Kunshan Xiyagou
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Kunshan, Xiyagou and Guoliang (and maybe 3 more!)

Story written by Rick Archer
November 2011


In China about 270 miles southwest of Beijing there exists a series of three tunnels (possibly even six!) that are cut right out of the side of the mountain. 

Located in China's rugged Taihang mountain range, what makes these tunnels remarkable is that all three were hand-carved out of solid rock.  The work was done by untrained farmers who were desperate to find a way to connect their remote villages to the civilization around them.

For the most part, the Taihang mountain range is dotted with little villages nestled in valleys between the mountains. These villages are usually found right next to the banks of the streams and rivers that transport their waters to the Yellow River.  The mighty Yellow River, undoubtedly the world's muddiest river, lies about 50 miles to the south.

In addition to the small farming communities in the valleys, there are a few villages that exist high up in the clouds. These villages are built on plateaus which allow sky-high farming.  Back in the old days reaching the valley below was no easy feat.  Individuals could climb rock ladders up and down, but carrying large crops down to market or bringing heavy supplies up to the top was nearly impossible.  Even the mule trails were long and difficult.

A small village named Guoliang was probably the first to carve a road right out of the mountainside. Once their neighbors saw their success, two nearby villages - Kunshan and Xiyagou - went out and did the same thing.

In order to appreciate this story, it will help to explain a little about myself first.  My name is Rick Archer.  I live in Houston, Texas, USA.  For starters, I have never been to China.

As of 2011, I became a semi-retired dance instructor who once owned SSQQ, the largest social dance studio in America. 

During the last ten years of my 32 year career running the studio, my wife Marla and I discovered that our dance students loved taking "dance cruises" around the Western Caribbean. 

Marla got a license as a travel agent and began booking once a year cruises that would take 100 people on wonderful trips to Jamaica, Cayman, and Cozumel.  Thus SSQQ Travel was born.

Marla had many requests to broaden our horizons, so in 2005 she scheduled a cruise trip to Alaska.  This trip was well-received. We took 70 people.  I had such a good time in Alaska that I decided to write a story about the trip for the people back at home. I got so many compliments on my Alaska story that I got in the habit of writing recaps about all our trips. 

I doubt that my articles are up to the standards of National Geographic, but at least you can see how I acquired my enjoyment of writing travel stories.

So far I have written over 20 articles on our cruise trips including stories on Hawaii, Spain, France, Norway, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Ireland and of course the Caribbean.

My favorite stories have been about D-Day in Normandy, the colossal failures experienced building the Panama Canal, the wandering river that ruined Ephesus, the second greatest port in the Roman Empire, and the true story of the cruise ship to Egypt that nearly capsized.

Obviously I have an interest in travel and I like to write about faraway places.  When you live in Texas, you don't get much further than China 6,000 miles away. 

So what qualifies me to write stories about three remote tunnels that I have never seen and know nothing about first-hand?

Not much, really. I think I got the job primarily because no one else was particularly interested.

However, I have done a good job.  For example, you will find my story about the Guoliang Tunnel on the first page of any Google search.

Here is a picture from Google Earth of our 3 tunnels.  They are only 5 miles apart.  Guoliang is in Henan Province while Kunshan and Xiyagou are in Shanxi Province.

It All Started with Two Anonymous Emails

My interest in China began when I received a pair of random emails late in 2006.  The first email contained contained 23 pictures identified as a dangerous road in Bolivia.  The pictures of the Death Road were amazing!  As I studied the email, it figured it had probably been forwarded around the globe 10,000 times before someone finally passed it on to me. 

About a week later, I received a second unusual email.  This one contained pictures of a dangerous mountain climb at a sacred mountain in China known as Mt. Hua, or Huashan

To this day, I have no idea who created those two emails, but the pictures were incredible.  The two emails worked together to spur my interest in learning more about the dangerous hiking trail in China and the dangerous cliffside road in Bolivia.

There was only one problem.  Neither email contained much information.  Now I had to know the story behind the pictures!

The more I looked at the pictures, the more confused I got.  Some of the pictures did not look like they belonged together. After visiting the Internet to learn more about Bolivia's "Road of Death", I solved the mystery.  The "Road of Death" email had 15 authentic pictures of a frightening narrow road running along the side of a vast cliff, but it also had 8 pictures of some weird tunnel cut out of a mountainside that did not match the other 15.  These were two different places!

Curious, I started to nose around the Internet.  Unfortunately, at that time there was virtually no information about the place on the Internet.  Eventually I got my answer.  The remaining 8 pictures of the tunnel were from some place in China known as "Guoliangcun". 

Who mixed the Bolivia and China pictures together and "why" will always be a mystery.  In fact, to this day, there is still confusion.  I found a 2011 website that listed this picture of Guoliang Tunnel as part of the Bolivian Road of Death.  This confusion drove me crazy!!

Nevertheless, I was still determined to learn the story behind the pictures.  I spent my entire 2006 Christmas vacation poking my nose around the Internet for information on the roads in Bolivia, Huashan and Guoliang.

The Four Stories

I published what I discovered in January 2007 with articles on Huashan, Guoliang, the deadly road in Bolivia plus a dirt road in Russia's Siberia that turns to quagmire whenever it rains.

My stories were virtually the first stories in English on all four locations.  From that point on, any Google hit on one location invariably led to people browsing the other three stories as well.

Every time someone read one of my stories, it registered as a ‘hit’ on Google.  Thanks to the interest, almost overnight my four stories rocketed to the Numero Uno spot on Google for each location... and stayed there...

Five years later all four stories can still be found on Page One of Google for Huashan, Guoliang, Bolivian Death Road, and Russian Mud Highway.  Type in those key words and look for yourself.

From that point on, anytime someone typed ‘Guoliangor Huashan into Google, they were directed to my web story.  By continuing to list my story first, Google made sure my articles would be the first thing to capture every random eye searching for something about these places. In other words, because Google said my stories were popular, they stayed popular.

The Huashan article actually became a phenomenon of sorts. It featured some very scary pictures of a dangerous mountain climb. There were rumors people had lost their lives.

Let me amend that.  They weren't rumors.

My article was the first story written in English about Huashan. People around the planet were incredulous when they read about the amount of danger involved.  They had already seen the pictures, but my story took the fear to another level.  The story quickly became an Internet sensation and went “viral”. 

Meanwhile, thanks to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, thousands of Westerners were researching China for places to visit while they were over there.  Strangely enough, rather than being warned away, people were drawn to the danger.

2008, especially during the summer leading up the Games, Huashan became a must-see visit for many people thanks to the hype generated by my article.  One Internet writer had this to say about the phenomenon:

Hua Shan mountain gained some amount of notoriety years back when an article appeared on the internet sharing one hiker's harrowing experience. The article might seem hyperbolic at times but it is believable for experienced China travelers.

Nevertheless, the original author has updated the site, saying that a number of people have reported the safety conditions vastly improved. I visited the mountain in 2009. Although it is quite imposing for a tourist hike that sees large numbers of visitors, careful hikers in good condition needn't worry.

Take a wild guess which 'original author' they were referring to.

Meanwhile, Guoliang, the little village in the sky with the amazing tunnel, experienced the same tremendous upsurge in tourism.  Due to its proximity to Beijing, Guoliang received many guests during the 2008 Olympics just as Huashan did. Like Huashan, there is a strong possibility my article played a part in alerting the English-speaking world to its existence.

