Jiuzhaigou – Heaven On Earth

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Jiuzhaigou Valley is a nature reserve and national park located in the north of Sichuan, China. Jiuzhaigou Valley is part of the Min Mountains on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and stretches over 72,000 hectares (180,000 acres). It is known for its many multi-level waterfalls, colorful lakes, and snow-capped peaks. Its elevation ranges from 2,000 to 4,500 metres (6,600 to 14,800 ft). Jiuzhaigou Valley was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1992 and a World Biosphere Reserve in 1997. It belongs to the category V (Protected Landscape) in the IUCN system of protected area categorisation. This incredibly popular region can get crazily busy with hordes of mainly Chinese tourists. All credit to the wonderful thought out walkways around the lakes and through the forests meaning minimum impact on the delicate environment. However from a photographer’s perspective this was difficult, particularly when taking longer exposure shots on a tripod, as vibration from all the visitors walking on the wooden walkways played havoc with stability.

Rhinoceros Lake

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Jiuzhaigou’s ecosystem is classified as temperate broad-leaf forest and woodlands, with mixed mountain and highland systems. Nearly 300 km2 (116 sq mi) of the core scenic area are covered by virgin mixed forests. Those forests take on attractive yellow, orange and red hues in the autumn, making that season a popular one for visitors. They are home to a number of plant species of interest, such as endemic varieties ofrhododendron and bamboo. Local fauna includes the endangered giant panda and golden snub-nosed monkey. Both populations are very small (less than 20 individuals for the pandas) and isolated. Their survival is in question in a valley subject to increasing tourism. Jiuzhaigou is also home to approximately 140 bird species.

Three Level Waterfalls

Stitched Panorama

Jiuzhaigou’s landscape is made up of high-altitude karsts shaped by glacial, hydrological and tectonic activity. It lies on major faultlines on the diverging belt between the Qinghai-Tibet Plate and the Yangtze Plate, and earthquakes have also shaped the landscape. The rock strata is mostly made up of carbonate rocks such dolomite and tufa, as well as some sandstone and shales. The valley includes the catchment area of three gullies (which due to their large size are often called valleys themselves), and is one of the sources of the Jialing River, part of the Yangtze River system. Jiuzhaigou’s best-known feature is its dozens of blue, green and turquoise-coloured lakes. The local Tibetan people call them “Haizi” in Chinese, meaning “son of the sea”. Originating in glacial activity, they were dammed by rockfalls and other natural phenomena, then solidified by processes of carbonate deposition. Some lakes have a high concentration of calcium carbonate, and their water is very clear so that the bottom is often visible even at high depths. The lakes vary in colour and aspect according to their depths, residues, and surroundings.Some of the less stable dams and formations have been artificially reinforced, and direct contact with the lakes or other features is forbidden to tourists.

Long Lake, Jiuzhaigou

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The stunning clear waters of Long Lake in Jiuzhaigou Valley, Sichuan, China. Long Lake is crescent-shaped and is the highest, largest and deepest lake in Jiuzhaigou, measuring 7.5 km (5 mi) in length and up to 103 m in depth. It reportedly has no outgoing waterways, getting its water from snowmelt and losing it from seepage. Local folklore features a monster in its depths.

Five Coloured Pool, Jiuzhaigou

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Five Coloured Pool is one of the smallest but most spectacular bodies of water in Jiuzhaigou lakes. Despite its very modest dimensions and depth, it has a richly colored underwater landscape with some of the brightest and clearest waters in the area. According to legend, the pond was where Goddess Semo washed her hair and God Dage came daily to bring her water.

Tiger Lake, Jiuzhaigou


The Jiuzhaigou Valley in Sichuan, China is extremely well laid out with wooden boardwalks for all visitors to walk along the lakesides and even over some of the many waterfalls, ensuring that the pristine natural beauty and ecology is maintained. The contrast of the autumn tree colours and the sparkling clear aquamarine water of the lake is simply breathtaking.

Jiuzhaigou is composed of three valleys arranged in a Y shape. The Rize and Zechawa valleys flow from the south and meet at the centre of the site where they form the Shuzheng valley, flowing north to the mouth of the valley. The mountainous watersheds of these gullies are lined with 55 km (34 mi) of roads for shuttle buses, as well as wooden boardwalks and small pavilions. The boardwalks are typically located on the opposite side of the lakes from the road, shielding them from disturbance by passing buses. Most visitors will first take the shuttle bus to the end of Rize and/or Shuzheng gully, then make their way back downhill by foot on the boardwalks, taking the bus instead when the next site is too distant.

Five Flower Lake, Jiuzhaigou

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Five Flower Lake in the Jiuzhaigou Valley, Sichuan, China is a shallow multi-colored lake whose bottom is criss-crossed by ancient fallen tree trunks. The clarity and colour of the blue waters contrasting with the rich Autumn colours of the surrounding trees make a stunning landscape.

Waterfalls of Jiuzhaigou

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One of the most unique aspects of the Jiuzhaigou Valley are the many waterfalls ranging from small falls through to large multi-tiered cascades. With the nature of the geology and the embedded trees and shrubs there is a unique blend of water and flora creating a mystical “Garden of Eden” like landscape. In Autumn the rich orange, yellows and greens of the trees combined with the exceptionally crystal-clear aquamarine waters create a rich texture of colours as a backdrop.

Passionate Photographer …. Lost in Asia

Stuart Taylor of HighlanderImages Photography has been making images for over 25 years and can offer a diverse range of photo imaging services with a focus on Asia and a documentary/photojournalistic style. These services include planning and executing a photo shoot on location but importantly all the post-processing and image preparation needed for the specific finished media format required by the customer. Stuart’s experience and knowledge in all of these aspects makes HighlanderImages Photography a one-stop-shop for a comprehensive and professional image production service.

Stuart can be available for a variety individual assignments or projects and he specialises in areas such as photojournalism, commercial, architectural, real estate, industrial, interior design, corporate, urbex, adventure, wilderness and travel photography. Stuart can also offer some innovative and advanced techniques such as HDR (High Dynamic Range) and Panoramic Photography.

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