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Huangshan. Huangshan (“Yellow Mountain”) lies 450 kilometers southwest of Shanghai, in Anhui Province in Eastern China. This incredible mountain area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for its scenic beauty. In particular, it is well known for its unusually shaped granite peaks, with Huangshan Pine Trees and other vegetation, and, if the weather cooperates, its dramatic views of clouds that hang in the valleys and adorn the granite rock towers.

The area has historically inspired famous black and white Chinese ink paintings, and, in modern times, it is a frequent subject of dramatic photography. Its most famous photographs include fingers of low-lying clouds that entwine the granite monoliths, giving them a unique, mystical and wonderful aura. Here’s the problem, though. Because
75% of China’s electric power is generated by coal-fired plants (contrasted with 50% in the United States), air pollution is a major problem throughout China. If one visits Huangshan after just a few days of good weather, the views can literally be shrouded in smog. Then, after it rains, the weather clears, and blue skies emerge, the sights the vies are terrific – but, they are not the magical ones of the dramatic photographs one can get with the distinct, entwining clouds that can form following a brief period of blue skies. All of this makes it difficult to time one’s visit, so that it one’s visit takes place 2 or 3 days after a substantial rainfall. Good luck!

Zhangjiajie. An hour’s drive north of the Chinese city of Zhangjiajie lies a truly extraordinary National Forest Park in what is called the Wulingyuan National Park. Located in Hunan Province, in central China, the area is commonly referred to simply as Zhangjiajie, and it is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In contrast with Huangshan, and its terrific granite formations, the rock formations of Zhangjiajie are quartzite karst formations.
Quartzite is a metamorphic rock created through metamorphosis of sandstone rock. Karst formations are created when soluble rock formations, such as limestone or dolomite, are dissolved over great spans of time, leaving rock spires and other distinctive formations. Less frequently, they can be created from more weather-resistant rock formations, such as happened with the quartzite formations of Zhangjiajie. Karst formations occur in many geographic areas and are often true wonders of the natural world. Some of the most well-known of these formations include Guilin in China, Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Phang Nga Bay (Remember the villain’s hideout island in the James Bond movie, “The Man with the Golden Gun?”) and Krabi in Southern Thailand.

There are more than 3000 tall karst formations in Zhangjiajie, and some of these pillars are more than 2600 feet tall. Apparently, the film crews from the film “
Avatar” visited a number of China’s amazing karst formations, and particularly those in Zhangjiajie, Huangshan and Guilin. Park officials report that the film crew photographed extensively in Zhangjiajie, and one of the tall pillars in the park was re-named "Avatar Hallelujah Mountain," after the Hallelujah Mountains in the film. Tourists to the area can pose for photographers, who will then sell them their photograph with the background being either the actual Zhangjiajie karst formations or a karst formation background from the “Avatar” film!

Huangshan ("Yellow Mountains") 0154

Huangshan ("Yellow Mountains") 0154

Huangshan ("Yellow Mountains") 0162

Huangshan  ("Yellow Mountains") 0162

Huangshan ("Yellow Mountains") 0159

Huangshan ("Yellow Mountains") 0159

Huangshan ("Yellow Mountains") 0259

Huangshan ("Yellow Mountains") 0259

Huangshan ("Yellow Mountains") 0274

Huangshan ("Yellow Mountains") 0274

Huangshan ("Yellow Mountains") 0281

Huangshan ("Yellow Mountains") 0281

Huangshan ("Yellow Mountains") 0279

Huangshan ("Yellow Mountains") 0279

Huangshan ("Yellow Mountains") 0301

Huangshan ("Yellow Mountains") 0301

Huangshan ("Yellow Mountains") 0273

Huangshan ("Yellow Mountains") 0273

Zhangjiajie (location for Pandora in film Avatar) 0902

Zhangjiajie (location for Pandora in film Avatar) 0902

"Avatar Hallelujah Mountain," Zhangjiajie (location for Pandora in film Avatar) 0880

"Avatar Hallelujah Mountain," Zhangjiajie (location for Pandora in film Avatar) 0880

Zhangjiajie (location for Pandora in film Avatar) 1023

Zhangjiajie (location for Pandora in film Avatar) 1023

Hangzhou 1142

Hangzhou 1142

Shanghai 1108

Shanghai 1108

Shanghai 1105

Shanghai 1105

Hong Kong 0069

Hong Kong 0069