So why were my stories important?  Before 2008, there just wasn't that much written on the Internet about China IN ENGLISH to begin with.  So when the entire world came looking for places to visit, Huashan and Guoliang made it into the spotlight due to my stories written IN ENGLISH.

Thanks to the boost during the Olympics, things at Guoliang would never be the same.  This little bitty place in the middle of nowhere had become a permanent fixture on China's Travel Map.

When I revisited Guoliang in 2010 via the Internet, I noticed three major developments.   First of all, it now had a year-round movie studio.  Guoliang had gone Hollywood.  How funny! 

Second, the road inside the tunnel was extremely well-paved.  My original pictures showed only the rough rock surface.  Obviously the Chinese government finally pitched in and helped to upgrade the infrastructure to handle the increased traffic.

Third, resting at the top of the mountain were several brand-new hotels.  My original pictures showed no large structures at all.

All of this had taken place in the past 4 years.   Obviously my article helped put Guoliang on the map... or did it?

In an appalling development, in October 2009, I received an email from a Korean man who said that my placement of Guoliang on my website map was about 200 miles off.  I was flabbergasted.  So I spent three days searching via Google Earth to locate the true location of Guoliang.  During my search for Guoliang, I ran across a mysterious place known as Xiyagou

Amazingly, Xiyagou had a tunnel carved right out of the mountainside just like Guoliang.  For a minute I assumed I had found Guoliang, but realized this wasn't it.  Now I was even more confused!  Not only could I not seem to locate Guoliang, I had managed to find another tunnel I did not know existed.

When I eventually located the exact location of Guoliang, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Since I am the current keeper of the flame, I felt it was my responsibility to get it right.  I updated my website to alert the Western world to the correct location of Guoliang

However, I was irritated at my inability to solve the mystery of Xiyagou.  My problem was related to the fact that there was still so little information about China on the Internet in English.  I wasn't aware of it at the time, but there was plenty of information on Guoliang on the Internet. Unfortunately, it was all written in Chinese.  A lot of good that did me!

The thing that you have to understand is that China has only been open to Western visitors for the past 15 years or so.  Fortunately, as more and more Westerners visit these places, they turn around and share information on the Internet using English.  I have benefitted greatly from this development.

Sometimes I read their stories and post links to them.  Still others help by contacting me directly.  Lots of people email me after their visit to Huashan or Guoliang to give me a heads up.  Thanks to them, I turn around and share their information with the English-speaking world via my website.

For example, in November 2010, a man named David Goorney emailed me with a link to his 6 minute Guoliang Tunnel video.

In July 2011, a man named Luke emailed to provide the exact directions to Guoliang in both English and Chinese. 

Thanks to David and Luke and other contributors, slowly but surely my body of knowledge was not only increasing, it was becoming more accurate as well.  Or 'current' if you prefer.

But there was still one mystery that bothered me.  I had pictures of mountain tunnels that really did not seem to match my Guoliang snapshots.  For lack of the proper scientific phrase, Guoliang's mountains had an unmistakable bright red-orange tinge to them.  When I looked at this picture on the right, I had first assumed that this was Guoliang I was looking at.  But after I discovered Xiyagou, I began to wonder if this different-colored rock tunnel was a picture of Xiyagou.

Little did I know that it was neither!  This was a picture of yet another tunnel location I had never heard of - Kunshan.

Note: the Xiyagou Tunnel doubles back on itself while the Kunshan Tunnel has only one row of windows.

Behold the Modern Guoliang!  Now it has hotels atop its cliff.


It Ain't Easy Flying Blind!

Back when I started I had no choice but to rely on the pictures I had seen in the emails.  Considering I have never been to China and considering when I first began writing about Huashan and Guoliang there was little written about either place in English, I had no other way to obtain information but to take what little there was to offer on the Internet.

After a lot of digging, I pieced together little bits of information from many different sources to put some great stories together.  Using the pictures and the fragments of information, I made some educated guesses to make the stories more readable.

Guoliang Headaches

Unfortunately, I made several glaring errors in the process.  One of my errors was telling the entire world that Guoliang was two hundred miles to the north which put it in a different province. 

Let me tell you something you probably already know - there is a lot of inaccuracy on the Internet.  Back when I started, Huashan, for example, was placed in Tibet on one website.  Then thanks to an error in one of the original two emails, Guoliang was listed in Bolivia. 

I could tell Guoliang probably wasn't in Bolivia, but where it really was required some digging.  When I finally tracked Guoliang down in China, the Internet site placed Guoliang in Hunan Province, not Henan which is where it really is.  Changing one singe letter created a colossal mistake!!

Here is what I read in 2006 on the other website (note: these are someone else's words, not mine).

The mystery pictures of the Yungas Road in Bolivia were actually from the Guoliang Tunnel Road in Hunan Province, China."

Consequently, I myself placed Guoliang in Hunan since I assumed the Internet site was correct.  That is a perfect example of flying blind.

For the next couple years, whenever I went to another website, I saw Guoliang resting happily in Hunan Province. Then came the Day of Reckoning in 2009.  Suhan, a Korean man who had visited Guoliang, was kind enough to write and point out my error.

From: Suhan
Sent: Monday, October 12, 2009 1:18 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Regarding the Guoliang Tunnel

Hello Mr. Archer,

I've read your site with great interest as I wanted to travel to Mt. HuaShan. It's definitely a great mountain, and after my travels, I can attest that it's not as dangerous as your main article suggests. But I'm sure you've already received a lot of correspondence regarding the mountain.

I'm actually emailing you about some inconsistencies regarding your article about Guoliang Tunnel.

I'm a Korean studying Mandarin in Beijing, and was looking for other sites to travel to in China. Of course, I wanted to check out Guoliang tunnel, but wasn't able to find it. It turns out that the tunnel is actually in Henan Province, which is a different province from Hunan (??) as mentioned in your article. Hunan is more famous for being the province that Mao Zedong was born in.

Also, your map that shows the location of Guoliangcun is totally wrong too. I know this won't be a high priority for you, but it would be great if you took the time to correct these inaccuracies when possible. It would be so kind if you could identify the exact location on a map.

At first I was incredulous.  How stupid could this man be!?!?  EVERY SINGLE WEBSITE I WENT TO PUT GUOLIANG IN HUNAN!

I found a dozen websites that agreed with me.  What more proof did I need?  

However, just to be sure, I began to study each website a little more carefully.  Then my face turned pale white.  I had just realized that every single one of these websites had simply copied my information!   They placed Guoliang in Hunan because I SAID IT WAS IN HUNAN. 

You can imagine my chagrin.  How absolutely embarrassing.  I was personally responsible for misleading the entire planet to the correct location.  So much for my sacred role as the Gatekeeper.  Crestfallen, I invested the next three days of my life combing Google Earth in a desperate Search for Guoliang.  It's a funny story now, but back then I was appalled.

As long I live, I will never forget how smug I was thinking about the stupidity of the Korean man... only to learn who the stupid one really was. 

Fortunately I doubt my mistake caused much damage or I would have heard about it.  My guess is once someone got to China, they were directed to the correct location.  But I have no doubt they muttered a few choice words about my crummy directions along the way.

Huashan Headaches

Huashan was another story. I got some serious complaints about misleading information I posted.

Put yourself in my shoes.  I took one look at the Huashan pictures like these and concluded this had to be the most dangerous hiking trail I had ever seen!

Yes, experienced mountain climbers could handle this place, but it was billed as a 'hiking trail' open to the public.

