The Yongde “Earth Forest”, commonly known as “Earth Buddhas”, is situated on MangKuan Tufushang, on the north bank of Manling rivulet, a branch of Yongkan river. It is 45km away from the seat of Yongde County and 20km from Yongkan town, with an altitude of 1448 metres. It is the only natural wonder that formed by the changing of the earth physiognomy.
The earth of the site contains mainly a kind of red gravel, which belongs to the sedmimentary diposits of sea layer from Paleozoic. Having been denudated by the wind and the rain for thousands of years and experienced so many times of eco-environmental changes, the loose part of the earth was erased off and the hard and dense part remained. Hence more than 200 shoots of earth statues were sculptured out of the red gravel slope, covering about 0.15 square kilometers with all kinds of shrubs and ever-green trees all around. The tallest statues are about 30 metres tall but most of them are around 15 metres in hight. Some statues look like Buddhas sitting there pattering and some like towers skillfully designed and constructed.
The small shrubs and pine trees are growing all around and birds keep singing all the year through. There are also some flowers and small trees growing on top of the statues making up a colorful hat for each. Every Buddha is related to a unique legend and thus makes the site even more mysterious. It is said that when zhugeliang, a famous strategist in Sangguo period, came to the south on a punitive expedition, his army camped here one night. The sentinels were so exhausted that they fell asleep and never woke up again. They died here and turned into these strange earth statues. The mythic legends add more mystery air to the mysterious site.
Looking at the Buddhas individually, you may think of the aged towers specially and skifully built. Seen from afar, the statues make up a good view of ancient castles and walls. From a certain angle of view, you may get a mythic vision that many immortals are gathering there to discuss something important or that an army phalanx is disposed secretly there with great momentum. The amazing statues shoot up from the ground as if huge trees were growing from the earth and form into a huge and strange forest, hence the name “Earth Forest” came into being. The mythic Earth Forest serves not only as a tourist resort, but also as a historical site for scientists to do research into geology and geognosy.
The site combines the majesty with beauty and mystery and becomes one of the most outstanding resorts in Lincang city. In Ming and Qing dynasty, it was used as the holy and inviolable feting site for the family of the chieftain of the local tribe called Tusi (the governor of the local ethnic tribes). The chieftain owned wide areas of fields here which were guarded by some slave peasants. In those years, all these earth Buddhas were hidden in the closely-growing primitive woods and could not be seen from outside or from afar.
In 1907, the Tusi governor system was abolished and the fete ceremony of the chieftain family stopped. The forest was destroyed and the worshipping altars were pulled down. However, the local custom of gathering here for a bazaar and for a lucky bless remains active during the Yuanxiao festival every year, which comes on January 15th in Chinese lunar calendar. On that day, thousands of Buddha believers and many other people from all over the county and abroad will gather here to burn joss sticks asking for blessing from the Buddha majesty. It is said that in the early years of the republic of China, some local governors were so religious that they also went to ask the Buddhas for blessing that they would have a bright future in their official career. Whenever there was something important to deal with or just before going out, people would come and make a vow to the Buddhas seriously and beg for Buddha’s blessing and protection.
This custom has stayed active and has a tendency of becoming more popular. And what’s more, a second bazaar time has been added, which is on March 15th every year in the lunar calendar. However, as time goes by, some custom is changing to keep pace with the developing of modern society. People come to the Earth Forest not only for blessing from the Buddhas, but also for making friends, trading local products, and enjoying the natural mystery of the site.
Now, the transportation to the Earth Forest is becoming more and more convenient. And the local government has made some palns to develop the site into a tourist resort. When it is time for the bazaars, more and more people from the local areas and the nearby countries travel here by using all kinds of vehicles or just come on foot. Many activities are held spontaneously, and you can purchase any local product you think of. And there is also chance that you meet some favourite business partners to further your career plans. There is really a lot of enjoyment and jollification here. It is a kind of pomp that you can seldom see elsewhere. Welcome to Yongde! Welocme to the Earth Forest!
A poem goes as follows to describe this peculiar site :
Among the small hills, near Mangkuan village, lies a Xanadu,
with “Buddhas” sitting there to bless the residents all year through.
Many enthralling earth statues have been skillfully sculptured,
out of the red gravel ground, the sky they tower up into.
The mortals and the immortals meet and pray round the “castles”,
singing in the shrubs and the pine trees, the birds merrily woo.
A wonderland promised by super-nature power, sounds true !
Someone might find another site cute as such elsewhere, but who?