Jiuzhaigou Valley

Location: Sichuan Province Map

Area: 720 km²


Description of Jiuzhaigou Valley

Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area is a picturesque area in Sichuan Province in China. It covers an area of 720 km² and it is added a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a beautiful natural reserve inhabited by Sichuan takin, Giant panda and over 140 species of birds. The villages in the Jiuzhaigou Valley are ethnic Tibetan. The Region of panoramic and historical interest of the Valley of Jiuzhaigou were declared Patrimony of the Humanity by UNESCO in the year 1992 and World-wide Reservation of the Biosphere in 1997. It covers a protected area of 72,000 ha. The Jiuzhaigou Valley is part of the Min Mountains and is famous for its waterfalls, colorful lakes and snowy peaks. Its elevation varies between 2,000 and 4,500 meters.


Geography and climate
The Jiuzhaigou Valley is located at the southern tip of the Minshan Mountain Range, 330 km north of the provincial capital Chengdu. It is part of Jiuzhaigou County (formerly Nanping County) in the Ngava-Tibet-Qiang Autonomous Region of Sichuan Province, near the border with Gansu.

The valley covers an area of ​​720 km², the buffer zone of the reserve is another 600 km². Altitude ranges from 1998 to 2140 m (at the mouth of the Shuzheng gorge) and up to 4558-4764 m (on the Gantszigongai mountain at the top of the Tsechava gorge).

The climate is cool temperate, the average annual temperature is 7.2 ° C, the average January temperature is −1 ° C, July 17 ° C. The annual rainfall is 661 mm, 80% of which falls from May to October.

This remote region has been inhabited by Tibetans and representatives of the Qiang people for centuries, but was not officially opened until 1972. Extensive deforestation in the region was carried out until 1979, when the Chinese government banned such activities. In 1982, the region was declared a national park. In 1984, a government committee was established and the area was open to tourism; In 1987, the rules of the national park were issued. The valley was recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage in 1992 and the World Biosphere Reserve in 1997.

Since the opening, the number of tourists has been increasing every year, from 5,000 in 1984 to 170,000 in 1991, 160,000 in 1995, 200,000 in 1997, including about 3,000 foreigners. In 2002, the number of guests was 1,190,000. Since 2004, the reserve has been visited by an average of 7,000 people per day, the number of visitors increases to 12,000 during the tourist season.

The name Jiuzhaigou (translated as “Valley of Nine Villages”) comes from nine Tibetan villages along the valley. Seven of them are inhabited today. For tourists, such settlements as Heye, Shchuzheng and Tsechava are available, serving tourists along the main road, offering various handicrafts, souvenirs and food. In the smaller Zharu Valley, there is Resi, and beyond the village of Heye are the villages of Jianpan, Panya and Yana. The villages of Guodu and Hejiao are no longer populated.

Finally, the villages of Penbu, Pansin, and Yongju are located along the road that runs through the city of Jiuzhaigou / Zhangzha outside the valley.

In 1997, the permanent population of the valley was about 1,000 people, or about 130 Tibetan families. Since the region is a protected area, agricultural activity is not allowed in it, therefore, local residents exist on tourism income and government subsidies.

The Jiuzhaigou ecosystem is classified as a temperate broad-leaved forest, with a mixed mountain and alpine system. About 300 km² of landscape area are covered with virgin mixed forests. The foliage of these forests acquires wonderful yellow, orange and red tones in autumn, which makes this season especially popular for visitors. Many interesting plant species grow here, such as endemic varieties of rhododendrons and bamboo.

The local fauna includes endangered species such as the big panda and the golden snub-nosed monkey. The populations of both species are very small (less than 20 individuals in the case of pandas) and isolated. Their survival is in question, as more and more tourists visit the valley. About 140 bird species also live in Jiuzhaigou.

Geology and hydrology
The landscape of Jiuzhaigou is formed by alpine karsts formed as a result of glacial, hydrological and tectonic activity. It is located in a large fault in the mountain range between the Tibetan plateau and the Yangtze plateau, earthquakes also formed this landscape. Rock formations consist mainly of carbonate rocks such as dolomite and limestone, as well as sandstone and shale.

The valley includes a drainage zone of three gorges (which are also often called valleys because of its large size) and is one of the sources of the Jialingjiang River, part of the Yangtze River system.

One of the most famous features of Jiuzhaigou is dozens of lakes of blue, green and turquoise color. The local Tibetan population calls them “haizi” in Chinese, which means “son of the sea”. Lakes appeared as a result of blocking streams originating from melting glaciers, rock fragments and other obstacles that were fastened together by carbonate deposits. The water of some lakes has a high concentration of calcium carbonate and is so transparent that the bottom is often visible even at great depths. Lakes differ in color, depth, bottom sediments and surroundings.

Some of the natural dams and formations were artificially strengthened and tourists are forbidden to touch the water of lakes and other elements of the landscape.