Every day hundreds of crazy kids were climbing sheer rock faces with little or no safety equipment.  Most of these climbers were amateurs. One dumb mistake and they were goners.

Take a look.  What do you think?  Do you want your kid climbing this place?

So I wrote that the Huashan hiking trail was the most dangerous hiking trail in the world.  I received a torrent of email.  Some of the letters completely agreed with me.  However, many others said I was nuts and cursed me for scaring potential tourists away from the area.

What I did not know was about the same time as I first published my scary story in early 2007, the Chinese authorities had begun a significant upgrade to the safety features of the trail.  As it turned out, yes, the climb had once been very deadly, but now thanks to the improvements, I was wrong. The trail had been declawed so to speak.  But I didn't know that.  I was just going by the pictures.

Meanwhile many Western visitors wrote me back to explain they didn't think the climb was nearly as dangerous as I had made it out to be.  As I came to understand where the mix-up was, slowly but surely I changed my tune to reflect that the climb at Huashan had been greatly improved.  The letters indicated you still had to pay attention during the climb, but you weren't in nearly as much danger.

People seemed to sense that I was flying blind.  Some people scolded me, but most people cut me some slack.  Even better, some of them decided to come to my rescue and explain what they thought was the mix-up.  These benefactors made a huge difference.  Even though they realized some of what I said was wrong, they still appreciated that I had helped them discover about the existence of obscure places like Huashan and Guoliang in the first place.  These people decided to show their gratitude by sharing what they had learned with me upon their return home.  I really appreciated the tacit teamwork.  In this way, little by little my website descriptions of both Huashan and Guoliang have become more accurate. 

One of the people who was kind enough to write me was a gentleman named Wei Han.   By chance, he wrote in 2009 shortly after I had finished my arduous search for the "lost village of Guoliang".  His letter appeared just one week after I had become frustrated about my discovery of the mysterious Xiyagou and my utter lack of knowledge about this area in general. 

Wei Han had written me about Huashan, but I figured it didn't hurt to ask.  So, on a whim, I decided to ask Wei Han if he knew anything about Xiyagou.  As they say, be careful what you ask for.  I got more than I bargained for!


From: wei han
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2009
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: about huashan

Hello Rick,
I have seen your website on Huashan Mountain, which impressed me with its details and responses attached.  Just to clarify things a little bit, I went there in the 1990sI wouldn't say it's unbelievably dangerous, and it's certainly not realistic to expect people falling off every minute, but every step I took in some relatively dangerous parts of the trail, I needed to give my full concentrationI didn't even dare to turn my head around, the only thing I was looking at is my feet and the stairs. (and I promise you, if you concentrate, you will not fall off or anything).

When I went there, there certainly is no safety measures such as harness, and I heard in recent years, in those steep 90 degree climbs, the locals have built a safer steel stair next to the original stone stair, so all this adds to the safety of the trail.

And I certainly think it's unfair for people to go there, expecting 'mountain climbing' type of danger, with a touristy outfit.

Also, it's interesting to note the major Huashan accident that one of the email have mentioned. My father was one of the 4th military medical school students that have participated in the so-called 'huashan rescue', he recalled that on that day, he and his schoolmates stood at the very edge of the long narrow cliff (canglong ridge, apparent no supporting chain installed at the time), hand in hand, so that they themselves have formed a human wall protecting the other tourists.

My dad said he thought at the time 'uh oh this is it!'...lol.

And thank you again for the informative website, I am very glad it has attracted so much attentions, because the sheer beauty of the mountain itself is worthwhile.     Regards, Wei


From: Rick Archer
To: weihan
Subject: RE: about huashan
Date: Wed, 28 Oct 2009

As I piece together bits of information from people like yourself, I gather that my original assessment that Huashan was once a dangerous climb was legitimate. You say that if people pay attention and concentrate, they will be safe. Yet at the same time, your very own words - "I didn't even dare to turn my head around, the only thing I was looking at is my feet and the stairs" - indicate that you were well aware that any mistake could be fatal.

It is my guess that as China opens its doors to ever-increasing tourism, they are modernizing the facilities of their major attractions.  That includes safety features. I have heard that recent improvements have taken a great deal of the danger out of the climb.  From my perspective, this is a good thing.

I don't regret labeling the Huashan climb as dangerous. One, perhaps my criticism called attention and helped officials decide to make it safer. Two, my 'danger' story also brought attention to the beauty of the area as well. With increased attention came curiosity and new Western visitors as well.

By the way, when your father said, "this is it", what did he mean?  Did he mean 'this is it, this is wonderful' or did he mean 'this is it, never again'?

Just curious!

Thank you again for your kind words, Wei.

By the way, do you know anything about Guoliang?  Guoliang is another story I wrote about a location in China.  Have you ever heard of a place known as Xiyagou?  

I am trying to learn more about both locations, but have exhausted the Internet material available to Westerners.  Assuming you can read Chinese, perhaps you know something I don't.


From: wei han
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 2:35 PM
Subject: about huashan, guoliang, and xiyagou

Hello Rick, I have never been to either those locations before (and they certainly weren't even very famous even among chinese nationals), but just finished checking out a bit of info on the chinese internet

Apparently, guoliang tunnel is one of the 3 'hanging tunnels' located within Taihang mountain range spanning across several provinces. The 3 tunnels are as follows:

1. guoliang tunnel in henan province near guoliang village is the most famous tunnel, but also the shortest tunnel.  The village is now quite a touristy spot, so you can imagine the original feel is pretty much lost.

2. xiyagou tunnel in shanxi province. It is 1.5 km long I think, and near xiyagou village which is a little basin 1000m lower than the mountain peaks surrounding it. xiyagou is longer than guoliang.  Because xiyagou is located deeper within taihang mountain, it is much more remote and less known; it's also the most dangerous to drive and difficult to build in the first place. It was built by the locals who were pretty much geographically trapped within the mountain who desired outward communication

3. kunshan tunnel (again, much longer than guoliang tunnel.)

All 3 of them are all interlinked. guoliang and xiyagou is around ten km apart.

The tunnels are more known for the impossible achievement in building them. They were built originally by villagers with the help of hammer in 30 years and lots of death as you can imagine.  but it is definitely a very difficult drive.

Here is a link (in chinese) with some quite nice pictures about Kunshan tunnel, the author went there by car.

If you have any other thing about the place that you specifically want to know, please email me and I will try to find out from Chinese sources.

btw, my dad meant 'my life is going to end here'...^_^

Regards Wei


Rick Archer's Note:
  As I stared at Wei's reply, I shook my head.  Wei had just identified yet a third tunnel! 

Not only was there Xiyagou, now I had to learn about Kunshan Tunnel as well.   Good grief.

I could not help but wonder if there were any more man-made, hand-made tunnels in that area.

Xiyagou - look for the "double back" in the distance

Xiyagou close-up of the "double back" feature

The Kunshan Tunnel has a straight line of windows


The View in 2005

What Was Previously Known about Kunshan Tunnel

As Wei Han pointed out, up to this point the major source of information about Kunshan came from a 2005 Chinese blog about Kunshan that included some terrific pictures of the tunnel.

I recently reviewed this blog from a 2011 perspective.  One area of mystery remains concerning this picture.  This is the top of the tunnel and the top of the mountain.  As you can see, there is NO IRON GATE blocking the exit.  That hiking trail is part of the Wangmangling Scenic Area.

As of 2011, there is now an iron gate blocking the tunnel.   Study this 2011 picture.  Do you see the ticket booth?


