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Prowling an otherworldly underworld

By Erik Nilsson in Kunming | China Daily | Updated: 2016-11-14 07:39

Prowling an otherworldly underworld

The Bat Cave is host to stalactites that curl like claws since they've been windswept by breezes for eons. Erik Nilsson/China Daily

Jiuxiang is a portal to the realm beneath ours - that is, not only below the Earth's surface but also deep into our subconscious.

Locals view the cavern complex's formations like a Rorschach test, identifying the shapes of mythical beings, everyday objects and everything in between in the stalactites, stalagmites and columns.

White Elephant Cave, for instance, takes its appellation from its perceived resemblance to said pachyderm. Its entrance is believed to look like a key - the loophole of which unlocks sunrises every morning. It's spanned by a natural bridge, upon which a man appears to pore over a book while facing a tortoise.

The aerosol that wafts from where the river jets into the cave below imbues the scene with a misty mystique and occasionally paints rainbows.

It doesn't take much imagination to see the Fairy Paddies, a 100-square-meter terrace of flowstone pools that tumble 10 meters from their highest point.

The geological park claims it's the world's largest such formation. Some pools created by the rock dams are big enough to bathe in. Others are "microscopic", signage says.

The Fairy Party Hall is occupied by a huddle of columns likened to a mingling of deities. One stalactite is said to resemble a hanging roast duck - perhaps slung for their divine feast.

The Jade Flowers are neither jade nor flowers but rather merely resemble blooms made from the mineral.

And the "teeth" that jut from the mouths of caverns make it seem as if you're walking into the jaws of Earth itself.

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