“Arxan: land of forests, hunters and nomads”
Celebrating Earth Heritage
Arxan UNESCO Global Geopark is located in the jurisdiction of Xing’an League in China’s Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia. Arxan is a mid-low mountain region situated in the southwestern part of the middle section of the Daxing’anling range. The elevation ranges from 820 to 1,750 meters, with an average of 1,100 meters. The UNESCO Global Geopark has a cold, temperate, continental monsoon climate, and the temperature is prone to drastic changes.
The area is located at the point where the eastern Tianshan-Xing’an fold zone meets with the Daxing’anling giant uplift belt of the Cathaysian tectonic system. It is a topographic boundary zone and a crust transition zone. As a volcanic-tectonic unit, it is part of the Datong-Daxing’anling Cenozoic volcanic zone. The UNESCO Global Geopark has abundant geomorphological landforms (volcanoes, granite peaks and rivers) and water landscapes (natural springs, volcanogenic lakes, scenic river reaches). Unique are the basaltic lava deposits, which due to gradually cooling have left a turtle shell pattern at the surface. The turtleback lava in Arxan UNESCO Global Geopark is the only large-scale, well-developed and intact turtleback lava in China and it is also rare in the world.
With 35 well-exposed Quaternary volcanoes, Arxan UNESCO Global Geopark has one of the densest appearance of volcanoes in any Geopark in China. The volcanoes and crater lakes are trending northeast and are densely distributed on both sides of the Arxan river valley.
There are five existing geo-trails in the Arxan UNESCO Global Geopark leading to important geosites, including Tuofengling Tianchi, Tianchi, Dichi, Shitanglin and the Turtleback Lava. These trails were built with different materials, to suit the locations and settings of the geosites and are in harmony with the surrounding nature.
Blessed with fertile soil created by weathered volcanic products, Arxan has 95% vegetation coverage and 65% forest coverage.
Sustaining local Communities
The Arxan region, particularly the Halaha River basin, has been a cradle of nomads in northern China since ancient times. It is one of the origins of the Mongols. Known as ―People of the Forest‖, the Arxan people have been hunters and nomads for many generations.
Arxan UNESCO Global Geopark is a remote region with a sparse population. Forestry is the main economic pillar. The overall economic output is relatively low. The designation of the Geopark has prompted many forestry workers to join the tourism industry, offering accommodation, catering and Geopark-related tourist services to visitors. Living standards have improved considerably as a result. Some local businesses have participated in the design and development of souvenirs based on specific geosite features and the natural setting of Arxan UNESCO Global Geopark, examples include tree root carvings, bark paintings and pyrographs (wood or other materials decorated with burn marks). To make food and accommodation more readily available, local residents in the Hot Springs area and Tianchi offer a unique, highly enjoyable rural host bed-and-breakfast service for visitors. Visitors can now sample the rare and unusual experience of the rustic lifestyle of this northeastern frontier city by staying with local hosts.
The Arxan UNESCO Global Geopark is home to many cultural heritage sites, such as the Arxan Railway Station, South Xing’an Tunnel and the Former Site of Yamato Hotel.
The geo-education centre is located in the Arxan Geopark Museum with exhibitions of typical volcanic rock specimens and other rocks, minerals, fossils and related basic geoscience highlights. It is the ideal science popularization base for primary students, as well as a teaching and research base for universities and research institutes. There are six existing science popularization galleries in Arxan UNESCO Global Geopark and two other science popularization galleries are planned for the future.
Good guides are indispensable for ensuring a pleasant and memorable holiday experience. At present, Arxan UNESCO Global Geopark has 270 tour guides, who are fluent in Chinese, Mongolian, Japanese, English or Korean.