Noteworthy Features
Jiuzhaigou consists of three valleys, forming together a Y-shaped figure. Gizze and Tsechava gorges are directed from the south and converge in the center, where they form the Shuzheng gorge, directed north to the mouth of the valley. The area of ​​these gorges is connected by 55 km of roads for regular buses, as well as gatami and small pavilions. Gati are usually located on the opposite side of the road to the lakes, which protects them from being destroyed by the wheels of buses.

Most visitors travel by shuttle bus to the end of the Jijie and / or Shuzheng gorge, and then go downhill on the gatami, taking the bus when the route to the next destination is too long. In each gorge, many sights were discovered.

Zhizhe Valley
The Zhizhe Valley (日 则 沟, pinyin: Rìzé Gōu), 18 km long, is the southwestern branch of Jiuzhaigou. It has the most attractions and is usually visited first. On the descent from its highest point you can meet the following attractions:

The Primeval Forest (原始森林 Yuánshǐ Sēnlín) is a protected ancient forest landscape. Surrounded by spectacular views of precipices and mountains, including the 500-meter-wide blade-shaped rock Sword (剑 岩 Jiàn Yán).
Swan Lake (天鹅 海, Tiān'é Hǎi) is a picturesque lake 2250 m long and 125 m wide, which got its name due to the fact that it is visited by swans and ducks.
A grassy lake (草海, Cǎo Hǎi) is a shallow lake covered with intricate patterns of aquatic plants.
The bamboo lake for arrows (箭竹海, Jiànzhú Hǎi), has an area of ​​170,000 m², a shallow lake with a depth of 6 m. Lying at an altitude of 2618 m above sea level, the lake was the place where the 2002 Chinese film Hero took place.
Panda Lake (熊猫海, Xióngmāo Hǎi) has amazing combinations of blue and green. From it flow multi-level Panda waterfalls flowing into several streams, falling to 78 m in three steps.
Five Flower Lake (五花海, Wǔhuā Hǎi) is a small, multi-colored lake whose bottom is crossed by fallen tree trunks.
Pearl sandbank (珍珠 滩, Zhēnzhū Tān) is a wide, slightly sloping terrace with calcite deposits, covered with a thin layer of flowing water. From it flows the famous Pearl Falls, which is a curtain of water 28 m high and 310 m wide. A scene was shot here for the television production of Journey to the West.
Mirror Lake (镜 海, Jìng Hǎi) is a quiet lake reflecting the surroundings when its surface is calm.

Jiechawa Valley
Tzeczawa Gorge (则查洼沟, Zécháwā Gōu) is the southeastern branch of Jiuzhaigou. Its length is approximately equal to the length of the Zhizze gorge (18 km), but the walls have a large height (3150 m in the Long Lake area). On the descent from the top of the gorge you can see the following attractions:

The Long Lake (长 海, Cháng Hǎi) is the highest, largest and deepest lake in Jiuzhaigou, 7.5 km long and up to 103 m deep. It has no directed runoff, is fed by melting snow and loses water due to bottom seepage. Local folklore claims that a monster lives in the depths of this lake.
The five-color pond (五彩池, Wǔcǎi Chí) is one of the smallest, but the most remarkable reservoir of all the Jiuzhaigou lakes. Despite its limited size and depth, it has a rich multi-colored underwater landscape and light and clear water.
Seasonal lakes (季节 海, Jìjié Hǎi) - a sequence of three lakes (Lower, Middle and Upper) along the main road, emptying and filling up every year.

Shuzheng Valley
Shuzheng Valley (树正 沟, Shùzhèng Gōu) is the northern (main) branch of Jiuzhaigou. Its length is 14.5 km. On the descent from the intersection of the gorges to the exit from the valley, visitors meet:

Nozhilan Waterfalls (诺 日 朗 瀑布, Nuòrìlǎng Pùbù), located near the junction of the gorges, have a height of 20 m and a width of 320 m. It is the widest mountain waterfall in China and one of the symbols of Jiuzhaigou.
Lakes Nozhilan (诺 日 朗 群 海, Nuòrìlǎng Qúnhǎi) and Lakes Shuzhen (树正 群 海 Shùzhèng Qúnhǎi) - chains of 18 and 19 lakes formed at the glaciers, and then separated by natural dams. Some of them have folklore names such as Rhino, Unknown and Tiger.
Sleeping Dragon Lake (卧龙 海, Wòlóng Hǎi) is one of the region’s lowest located lakes. At a depth of 20 m, it is notably clearly visible on its bottom with a calcareous drain in a form that is compared with a dragon lying at the bottom.
Reed Lake (芦苇 海, Lúwěi Hǎi) is a 1375 m long reed-covered swamp with a clear zigzag channel of turquoise color. Particular contrast occurs in the fall when the reeds turn yellow.