2.7-km-long boardwalk around the lake to enjoy the picturesque scenery – clear water to one side, a dense primeval forest on the other. Sapphire blue, the lake attracts a good variety of wild ducks. In the limpid water swim gold-colored fish only found in Shangri-La. Abundant wildlife inhabit the forest, including musk deer, bear, leopard, Asian golden cat and diverse species of birds.

Bitahai in Tibetan means a place blanketed in fallen oak leaves. The Bitahai Lake is the most famous glacial erosion lake on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Along with aquatic plants, the marshy pastures on the northern, western and southern banks of the lake constitute its wetland vegetation.

Visitors can either walk along the 4.2-km-long boardwalk by the shore or take a boat to sightsee. The lake abounds in fauna and fish resources. Various species of plants float on the water, turning the lake into an aquatic botanical garden. Schools of multi-lip fish swim around boats. A primitive species harking back to the Ice Age 2.5 million years ago, this fish with three lips is found only in Bitahai Lake.

When rhododendron bushes on the bank come into blossom in June, fish that accidentally swallow petals that have fallen into the lake may be seen floating belly up, for the flower is slightly toxic. But the fish are not actually poisoned, as the loss of consciousness is only temporary.

Baishuitai, a Frozen “Waterfall”

Baishuitai, or White Water Terrace, another famous tourist attraction, lies in Baidi Village, 100 kilometers from Shangri-La. From afar, Baishuitai appears to be a waterfall of many layers. On closer examination, you find it is a limestone terrace.

Through decomposition caused by sunlight, calcium bicarbonate in water breaks down into calcium carbonate. Through deposition, solidification and crystallization over 200,000 to 300,000 years, the minerals in the water have accumulated to form a marble-white terrace-like carbide physiognomy.

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