Nature preserve

The Meili Snow Mountains nature preserve is located at the Hengduan Mountains. The area belongs to ‘Tree parallel rivers’ nature preserve which belongs to UNESCO world heritage sites. The whole area is 1, 7 billion hectares and consists of 15 nature preserves. Three of China’s big rivers run here close to each other, Yangtze (Jinsha), Mekong and Nu (Salween). The rivers have carved deep gorges; gorges that are sometimes even 3 000 m deep, so the biodiversity in the area is very rich. Here are some of the reasons for including this area on the world heritage list:

Kawa Gebo ang Mingyong glacier

Superlative natural phenomena or natural beauty and aesthetic importance The deep, parallel gorges of the Jinsha, Lancang and Nu Jiang are the outstanding natural feature of the site; while large sections of the three rivers lie just outside the site boundaries, the river gorges are nevertheless the dominant scenic element in the area. High mountains are everywhere, with the glaciated peaks of the Meili, Baima and Haba Snow Mountains providing a spectacular scenic skyline. The Mingyongqia Glacier is a notable natural phemonenon, descending to 2700 m altitude from Mt Kawagebo, and is claimed to be the glacier descending to the lowest altitude for such a low latitude (28° N) in the northern hemisphere. Other outstanding scenic landforms are the alpine karst (especially the ‘stone moon’ in the Moon Mountain Scenic Area above the Nu Jiang Gorge) and the ‘tortoise shell’ weathering of the alpine Danxia.

Mekong River in Xidang

The property is of outstanding value for displaying the geological history of the last 50 million years associated with the collision of the Indian Plate with the Eurasian Plate, the closure of the ancient Tethys Sea, and the uplifting of the Himalaya Range and the Tibetan Plateau. These were major geological events in the evolution of the land surface of Asia and they are on-going. The diverse rock types within the site record this history and, in addition, the range of karst, granite monolith, and Danxia sandstone landforms in the alpine zone include some of the best of their type in the mountains of the world.

Thousand Turtle Mountain in Liming

Biodiversity and threatened species Northwest Yunnan is the area of richest biodiversity in China and may be the most biologically diverse temperate region on earth. The site encompasses most of the natural habitats in the Hengduan Mountains, one of the world’s most important remaining areas for the conservation of the earth’s biodiversity. The outstanding topographic and climatic diversity of the site, coupled with its location at the juncture of the East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Tibetan Plateau biogeographical realms and its function as a N-S corridor for the movement of plants and animals (especially during the ice ages), marks it as a truly unique landscape, which still retains a high degree of natural character despite thousands of years of human habitation. As the last remaining stronghold for an extensive suite of rare and endangered plants and animals, the site is of outstanding universal value.


The land area encompassed by Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas is one of the world’s least-disturbed temperate ecological areas, an epicentre of Chinese endemic species and a natural gene pool of great richness. It supports the richest diversity of higher plants of China…. The park has 22 vegetation subtypes and 6,000 plant species. The area is believed to support over 25% of the world’s animal species, many being relict and endangered. There is a concentration of the country’s rare and endangered animals within the nominated area.

The Meili Snow Mountains consists of seven snow mountains. The mountains are holy for the Tibetans so climbing them is forbidden. The most holy are Kawa Gebo (Kawa Kharpo) and his wife Miancimu. Kawa Gebo is also the highest peak (6 745 m). The main tourist destinations in the area are Mingyong glacier and Yubeng village. Yubeng is a Tibetan village located in a valley between three of the snow mountains (Miancimu, Buddha’s fist and Knight). There is no road to Yubeng: to get there you have to either trek or ride a mule. The glaciers here are the lowest lying glacier at this latitude in the world so they are quickly disappearing. My Tibetan grandmother is originally from Mingyong village. In her youth the glacier went all the way down to Mekong river. Now maybe half of it is gone. There are many animal species here, including bears, wolfs and the endangered Yunnan snub-nosed golden monkey. There are also many kinds of birds, like lammergeyers and other big vultures. In the spring the mountains are decorated with blooming wild flowers, like azaleas and rhododendrons. Many of our garden flowers originate from here. You can also find many wild vegetables, like rhubarb and celery. The richness of plant species was the reason why first westerners here were the so called plant hunters like Joseph Rock.


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