Tai Hang Mountains China | Plateau | Mountains

Taihang Mountains

China

By

Tamarapu Sampath Kumaran

About the Author:

Mr T Sampath Kumaran is a freelance writer. He regularly contributes articles on Management, Business, Ancient Temples, and Temple Architecture to many leading Dailies and Magazines. His articles are, popular in “The Young World section” of THE HINDU His e-books and articles on nature, and different cultures of people around the world are educative and of special interest to the young. He was associated in the production of two Documentary films on Nava Tirupathi Temples, and Tirukkurungudi Temple in Tamilnadu.

Acknowledgement, to Google for some of the pictures and scribd.com, for hosting the e-books.

Taihang Mountains, also called T’ai-hsing Range, is the mountain range of northern China, stretching some 250 miles from north to south and forming the boundary between Shanxi and Hebei provinces and between the Shanxi plateau and the North China plain. The Taihang Mountains were believed to have been formed during the mountainbuilding processes around 200 to 145 million years ago. Soils are of the brown forest and cinnamon types. The ranges rise steeply from the North China Plain to an elevation of approximately 3,300 to 4,000 feet above sea level. Mount Xiaowutai, in northwestern Hebei province, reaches 9,455 feet. A spur of the Great wall extends north-south along the eastern foothills. In the south, in the northwestern part of Henan province, the Taihang Mountains swing to the west to form the southwestern edge of the plateau above the plain of the Huang He (Yellow River). The mountains are drained to the east by numerous tributary streams of the Hai river system. Two of these, the Hutuo and the Zhang rivers, break through the main range and drain the interior basins behind the mountains. The Taihang Mountains have historically formed an obstacle to movement between Shanxi and Hebei, and to the local people the phrase “the road over Taihang” has long been a poetic metaphor for the frustrations of life. The principal routes across the mountains were the so-called “eight passes of the Taihang,” but the most important of them was the pass at Jingxing, now traversed by a railroad from Shijiazhuang to Taiyuan.

Along the steep eastern face of the mountains are rich and easily accessible coal seams, which are mined in the southern area around Handan. The western side of the range, facing inward toward the Shanxi plateau, also has rich coal deposits,

which are mined at Yanhquan in the north and Changzhi in the south, a mountain range in eastern China. The Taihang Shan extends for about 400 km from north to south and rises to a maximum elevation of 2,359 m. The eastern slopes, dropping sharply to the North China Plain, are deeply cut by river valleys; the western slopes descend gently to the Loess Plateau. The mountains are composed mainly of Precambrian gneisses and granites and Lower Paleozoic shales and limestones. They are an important climatic boundary, preventing the monsoon from penetrating the interior of the country. The mountains have coal, graphite, and asbestos deposits, and there are residues of broad-leaved forests on the eastern slopes. Towering Taihang Mountains is a famous mountain range in China hinterland. The Taihang Mountains are divided into three parts: the West Taihang Mountains, Northern Taihang and southern Taihang. The Western Taihang Mountains is mainly in Shanxi Province, connected to the Loess Plateau, the vegetation is sparse. In accordance with the conventional aesthetic, this is the ugliest part. North Taihang Mountain is mainly in Hebei, the vegetation more abundant, occasional forest and Canyon, the main peak Xiaowutai is 2880 m above sea level. While the south Taihang Mountains is mainly in Henan province, and separated off Henan and Shanxi, throughout the forests, valleys, so that the Southern Taihang Mountains is the most beautiful section. Dragon Boat Festival, in Guoliang Village, is an enjoying event in the South Taihang Mountains. The Guoliang Tunnel is carved along the side of and through a mountain in China. The tunnel links the Guoliang village to the outside through the Taihang Mountains. The road is often misidentified as the "Road of Death".

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Guoliang Village was almost cut off from its surrounding towns and villages before the construction of the tunnel. The village is nestled in a valley surrounded by towering mountains cut off from outside civilization. Before the tunnel was constructed, access to the nearby Guoliang was restricted to a difficult path carved into the mountainside. A ladder on a precipitous cliff, also known as the Heavenly Ladder, was the only route in and out of the village. In 1972, inhabitants of a remote mountain village performed one of the most miraculous feats in road-building history: Before 1972, the path chiseled into the rock used to be the only access linking the village with the outside world. Then the villagers decided to dig a tunnel through the rocky cliff.

Ii's a tunnel dug into the side of a mountain. It is the magnificent Guoliang Tunnel in China's Taihang mountains. Built not by the government, but by villagers alone, their story is as inspiring and impressive as the tunnel itself.

Led by Shen Mingxin, the village headman, decided to carve a road into the side of the mountain. Thirteen villagers began the project, and it took five years to finish and was opened in 1977 to traffic. They chiseled a tunnel of nearly three-quarters of a mile through a mountain for easier access to the outside world, than tiptoeing along a rocky footpath worn into the face of the mountain, which is what they had to do before they built the tunnel. But the new passageway, whose name translates to "road that does not tolerate any mistakes," is only marginally less hair-raising. The tunnel is 1.2 km (0.75 miles) long, and is 15-foot (4.5-meters) of high ceiling and 12-foot (3.5-meter) wide roadbed.

It would be forbiddingly dark and claustrophobic had the builders not also carved periodic openings in the tunnel walls. Guoliang Tunnel is different from other road tunnels; it is quiet, secluded and mysterious, bright one minute and dims the next, full of twists and turns. The wall of the tunnel is uneven and there are more than 30

"windows" of different sizes and shapes. Some windows are round and some are square, and they range from dozens of metres long to standard-window-size. It is frightening to look down from the windows, where strange rocks hanging from the sheer cliff above and a seemingly bottomless pit lying below. The resulting view of the gaping abyss gives the panoramic view of the mountain below.

A village, opposite the tunnel, appears to hang on the precipice. Walking through the twisted tunnel is like walking through a labyrinth as the window light mingles with the shadows inside the tunnel.

The completion of the tunnel was a major leap forward for the villagers, as it became a tourist attraction when China opened its borders to international tourists.

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