Sanpan Stone: A tectonic story starting 135 million years ago

Sanpan Stone stands in Mount Jianglang in east China's Zhejiang Province. Manifesting typical Danxia landform, the mountain was inscribed onto the World Heritage List in 2010.

Literally meaning "three pieces of stone," the Sanpan Stone consists of three peaks. From north to south, they are Lang, Ya and Ling peaks. The main peak, Lang, has an elevation of 816.8 meters.

The story began some 135 million years ago. Once upon a time, they were a whole piece of rock. Tremendous force from a violent tectonic event formed a basin covering nearly 900 square kilometers, thus making it the cradle for the Sanpan Stone.

Sedimentary rocks gathered in the huge bowl. As the mountain building process continued, the sediments were forced up to form a massif. For millions of years, wind and water eroded the massif vertically, until most of the rock was weathered away. The rock eventually broke into three with steep cliffs we see today.

With an average gradient of about 88 degrees, the cliffs pose a great challenge for those wishing to reach the top. According to legends, in China's Ming Dynasty about 500 years ago, a group of carpenters was hired to build a wooden ladder in order to reach the top of the Sanpan Stone. They toiled for three long years, but failed halfway. Before the ladder could ever reach the summit, its foot had already rotted away.

By the end of 1980s, over 3,500 stone steps were carved out for the brave to climb up and experience the stunning beauty of Mother Nature.

(Cover image a still from the video)

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