When Paul Evans visited this tunnel in 2011, the gate was locked.  Here is what Paul said, "The gate is locked but a bloke opened it to let our driver turn around. That's how I got the photo of the entrance and the sign with admission fees etc."

Another picture from 2005 shows that Kunshan Tunnel was still in use as a means of transporting farm goods to the other side of the mountain.  Also note that the road was unpaved.

As of 2011, the tunnel is now completely paved... and there is absolutely no traffic in the tunnel because it has become a dead end.  That iron gate that stops all traffic at the top.

Look how attractive the tunnel is today versus the 2005 look.  Today Kunshan Tunnel has become a "ghost tunnel". 

It seems very ironic that there seems to be practically no use for this magnificent Kunshan Tunnel at all.  How strange is that? 



Paul Evans

Rick Archer's Note:  In September, 2011, I received a very interesting note from an Australian man named Paul Evans. 

As I read his letter, my eyes grew large.  This email was from a man who had been inspired in part by my website to go visit Guoliang.  Then for the fun of it, he visited none other than Kunshan Tunnel as well.  Even better, he had pictures for me!

Unbelievable.  If I didn't know better, the Universe was trying to help me along.  First I complained I didn't know anything about Xiyagou only to have Wei Han write me a letter one week later.

Then I complained how little I knew about Kunshan Tunnel only to have Paul Evans offer to send pictures and tell me everything I wanted to know.  I could not help but smile.  Thank you!

Yes, I was flying blind on this project, but thanks to a lot of help from people around the world, I was finally able to get some very accurate information out to the English-speaking part of the world.  Awesome!

From: paul evans
Sent: Friday, September 23, 2011 8:49 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: guoliang

Rick, after studying your site and others for a year....i finally got to Guoliang!!!  boy was it worth it.....absolutely!!!!

and... in the next valley.....Kunshan tunnel, which is spectacular beyond words!!!  Cannot believe so few people know of it!

I will be putting some photos up on google earth on this road shortly... truly incredible and worth all the trouble to get there before it becomes "disney-fied"!!

thank you for igniting a fire that i did not believe could be put out!!!!

Paul Evans

From: Rick Archer
To: 'paul evans'
Sent: Saturday, September 24, 2011
Subject: RE: guoliang

The western world - including me - knows little about China's Kunshan Tunnel.  You are in a position to publicize it with pictures and story.

I will help you if you wish. I can create a Kunshan Tunnel page right next to my Guoliang story and link them. You will be given full credit in any way you are comfortable with. Once you finish your story, either post it yourself or send it to me and the pictures. Whatever you are comfortable with, Paul.

Plus anything you learned about Guoliang would be appreciated.  As it stands, I have some sort of 'mythology' posted on my web site about the origins of the tunnel. If you have more to add, I would like that… or debunk my story if it is nonsense. 

As you know, I am totally dependent on the input of people who have actually been to these places.  Rick Archer

From: paul evans
Sent: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 5:12 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: guoliang

thanks for getting back.

setting up a site is all a bit beyond me!! however....if you are interested, I can send you a cd of my photos, video and screen shots of google earth if its of any help (australian internet speeds are very slow...trying to send 80+mb of data would be frustrating to say the least).  You could use the photos as you wished.

I can also pass on any info i have learned.....i.e. google now has new imagery, roads show up better because they have all been concreted in the last few years...compare the road as shown in your link to tianya.cn to now!! 

Guoliang....your site has the best info, I couldn't add anything except...accommodation is easier...motels galore, but thankfully, the old part of the village is off to one side and being preserved....so much more info.....let me know if your interested.

It wouldn't take long to get a cd off to you.   Paul Evans

From: Rick Archer
To: 'paul evans'
Sent: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 10:54 PM
Subject: RE: guoliang

I will gladly accept your offer, Paul. You will be given full credit.

The value of your pictures would be to show the world more photographs of a location that is under-reported in the Western world. 

After I look at the pictures, I will send you a list of questions. I will put myself in the role of tourist who is thinking of going there and has a bunch of questions. That should yield some very valuable information.

Just so you know, I can't remember ever adding "USA" to my address before!  Funny.   Rick Archer

From: paul evans
Sent: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 5:28 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: guoliang

Rick, you should try writing your address in chinese characters....that's a challenge!  will work on things and get a cd away to you within a few days.  Paul

Kunshan pictures contributed by Paul Evans

After asking a few nosy questions, I learned that Paul Evans lives in Mudgee, Australia.  Mudgee is located about 110 miles west northwest of Sydney in sheep-grazing country near the Blue Mountains.  Paul works as a plant operator in a quarry.

Paul and his friend Lyn spent five weeks in China this past summer 2011. Lyn had been to China twice before, but this was Paul's first overseas trip.  Paul said Guoliang was the highlight of his trip.  In addition they got to see many rural areas of China as well as the Tibetan foothills.

Since Paul is seen pictured here at the famous Tiananmen Square, I guess we can assume they probably made it to Beijing as well.

Paul was kind enough to include a write-up of his visit to Kunshan.  I will share his experiences with you shortly.   In addition to sharing his photos, Paul also took the time to post a brief video of his tour through Kunshan tunnel on youtube.

Paul Evans' Kunshan Tunnel Video

Kunshan Tunnel

Rick Archer's Note: 

As you can see from this Google Earth map, the Guoliang and Kunshan tunnels are only about 2 miles apart... assuming you can fly of course. 

The coordinates for Kunshan Tunnel are:

 35°41'48.50"N 113°35'12.75"E

If you want to walk, it doesn't look that bad. Following the zigzag trail through the valleys appears to add only a mile. 

From what I gather, it takes two hours to cross the distance on foot.  Apparently the Kunshan Tunnel is easily visible for much of the hike, so getting lost is unlikely.

By the way, Google Earth is a modern miracle. It connects our entire planet. If you don't have it, go get it.  It is free!!

If you type 35 41 49.71 N 113 35 14.37 E into Google Earth, you will find a Kunshan picture contributed by "Tall Paul".  That's our Paul!  And now to Paul's story.

How We Found Kunshan Tunnel
Written by Paul Evans

I found Kunshan totally by accident.  Although I knew about Kunshan and its closeness, for some reason it didn't figure in our original travel equation.  I suppose it never registered because I had no idea what it looked like or where exactly it was.  To be honest, I was just so overwhelmed to see Gouliang that I was perfectly content.

We spent three days at Guoliang.  One day Lyn and I plus our friend Patty were walking along the southern road from Guoliang (here is a picture of our exploratory walk).  We headed south past Ling Shan. 

About halfway along, looking south, I was scanning the horizon.  Something far in the distance caught my eye.  I saw a series of little dots on the side of a cliff.  I was immediately curious.  As we continued to walk, I kept staring at those dots.  Was it my imagination or were those little dots on the side of the cliff windows of some sort?

Then I noticed a cliff road climbing the gorge several miles up ahead.  That road seemed to be headed towards those windows.   I was stunned.  What was I looking at? 

Then it dawned on me this must be the Kunshan Tunnel.  Wow!  On the spot, that changed the agenda!!!

We backtracked to Guoliang and arranged for a car to take us to Kunshan village.  I couldn't figure out why, but there seemed to be little information in Guoliang about Kunshan. 

The village is only two miles away with a tunnel to boot, but it could be in far off Tibet the way people reacted to our questions.  It seems the locals know about the village but are unsure about the cliff road.

We were dropped off at the village and the way was pointed out....straight into a corn field....WRONG!!!!

