Xiaozhai Tiankeng, the largest and deepest well in the world under which an underground forest survives

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part of his name, Xiaozhai Tiankeng, roughly translates to “heavenly well” or “heavenly”. And although it may seem a bit excessive, the truth is that it hits a lot. In Fengjiea county in the Chongqing municipality —in the very heart of China— hides one of those treasures of the planet that seem to have been made by a virtuoso of Photoshop: a totally natural well that reaches 662 meters deep, 626 long and 537 wide. The most surprising thing, however, is not its dimensions or almost vertical walls, but the explosion of life that it welcomes.

Xiaozhai Tiankeng is what geologists call a sink, a sinkhole or depression in the land generated, among other factors, by the effect of water. In the case of the one located in Fengjie, it has been formed over a cave and houses an underground river that measures a total of 8.5 kilometers and ends in a spectacular waterfall. Its sheer size makes Xiaozhai Tiankeng the sinkhole of its kind, tiankeng, largest and deepest in the world. This is how he presents it for example china.org.cnwhich explains that during the rainy season a waterfall is also generated at the mouth of the sinkhole.

In addition to its size, Xiaozhai Tiankeng impresses with the biodiversity it houses inside. Its base is so large that it gives shelter —Wondermondo details– a about 1,300 species of plants, such as ginkgo, and wild animals. Among the most fascinating “tenants” who stroll through its underground forest, stands out, for example, cloudy panther (Neofelis nebulosa), a feline with unmistakable fur that reaches 1.1 meters and usually rests in trees.

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A garden more than 600 meters deep

Just as interesting is its geology: the tiankeng opens in a vast karst area of ​​280 km2 made up of limestone. Experts believe that the sinkhole we enjoy today, between 511 and 662 meters deep, has taken shape over the last 128,000 years. For much of its history, until the cave’s ceiling collapsed, it was a huge underground cavity. Throughout China there are also other tiankeng remarkable size, as Dashiwei.

The most curious thing is that, despite its size, we have only recently begun to study Xiaozhai Tiankeng. The population around it has known it since ancient times, but scientists have been paying attention to it for about three decades, after it was documented in 1994 by a group of explorers from the Royal Geographic Society. “Since that day, it has captivated cave explorers, biologists and adventurous tourists from around the world,” notes China.org.

If you want to be one of those intrepid travelers and see for yourself what this “heavenly well” is like, yes, it is better that you train beforehand. As interest in Xiaozhai has grown, communications with the place have grown, in the Tiankeng Difeng National Park, they have become more comfortable; but at least one of the accesses is a zig-zag staircase with 2,800 steps.

Nobody said that the way to heaven was easy. Nor to his well on Earth.

Cover Image | Brookqi

part of his name, Xiaozhai Tiankeng, roughly translates to “heavenly well” or “heavenly”. And although it may seem a bit…

part of his name, Xiaozhai Tiankeng, roughly translates to “heavenly well” or “heavenly”. And although it may seem a bit…

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