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Zhangye Danxia Landforms

Tucked away in China’s northwestern corridor is the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park, a windswept sprawl known for its colorful land formations. Located in the northern foothills of the Qilian Mountains in Gansu, the Zhangye Danxia Landforms are comprised of countless sandstone deposits which first accumulated as sedimentation from ancient lakes and streams and then, over the course of 24 million years, were gradually carved up by the elements into extraordinary sculptures ranging from gnarled pillars and mounds to quixotic figurines of varying colors, patterns and sizes. The landscape was further shaped by a series of tectonic plate shifts, which rippled through the entire region, creating countless faults and ravines and irrevocably changed the topography of the area. Formerly a provincial park and scenic area, the Zhangye Danxia Landforms officially became a national geological park in November of 2011, and though the park’s boundaries encompass a broad swathe of land totally 510 square kilometers, the core area of the park, Linze Danxia Scenic Area, is much smaller and is only a 30 kilometer drive west of downtown Zhangye. As you set out foot across this barren landscape, wandering past never-ending sandstone outcrops towering hundreds of meters tall, featuring swirls of colors selected from an autumnal pallet of crimson, auburn and white, you will feel as though you have been transported to an alternate reality, marked by sunburnt sprawls populated with living landforms which twist and rise, giving physical form to your wildest imaginations. As weathering and erosion continue to expose more faults and whittle down these battle-scarred formations into sand and nothingness, visitors will be reminded of the immensity of nature’s influence and the stark limitations of our own mortal timelines.

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