Why Kunshan is such a mystery to Guoliang is one question I could never figure out.  I know everything there is to know about my home town and the area around it.  Why would it be any different here?

But there was no info at all in Guoliang.  It was hard to find any one who knew anything.  Like I said, our driver dropped us off in the village and pointed us to a corn field.  I was incredulous at this level of ignorance.

We saw a farmer at his house opposite the intersection of where the cliff road begins.  Not surprisingly, he did not speak a word of English.  So I drew a couple pictures.  With the help of drawings and my use of charades, he agreed to take us there on his tractor for 100 rmb ($15). Anyone wanting to arrange anything in China should learn to use drawings... they worked brilliantly!!!

Expecting to be taken to the entrance, we were most surprised when our farmer friend kept going. We were given the full tour all the way to the top of the mountain.  Here's a picture of Patty getting off the truck.

The tunnel is not continuous.  The road is about 8 km long and the tunnel section is about 3 km.

There is a locked gate at the end of the tunnel which is where the Wangmangling Scenic Area begins.  We would have like to have stayed, but I didn't want to lose our driver, so we turned back around.

Our driver took us back.  He was kind enough to stop to allow us to take photos.  We couldn't communicate but this guy was great. I gave him an extra 50 rmb because it was worth every bit. I wish I had gotten his name but for anyone else trying the same, I imagine he would be easy to find. As I said, his farm is within 100 metres of the intersection.

When I go back I will give him a framed photo. He would be so proud!

After we finished visiting the tunnel and taking pictures, it took us under 2 hours to walk back from Kunshan village to Guoliang...easy walking.

To walk up the road to the tunnel from Kunshan village would be about the same, but to walk the length of the road would take several hours as you need to double back.  It would be feasible in a day if you are fit.  Count on a 6 hour journey - 2 hours for the tunnel, 4 hours back and forth.  Personally, I would look for the farmer who took us up, simply because it was so much fun!!

If you can get a driver to take you from Guoliang to Kunshan, as we did, then you might have time to see the Wangmangling Scenic Area.

The cable car!!!! I didn't believe it when I saw it. At the top of the tunnel is a locked steel gate.  Past the gate is a ticket office for the Wangmangling scenic area located on top of the mountain.  Something very dynamic is happening up there, but I wasn't able to check it out.

From what I gather, the Wangmangling Scenic area is more a part of the  Xiyagou Tunnel 2 miles further to the south.  I regret I didn't have the time to investigate more fully.  For the present, down below Kunshan is a sleepy little farm village but for how long???  You should try and get there before it becomes "disney-fied"!!  Kunshan is truly incredible and certainly worth all the trouble.

As for the history of the road, I know nothing at all.  The one thing I do know is that road was concreted between 2005 and 2010 as was all the roads in the surrounding area, including Guoliang.  Due to these paved roads, they reflect light better.  This makes them much more visible on Google Earth!

If you can find Guoliang, you can certainly find Kunshan.  The directions for Guoliang on your website remains the best.  I cannot really add to it, but getting to Guoliang was a lot easier than expected.

The bus staff etc from Xinxiang onwards all know where the foreigners are going.  They help you along the way as far as pointing out the right buses etc.  You get let off at the entrance to the scenic area to buy your ticket, then get back on only to be let out again at the start of the 3 km hike to Guoliang. 

By the way, this hike in Guoliang is worth walking if only to heighten the realization of where you are.

Next time I visit I will definitely keep going and find the Xiyagou tunnel to complete the trilogy!

Little is currently known "in English" about the Wangmangling Scenic Area.  Anyone who knows more is welcome to share info!

This sign marks the end of the tunnel.  The words say "Kunshan Tunnel".  It is the entrance to the Wangmangling Scenic Area.


The Stepping Stones of China's Stairway to Heaven


Forward with a note from Rick Archer

The brilliant picture is the tunnel in Guoliang.  As we know, the Guoliang Tunnel is what spurred my original interest.

Thanks to my previous research plus the contributions from many recent visitors, our 2011 body of knowledge about Guoliang in the Western world is pretty solid. However, to date there has been practically nothing on the English-speaking part of the Internet about Xiyagou or Kunshan.  Paul Evans has solved our thirst for knowledge about Kunshan for the time being.  But what about Xiyagou?  

When Paul first contacted me about Kunshan in September 2011, I took a quick peek on the Internet to see if there was any information I could add about Xiyagou.  Nothing.  The place was nearly a complete blank on the English side of the Internet.

Do you believe in synchronicity? 

By an amazing coincidence, I ran across three articles about Xiyagou and the surrounding Taihang mountains that appeared in the China Daily on November 3, 2011... one week before I started my own article.  And they were all in English!  Nice timing!  

A word of note: The China Daily is an English language daily newspaper published in the People's Republic of China.

China Daily was established in June 1981 and has the widest print circulation (over 500,000 per issue, of which a third is abroad) of any English-language newspaper in the country.

Published Monday to Saturday, it is regarded as the English-language "window into China".  It is often used as a guide to official policies. It claims to serve an increasing number of foreigners in China, as well as Chinese who wish to improve their English.

China's Taihang Mountains

Taihang is a 400-km range (250 miles) that traverses three provinces in northern China.

A mountain is usually known for its peak or height.  Not Mount Taihang, or the Taihang Mountains.  It is known for its many rugged cliffs.

The range's most breathtaking sites are the precipices that run hundreds of meters, as if nature had cut it like a chef slashing a piece of tofu.

Nowhere is this topography more evident as in Wangmangling, which is 1,700 meters at its highest, but drops off to 300 meters.

It is not only the demarcation between Shanxi and Henan provinces but also a giant step in the staircase that forms the Chinese terrain.

China is flat along the east and increasingly mountainous on the west. Some experts compare the gradual elevation to a flight of stairs.

The southern part of Mount Taihang is where the western plateau falls almost perpendicularly to the North China plains.

In other places, the fall is eased into more gradual steps.

The mountain is made up of three principle layers, with the bottom 3 billion to 1.8 billion years old, and the top 600 million to 400 million years old.

However, the bottom layer, which consists of sandy gravel and shale, are not as resistant to the elements as the quartz sandstone on the top. Over millennia, the bottom was hollowed out and the top toppled down, forming these faulting wall-like surfaces.

Taihang is a 400-km range that traverses three provinces in northern China.

It is the mountain that gives names to Shanxi (literally west of the mountain) and Shandong (east of the mountain).

According to some theories, its northern tail includes the hilly western suburb of Beijing.

If you fly out of the capital city to Central or South China on a clear day, you can almost see some of the steep cliffs from the right wing of your plane during the first hour.

Taihang is encircled by the mighty Yellow River to the south. The sharp drop in height has created many spectacular sceneries - and folk tales.

One of the stories is about Wang Mang (45 BC-AD 23), a rebel general who attempted to snatch the crown from the Liu family.

He chased Liu Xiu (6 BC-AD 57) all the way to the ravine-filled southern Taihang.  At one point, he cornered Liu on a cliff.

The desperate Liu jumped and made it across the gorge, which looks like a couple of meters, but a world away from Wang's clutches. The rest, as they say, is history: Liu Xiu became the founder of the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220), ending two decades of violence and atrocities and beginning a period of peace and prosperity.

Wangmangling (literally "Wang Mang Ridge"), is - strangely - named after the pursuer who was eventually defeated - not the escapee and ultimate victor.

However, you should not take these legends too seriously, as they are not corroborated by historical research but, rather, just add color to nature's offerings.

