China - About the Country

The Peoples Republic of China is a huge country, with a very long history. Inside its border there are fertile humid areas, the Gobi desert and the mountains of the Himalaya can be found. Of course there are many karst areas in limestone or gypsum. And because of the long history many cave houses and cave temples can be found all over the country.

Unfortunately, the land is not easy to visit, because of the well known political situation. Additionally, there is a massive language problem, as Chinese is not a single language, but many languages. Written Chinese contributes another problem: several thousand different characters make the language hard to learn, and so it is rather hard for foreigners to get information about the country. And Chinese people generally do not learn English as second language. Individual tourism is almost impossible for foreign tourists, its impossible to talk to people or read signs.

Several cultural differences of China are quite weird for foreigners. First the country is huge and heavily populated, popular caves have enormous visitor numbers. Caves are always full of ancient inscriptions, often chiseled into the cave walls or speleothems. They commemorate the visits of rulers or are poems. Caves have coloured light, typically there are no white lamps at all. The guided tours list "landscapes", which means interpretations of speleothems. Formations are named after Chinese legends and fairy tales, which is rather harmless. But the cave is advertised with the number of landscapes, number of different kinds of speleothems, and number of different kinds of cave sediments. Each of those criteria is weird and does not make any sense. It's not possible to count any of those things in a meaningful way.

Another strange thing is, that every cave description starts a sort of aggressive pissing war. Our cave is the number 1 cave in Asia (in which way?) and we can proof it because a guy visited the cave in 1980 and told us this. In general, we got the impression that hard facts are not very popular. Poems are quite popular but unfortunately impossible to translate. And the rest is an almost baroque list of weirdness.

Chinese obviously have no idea of cave surveying, for some reason they always give the surface of caves, sometimes the volume. International Cavers survey caves in a standardized way. The British Cave Research Association (BCRA) even standardized a system to classify the accuracy of the survey. But there is no valid way to determine the area or volume of a cave, because this would require an enormous amount of measuring, which is quite difficult inside the cave. The reason is simply, that caves have an irregular shape. It's easy to compute the area of a rectangular room, but caves are never rectangular. So it is necessary to approximate the area, and the result is not very accurate and does not justify the enormous amount of work. In the last years it was done using laser scanners, which is still a lot of work and requires expensive and fragile technology. As a result we are sure the area of caves was not surveyed during in the 20th century. We have no idea if the numbers are actually the floor of the cave or the area covered by the cave system. Or if it is the size of the area which protects the cave. Probably they just mixed up length and area. But most likely the numbers are just fantasy.

As a result the cave descriptions for China are either based on international publications or rather short. In general, they are full of holes and lack important details. China is said to have more than 400 show caves, we have listed about 100 [2021]. However, the available information is too limited to make a representative list. We are sure there is an official list of show caves by the government, after all it's still a communist country and the caves are owned by the state. As far as we know it is not published, at least not international.