Chongqing – City of Fog, City of Hot Pot, Mountain City – is still not much of a tourist town. It has its sights, though – which will be the topic of this series of short articles.

In this article, we’ll have a look at Shanwangping in the south of the municipal area of Chongqing, with its special trees and strange stones around the “Karst National Ecological Park.”

Chongqing is universally addressed as the world’s largest city; the peculiar karst formations of Southwestern China are presented as being elsewhere…

Actually, though, the municipality that is the modern Chongqing is far larger than the city of Chongqing proper. It encompasses many areas that are sparsely populated because they are pretty mountainous.

One such area, close by the “Golden Buddha Mountain” Jinfoshan, is Shanwangping.

In this “Mountain King District” lies the Shanwangping Karst National Ecological Park; the first of its kind (if that usual marketing speak is correct) in China.

It has two claims to fame:

For one, a diversity of not-exactly-common trees grows here, among them metasequoia, cryptomeria, and – again – more and more gingko trees.

Oftentimes, one finds aerial photos from this area showing “(early) winter scenery” in which some of the trees, on one side of a road, have changed leaf color to yellow-pink while others, on the other side, remain green.

There are hints that this is due to different types or species of trees growing there, but I cannot confirm that part.

There is also another aspect, the “guai shi” – strange stones. These karst stone structures are, of course, what the Karst Ecological Park is named after and what it was established for.

Even if you don’t go into the national park area proper, there is a lot of that to be found.

"Strange Stones" in China's Karst (Shanwangping, Chongqing)

I had ended up not going in simply because I did not have the 60 yuan (iirc) that the entrance ticket would have cost in cash, nor had WeChat Pay set up yet – and I found it for the better.

Walking onto the paths behind the “Ginkgo Inn” where we were staying (we went there on a sort of company retreat, having just gone through very busy times), up and around through forested slopes, it was all the more fascinating to come upon the stones shaped by wind and water.

"Gingko Inn" in Shanwangping

Imagine, you walk some stone paths between various small trees. Suddenly, you come to the path entering in between a cleft stone, worn down by the elements.

Behind it, a little gingko forest.

Another path, and suddenly there is a forest of such strange stones in the middle of the forest of somewhat larger trees.

Lush vegetation, hilly terrain, nice paths – and stone pillars and curtains that look like someone tried to scoop bits of them down in some places, polished others, had a go at giving them the most curious of shapes.

Having finally made it to better air, higher up and outside of any city, I could not resist also going for an early-morning run.

Over and down – and up again on the way back – the road sloped around the mountain we were on. Forest areas gave way to low vegetation, opening views to the mountains around. Many of them, also shaped quite oddly. Parts sloping gently and with lots of vegetation, parts sheer…

Out for a run in Shanwangping

Trying astrophotography made it clear that enough cities are around: A fair bit of light pollution becomes visible in that, shining up into the night sky, covering the stars.

If somebody dropped you into this area, though, you would never imagine that you were in a part of China that belongs to the “largest city in the world.”