Many of the 56 peaks in the Wangmangling scenic area, which covers 40 sq km, come with legends, some based on resemblances to fairy goddesses or animals, others constantly shaped by floating clouds and changing weather. 

Hidden atop these peaks are remote Shangri-las just waiting to be discovered.  The best stories may be the ones you create with your own imagination.

Cloud mirages and escarpments are nature's gifts for a dramatic setup.

The plot is for you to carve out.

Xiyagou - the Rocky Road of China's Past


Located next to the Wangmangling Scenic Area,
Xiyagou is one of six “hanging tapestry-like roads” in the southern part of Mount Taihang.  Xiyagou sits right on the border of Shanxi and Henan provinces.

Besides the amazing tunnel of Xiyagou, there are even more ancient trails across the mountain range now trodden only by brave souls in search of the past.

The eight trails that crisscross Mount Taihang were the equivalents of today’s highways. They were used for regular transport and postal services.  Their widths drastically change as topography allows. Some of the places were so narrow that one comes to really understand the Chinese description “sheep trails”.

But the precarious spots made sense for defense purposes. This concept is driven home by a spot on the Flying Fox Trail, a 20-meter pass flanked by cliffs hundreds of meters tall that looks somewhat like the setting for the Battle of Thermopylae in far-off Greece.

The Military Capital Trail runs in part from Badaling to Juyong Pass — both hot spots for Great Wall climbing today but important for military protection then.

Most of the defense towers have worn away. The trails are either taken over by modern roads or left in dereliction.

But a 3-meter stele on the Taihang Trail bears the inscription, “This is where Confucius turned around and went home”.

Legend has it that a crowd of children stopped Confucius on his way to the Kingdom of Jin, today’s Shanxi province.

The sage asked for right of way when he saw the children sculpting a mud castle in the middle of the road.

The children retorted: “Living people give way to castles. How can a castle yield to a living person?”

Confucius marveled at the precociousness of the Jin people when he heard this.  The children here are so intelligent. What do I have to teach them?”

So he ordered his entourage to return to where they departed.

If you’re into history, behind every ruin and every rock in the Taihang Mountains is a fable or a story about how people of yore traveled and lived.


Imagine a 10.6-sq-km fantasyland of lush greenery and waterfalls, surrounded by steep cliffs on all four sides.

It’s isolated from the outside world, free from the turmoil of war and conflicts.  Many poets have dreamed of such an enclave.

But, in reality, a cocoon of complete self-sustainment has its own perils. It’s dogged by abject poverty and unspeakable inconvenience.

The ancestors of Xiyagou, on Mount Taihang, ended up here as refugees.

For hundreds of years, they lived like primitives, learning how to survive on farming and animal husbandry.

There was no way to move supplies in or out.  To take on a journey to the outside world meant scaling the heights a la Spiderman.

Fruit, cattle or whatever surplus they could not consume did not gain any market value. And anything that could not be produced locally, such as medical supplies, could not be brought in.

Even marriages depended on a barter system. If a household had two sons and one daughter, one of the sons would have to remain a bachelor for life.

In 1962, a county official rode a horse to visit the village. The equine got such a jolt from the precipice “it was scared dead”, the story goes.

The magistrate, out of pity, allocated 3,000 yuan ($472, but worth much more at that time) to the village to construct a road.

Thus started the 30-year odyssey for the 7.5-km passage that is appropriately called “the hanging tapestry of a road”.

The first attempt resulted in a trail that zigzags along the cliff.

Only daredevils would take it. Villagers once tried to drive 27 pigs to an outside market, and 13 plummeted off the cliff before they had gone a kilometer.

They chose another route the second time but were halted midway by impossible logistical difficulties. Wolves, rather than supplies, started entering the village on this unfinished path.

On the third try, they drilled a hole in a giant rock that turned out to be so hard that it would not yield gravel.

A technician from the transport bureau said it would take 80 years to build the road at this speed. The hole was later used as a sheep shelter.

In 1982, a new design was conceived: This road would spiral across the surface of a cliff, with windows along the way to remove the crushed rocks. Every villager pitched in.

What scarce assets they had — including dowries for soon-to-be newlyweds — they sold to buy tools and dynamite.

A band of young men spent years dangling from ropes to dig into the rock face. Women provided backup support, including cooking and sewing.

A tragic twist marred this otherwise uplifting story in 1991, when the village chief Dong Huaiyue and another man were killed by explosives while clearing away duds.

The irony is that villagers don’t even need to use this road today.

There is a much faster multi-lane motorway that goes through another tunnel and links to the province-level highway network.

Only tourists, departing from Wangmangling on the north side for the village, descend on the now-famous Xiyagou Hanging Road.

To visit is like walking down a caveman’s version of a palace corridor.  On one side is hard rock, and the other side is a succession of “windows”, or nothing at all, even a “French window”The road’s surface is well paved, but the carving of the “columns” or “window sills” remains in a rugged state that conveys the lack of proper tools or sufficient funds for its construction.

Chairman Mao Zedong used to cite the ancient tale of Yugong (Foolish Old Man), who prodded his whole family to “move the mountain that blocks the way of their home”.

Today the 200 households in Xiyagou are considered latter-day Yugongs, whose tenacity in building the tunnel has now become a legend. 

Busloads of tourists crawl down the tapestry-like road to gawk at the natural wonders and sample the fresh produce.  Villagers no longer worry about fruit rotting in their orchards.  People pay good money for the fruit, which has visibly lifted villagers from sustenance to a decent living standard.

Could it be a coincidence that the Yugong saga is said to have originated from this area?  Was the dangerous work of the Xiyagou people nothing more than sheer folly?

Or was it part of the Cosmic Plan to place a divine reward lying in wait down the road ahead?

Where is Xiyagou Tunnel Located?

I decided the correct location for Xiyagou Tunnel is here:

35°39'23.70"N  113°35'0.61"E

I might add I asked my Australian friend Paul Evans to double-check for me.  He agreed that this was the correct location. In particular, I used the picture below to make my decision. 

You can find this picture at:
 35°39'23.51"N  113°34'42.91"E


The Mysteries of the Taihang Mountains

The Three Missing Tunnels

Rick Archer's Note:  Surely you noted my highlight in the China Daily article about Xiyagou that suggested there are six "hanging tunnels" in the Taihang Mountain range. 

Good grief.  I just finished solving the mystery of Kunshan and Xiyagou only to find there are three more out there!  too funny.

I learned a new trick doing the research for this article.  I discovered that I could use Google to translate Chinese script into English.  Without this trick, I don't know how I could have been nearly as confident about what I was seeing.

I found this winding road picture on the left just a few hundred yards from the spot I identified as "Xiyagou" at 35 38 29.13 N 113 36 35.47 E  (plug those coordinates into Google Earth and you discover this picture for yourself)

When I translated the Chinese script accompanying the picture into the Chinese to English Google Translator, it said, "Shanxi Lingxian tin wall cliff road ditch".  Hmm.  That doesn't sound like "Xiyagou" to me. 

Fortunately, I found another picture nearby. (35 39 23.51 N 113 34 42.91 E)
This picture said in English: Road to Xiyagou. Aha!  Then I translated the accompanying Chinese.  It also said "Tin cliff road ditch". 

I will assume these "Tin Cliff Road" pictures are in fact Xiyagou Tunnel, but you never know, I could be wrong.  We all know I am far from infallible.

