The Shennongjia (神農架) Forest Zone in eastern Hubei Province shares its border with Chongqing Municipality in the west and Baokang County of Hubei Province in the east. With an area of 3,253 square kilometers (about 803,833 acres), Shennongjia contains four towns, four villages, one national forest park and one national natural reserve area. Because of its marvelous natural scenery, rare foliages, endangered animals and famous legends such as the mysterious "Wild Man" (Chinese Yeti) said to be found in the mountains, the Shennongjia Forest Zone has attracted many tourists every year, amongst them researchers and scientists.
Shennongjia was named after a very famous Chinese chief in prehistoric time, Shennong, also known as Yandi. He was believed to be one of the two ancestors of Chinese people (the other was Huangdi ). He invented crockery, discovered herbal medicine by personally tasting herbs and taught his people how to cultivate. It is said that while Shennong tasted herbs here, he suffered from poisoning more than seventy times! However in the end, he managed to discover many useful herbal medicines. To commemorate his great work, he became the namesake for the land we speak of today, Shennongjia.
Shennongding Peak, the highest mountain of Shennongjia, is 3105.4 meters (about 10,188 feet) high, above sea level. The lowest point, Shizhu River in southeastern Shennongjia Forest Zone, is only 398 meters (about 1,306 feet) high, above sea level. Visitors can enjoy witnessing the different beauties of the four seasons at different altitudes. Flowers blossom out at every corner; firs, spruces, dove trees, and many rare trees can be seen everywhere. Virgin forests, clear streams and grand waterfalls in the thousands of canyons beckon visitors to indulge in the wild nature. Peculiar caves also often amaze visitors. There is the Swallow Cave that inhabited thousands of swallows, the Tide Cave that floods three times a day, the Icy Cave that is always icy in summers, the Fish Cave that inhabited lots of fish at times of thunder and much more. Wild animals, some of which are really rare species, are also frequently seen (i.e. the golden haired monkey, giant salamander, spotted deer and etc.).
The most peculiar species founded in Shennongjia are certainly the "white animals." The first albino animal spotted in Shennongjia was a white bear, which looks like a giant panda in white skin. White monkeys, white roes, white deer, white squirrels, white snakes, white crows and even white toads have also been gradually discovered by scientists. Aside from the endangered animals, Shennongjia is a natural garden for herbal medicines as well. More than two thousand kinds of precious herbs, such as Jiaogulan (gynostemma pentaphyllum, which is as efficient as ginseng), actinidia, muskiness, fritillaria, Chinese angelica and etc., can be easily found in the Shennongjia Forest Zone.
The Wild Man of Shennongjia is a mysterious figure as famous as Nessie and UFOs. The records of the Wild Man appear many times in ancient Chinese books, and since the 1970s, many people in Shennongjia have declared that they had spotted The Wild Man. They are described to be ape-like, about two meters (6 ft.) high, covered by red or brown hair and can move very fast while standing erect. There have been many research studies held in Shennongjia, which have yielded some evidence of the creature, such as the footprints and hair of The Wild Man. It is believed by many people that The Wild Man is an ancient species just like the giant panda and the golden haired monkey. Recently, some hikers and visitors also announced their sightings of The Wild Man. But to this day, no Wild Man has yet been caught.
Without a doubt, the Shennongjia Forest Zone is an attraction teeming with virgin scenery and folk legends, awaiting the enjoyment and excitement of casual tourists and researchers alike.
How to Get There: There are three central towns in the area: Muyu, Hongping and Songbai. You can take a coach at Yichang City to Muyu, or take a coach at Shiyan City to Songbai. As Shennongjia Forest Zone is very large, it will be a good choice to rent a car. It is easy to get lost in the mountains, so don't leave the road too far away! The living conditions and services in Muyu Town are the best in the whole zone, so it's better for visitors to spend nights here.
- Muyu Town: Shennong Shanzhuang (2 stars); Tianlu Hotel
- Songbai Town: Shennongjia Hotel
Virgin forests in the Zone are not totally open to visitors because of their large size, so you'd better find a guide;
You will probably want to pack your raincoat and some plastic bags so that you can keep your clothes and camera dry; a knife, match and compass are also highly recommended;
It's usually very cold in the night, so you'd better pack more clothes; wear boots and trousers in the forest so that you can prevent bites from mosquitoes and other insects.