As I have written, I completely messed up Guoliang's location a couple years back by about 200 miles.  Consequently, I will never say anything about China with certainty again.

At least you know how I arrived at my conclusion.  Google Earth is so much fun!

Okay, I found Kunshan and Xiyagou for you.  Now I challenge the readers to come up with the identity and location of the three other missing tunnels!  I wish you luck.


Guess What?  I'm not the only person who gets confused!!

Here is a particularly wonderful picture of Xiyagou.

I am no expert, but what from I gather you can visit the Internet in any language... German, Italian, French... and yes, Chinese. 

In my opinion, what separates Chinese from these other languages is that German, Italian, and French at least use the same alphabet as English so I can make out an occasional word.  Not Chinese!! 

This is taken from a Chinese blog on Kunshan (great pictures!)


So what does it say?  Well, brace yourself.

On this stone to rest, covered the sunshine and feeling the stones from the cool, shanfeng slowly, particularly comfortable, Sit down and not very much to think of it, happy let people randomly again sing incomplete song iambic pentameter; too readily, Tempting to face unward a big yawn. Yawn, a face unward, it was found on the head with a big bee Nest, forget even yawn breathes out stay under it, back to God, slowly, slowly get up, Escape and then head back ahead; no wonder that a near bee is particularly high, and it has in the nest in The top of my head, scary!

And what is my point?  They say that Orientals are inscrutable.  I don't know about that, but I will say that Chinese translations are pretty close to incomprehensible.  I get confused all the time and I am sure I am not the only Westerner to make the same complaint.

During my Internet search for pictures of Xiyagou, I found a treasure trove of valuable pictures.  These are wonderful pictures!

As a read his story, I learned that Nalddo, a young man from France named, had embarked on an incredible odyssey that spanned 29 countries.  

I cannot tell you how impressed I was by his story. Here are some of his pictures.

Rick's Note:
There's only one problem.  I think every one of these pictures was actually taken at Kunshan Tunnel, not Xiyagou. 

Remember the rule:  The Kunshan windows go in a straight line while the Xiyagou windows double-back.  Nalddo's tunnel pictures show only a straight line of windows.

Let's read what Nalddo's blog said (I added the underlines)

“The next morning, and a 2-hour bus ride later, we were at the entrance of Guoliangcun scenic area, in Henan, a province overlooked by most of foreign tourists. During the 3 days we stayed in Guoliang, we met only 2 foreigners, and there were leaving in China.

The whole area was a great resting places, with many Chinese coming here to capture the scenery on paper and canvas

However, the tunnel itself was quite disappointing. It might have been very impressive after it was built, in the 1970s, but since then, it has probably been upgraded in order for the tourists to drive safely into it. But cars are so few that I could walked twice into it without meeting a single vehicle. One of the most dangerous venues in the world had indeed become one of the safest!

Even though, I was not disappointed by the detour. I really liked the place and had a very nice surprise. As we were walking toward Guoliang, we took a wrong turn and I spotted some windows into the cliff on the other side of the valley.

I thought it was Guoliang tunnel, but a local pointed the other direction. So, the next day, I wanted to find out what was it. I backtracked my steps and walked for 2 hours before I came to the door of another tunnel, much longer and much more impressive than the Guoliang tunnel.  It took me half an hour to walk it, passing amazing scenery in the other valley, and at the end I bumped into an iron fence.

I had crossed the mountain and was now in Shanxi, the adjacent province. I reluctantly walked back when I spotted a cable car at the top of the mountain.

There was definitely a very Chinese scenic area (read an entertainment park) on the other side of the valley, but for some reasons this tunnel, probably the highlight of the visit, was closed.

By coming the other side, I could enter, but apparently it was not known, because I did not meet anybody else here. After reflection, I believed there might be a fight between the provincial governments about the benefice of the tunnel: it is in Henan but who charge entrance fees in Shanxi government. So, where the money goes to ?

I wanted to show Charlotte what I had discovered, so we agreed to stay a day more, and the next day we walked back together to the tunnel. I don't like to do things twice, but this time I did not regret it.

The sun was shining, making great photo opportunities!”

As you can see, Nalddo's interesting story is practically identical to what Paul Evans wrote.  I had fun noting the similarities.

Both men found Kunshan the same way: by accident.  Nalddo visited Guoliang and stumbled upon Kunshan as he explored the outlying countryside just like Paul did.  He was fascinated when he spotted the tunnel in the distance and went to check it out.

Both men mentioned the gate at the end of the tunnel.  Both men talked about the cable cars which were part of the Wangmangling Scenic Park.

I think I know how Nalddo managed to get the name of the tunnel wrong.

When Nalddo visited Kunshan Tunnel, he did it on the spur of the moment.  That meant there was no guide or English-speaking person around to tell him the correct name in English.  Plus he probably could not read the Chinese signs.

I imagine Nalddo left China not actually knowing the correct name.

Perhaps when he posted his pictures, Nalddo went to Google Earth to see if he could figure it out.  He likely spotted the same pictures of Xiyagou on Google Earth that I did and guessed this was the tunnel he had visited. 

Since everything is labeled in the confusing Chinese script, Nalddo probably saw the picture that said "Road to Xiyagou" in English and assumed that was the same tunnel as the one he had visited. 

I am sure he never suspected there was a third tunnel.

Considering how many times I have been tricked while researching China, trust me, I am not about to cast the first stone.  I am just grateful to discover I'm not the only one who gets confused!

An Embarrassing Footnote

About two days later after I wrote how Nalddo had gotten the tunnels wrong, something was bothering me.  I got to thinking about it.  Didn't Paul Evans once point out that I had some Kunshan pictures misidentified as "Xiyagou" on my Guoliang website? 

I had a bad feeling about this.  I took a peek.  Sure enough, Paul was right.  Look what I had posted on another part of my website.

In  these pictures, you can see a different "look" of the tunnel. 

Rick Archer 2009 Note: I think there is a good possibility these two pictures are not from Guoliang. 

Neither picture resembles the red rock of Guoliang.

These are more likely pictures of a similar road tunnel in the village of Xiyagou
about six miles away. 

Here we go again.  Nalddo undoubtedly misidentified his tunnel because he looked on my website, the so-called "world authority on Guoliang", and compared his pictures to mine.

I posted two pictures of Kunshan, called them "Xiyagou" and the poor man trusted me.  My apologies to Nalddo!! 

Although I quickly corrected my mistake, my inaccurate depiction of Kunshan as "Xiyagou" was out there for the past two years.  I guess that puts me back in the Internet Dunce Corner yet again... and now I don't have Nalddo for company any more.  I'm there all by myself!

I will say it again.  It ain't easy flying blind!!


Another Mystery

Here is an interesting picture.  As you can read, it is a picture of Wangmang Mountain.

If you have Google Earth, you can find the picture here:
35°40'16.97"N 113°35'19.57"E

The picture placement is located a half mile north of Xiyagou Tunnel and and a mile and a half south of Kunshan Tunnel. 

In other words, this picture is almost equidistant between the two tunnels. 

Now look at a blowup of the same picture.  There are tunnels on both sides of the picture!  Pretty interesting picture.

So what are we looking at?  Is this Kunshan?  Is this Xiyagou?

Or is it both tunnels?  Or is it just one long tunnel!?!?

The single file row of windows fits the profile of Kunshan.  That said, after looking at how long it is, I cannot even begin to conceive of the amount of work involved.

I asked Paul Evans.  He said he would wager $100 it is Kunshan.  He reminded me that the Kunshan Tunnel ends at the Wangmangling Scenic area. 

I took the picture on the right and enlarged it to compare to a picture taken from the Wangmangling website. 

It looks to me like the picture on the left stops about the place where the picture on the right begins, except there seems to be a brief overlap.

I think the two areas inside the yellow lines are the same place.  This plateau has to be part of the Wangmangling Scenic area.


Wangmangling Scenic Park

Wangmangling Scenic area is an elevated valley in the skies.  I am no geologist, but this valley is probably an ancient cone of a volcano.  The pictures of this valley remind me of the cone of Diamondhead, the famous extinct volcano next to Honolulu in Hawaii.

There is currently very little information on the "English" side of the Internet, so I invite readers to share more.

From what I gather, the Wangmangling Scenic Park is not far at all from Guoliang.  Your only problem will be the giant mountain in your way.  I can't be sure, but I think Kunshan Tunnel is actually cut into Mt. Wangmang... maybe someone can confirm this for me.

It would be nice if visitors to Guoliang could use the Kunshan Tunnel to reach the Wangmangling Scenic area, but that iron gate at the end of the tunnel continues to be a real puzzle.

For now, this is what I know - something is happening.  There is a cable car in the valley set to take tourists to the top. In the mountain ridges above the valley, there are hiking trails everywhere.  Once you get to the top, you can climb along Wangmang Mountain and be able to see unimaginable vistas in every direction. 

Paul Evans has this to say:

Looking further west on Google Earth under some cloud is the enormous main parking area for Wangmangling... they must be expecting a lot of visitors... and 100 yds south you can see the piers of the elevated expressway under construction...........the Chinese tourist behemoth is moving in!!!!!

Paul Evans was able to locate the exact spot where the Kunshan Tunnel meets the Wangmangling Scenic area. 

The coordinates are:
35°41'26.47"N 113°35'04.38"E

Again, the dead end nature of this spot is a bit baffling.  How are people from the east supposed to easily access this area otherwise? Why not put that tunnel to use?

Perhaps that tunnel is open. Below is the itinerary of a biking tour through this area.  As you can see, the bike ride intends to make full use of Kunshan Tunnel.

Day 4
Guoliang village - Visit the Wanxian Mountain Scenic Area. Visit the Redcliff Canyon, Lingshan Village, the Sky Ladder, etc.

Day 5
Depart from
Guoliang Village to Wangmang Mountain ---- Xiyagou Canyon---- Huilong Village
Biking along the Taihang Canyon from Guoliang village to Huilong. On the way, you will bike through the Kunshan cliffside tunnel which is much longer than Guoliang tunnel, you will also visit the Wangmang Mountain and then bike through the Xiyagou Canyon.

In the picture on the left and right, you can see what appear to be poles to support the cable car.

Presently this park is most easily reached from the west.

You can reach it from the south using the Xiyagou Tunnel. 

However, how you get to this place from the east is unclear.


What do you think about this waterfall!!  The accompanying caption reads "Panorama Falls mill Jianfeng".

I found this waterfall picture 1 1/2 miles due east of Kunshan Tunnel near Nanping.  It is 2 1/2 miles south of Guoliang Tunnel.

I found a second waterfall known as the "Black Dragon Pool".  It is nearby as well.

That's all I know.  A
s usual, the English-speaking side of the Internet supplied little information. 

The point I am getting at is that there is all sorts of stunning scenery in this area. 

I found pictures of nearby hiking trails along cliff ridges that offered breath-taking panoramas.  This area is a tourist's dream if you like to hike in the mountains. 

Xiyagou Tunnel, Kunshan Tunnel, Guoliang Tunnel, the Wangmangling Scenic area, and waterfalls galore all within just miles of each other. Wow!!
There are hints and suggestions that the Chinese government is taking serious steps to turn this entire area into a tourist mecca.  In fact, it may have already happened.  Usually whatever I write is at least a year outdated the moment I print it. 
So again I invite readers to contribute whatever they know about what is going in this fascinating area.

A Good Idea or a Big Waste of Time?

Now that we know more about the tunnels at Kunshan and Xiyagou, we find that both tunnels have out-lived their practical use.  Today they exist purely as tourist attractions. 

I am guessing that the tunnel in Guoliang was the first to be completed in this area.  It was built in the early part of the Seventies.  According to the China Daily article, Xiyagou first tried to build a tunnel in 1962, but quickly gave up all hope.

Then perhaps emboldened by the success of the Guoliang Tunnel five miles away, the people of Xiyagou tried again in 1982.  The China Daily article mentioned a terrible accident in 1991.  So obviously the Xiyagou Tunnel was not completed until sometime in the early Nineties.

What bothers me is that the Xiyagou and the Kunshan Tunnels have both outlived their original usefulness.  They quickly became obsolete.  The Xiyagou Tunnel probably got no more than 10 to 15 years of value at the most.

The China Daily article pointed out that the tunnels may not have been the most practical creations in the world.  All that work for 15 years of use.  Hmm.

The article compared the Xiyagou tunnelers to Yugongs... Foolish Old Men.  The article quoted Chairman Mao who remembered the legend of a 90 year old man who got disgusted at the constant chore of walking around huge mountains in his path.

The Foolish Old Man of the North Mountain, nearly ninety years of age, lived behind these mountains. He was unhappy about the fact that the mountains blocked his way to the south and he had to walk round them whenever he went out or came back.  So he called the whole family together to talk about the matter. "What would you say," he said to them, "if I suggest that all of us work hard to level the two mountains, so as to open a clear way to places south of Yu Prefecture and the Han River?"

His children were excited, but his wife had her doubts. "With your feeble strength," she said, "you could hardly remove a small hill like Kuifu. What makes you think you can move the Taihang and Wangwu Mountains?Besides, where could you deposit all the earth and rocks so they would not block another person's path?"

Mao used this story to describe the pointlessness of moving mountains.

I suppose the French who failed at the first attempt to build the Panama Canal back in 1880 would have agreed with Mao... they spent ten years trying to level a large hill to create the canal.  When they finally gave up, they had lost millions of dollars, 22,000 men had died from malaria and yellow fever, and only 10% of the project was completed (Panama Canal Story). 

Conclusion?  Man isn't very good at moving mountains.

Today both Kunshan and Xiyagou both appear to empty into the Wangmangling Scenic Area.  They may have no commercial use at all, but at the same time, these tunnels have brought all kinds of tourist activity to their area. 

This has all happened practically overnight.

Today Xiyagou and Kunshan enjoy a much higher standard of living thanks to the existence of their tunnels.  Folly?  Maybe.  But fascinating nonetheless. 

As I said, I was unable to access much in the way of information about the various locations, but the pictures on Google Earth suggest this area is a tourist's paradise if you like mountain scenery.  Plus there are hints in the articles I read that Guoliang is not the only place to prosper.  This entire area seems to attract busloads of tourists.

I am guessing this entire area is fast becoming the Chinese equivalent of our Rocky Mountain National Park here in the USA.   

I suppose as times goes by, we will learn more.  Thanks again to Paul Evans for helping us gain further insight into this remarkable part of the world.  We are all in debt to him for sharing his pictures and his knowledge.

Thanks to people like Paul, we are fortunate to be given a porthole into mysterious and stunning vistas of China that were previously unknown to the Western world. 

Rick Archer
November 2011

PS - If you have information to share or comments and questions, please contact me by email, dance@ssqq.com  

This picture solves the mystery.
Kunshan Tunnel is unbelievably long!

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