Located in the northwest of Hunan Province, about 400 kilometers away from Changsha, capital of Hunan, covering a total area of 9,563 square kilometers, Zhangjiajie is a tourist city for its unique natural scenery and abundant tourism resources.
Zhangjiajie is a prefecture-level city consisting of Yongding and Wulingyuan Districts, Cili and Sangzhi Counties. Within it is located Wulingyuan Scenic Area which is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. What’s more, Zhangjiajie was awarded the title of "World Geological Park" in 2004.
The outstanding landscape features of Zhangjiajie are Quartz Sandstone Peak Forest and Karst Caves constitute, which are rare in the world. Here you'll find hundreds of grotesque peaks, beautiful waters, towering trees, deep valleys, marvelous caves and exuberant forest that have formed a complete primitive ecological environment. The most notable geographic features of the park are the pillar-like formations that are seen throughout the park. They are the result of many years of erosion. The weather is moist year round, and as a result, the foliage is very dense. Much of the erosion which forms these pillars are the result of expanding ice in the winter and the plants which grow on them. Actually, Zhangjiajie, honored as "the most fantastic mountain under heaven" and" a living Chinese landscape painting". It is also widely acclaimed as “an enlarged potted landscaping”, “a miniature fairyland” and “a maze of nature", attracting a growing number of tourists from home and abroad.
In ancient times, Zhangjiajie was regarded as remote and inaccessible. The history of Zhangjiajie can be traced back to the Neolithic Age when it was still named “Dayong”. The first human traces in this area have been registered about 100,000 years ago. Like other places in China, a legend has been developed by ancient people. It said that Zhang Liang-a famed strategist of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-24 AD), lived here after leaving the imperial court. He lived in fear he would be killed by Liu Bang, the first emperor of the Han Dynasty who had ordered some of his subjects executed out of suspicion they might rebel against him. Zhang found Qingyan (now Zhangjiajie) Mountain is an ideal refuge due to its haunting beauty and tranquility. He became a hermit. It is said he planted seven ginkgo trees here. He was buried below Qingyan (now Zhangjiajie) Mountain. Zhang’s descendants also are believed to have lived here, which is how the name Zhangjiajie originated. Zhang refers to Zhang Liang’s surname, while Jia means family and Jie represents homeland or border.
Zhangjiajie is rich in water resources despite not being a coastal city. The region covers 91,563 square kilometers and it has a large population of 1.5 million, most of whom belong to the Tujia, Bai and Miao minorities. So the local custom is quite interesting and different from Han people.The Tujia people have a long history. They are simpleminded and warm-hearted.
There are three main ethnic minority groups in Zhangjiajie: Tujia, Bai and Miao. These groups make up 77 percent of Zhangjiajie's total population and many visitors count their festivals among the highlights of their visit.
Tujia are one of the main minority groups in Zhangjiajie and they live in Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture. Their diet consists mainly of rice and corn. The local flavored products are Ciba, Tuansa and preserved ham. They have their own dress style and their own folk music. It is worthy to mention that Tujia Brocade is one of the five excellent brocades in Zhangjiajie. Main cultural festivals include the Sheba Festival and Gannian Festival. The Sheba Festival is usually held during the 3rd -15th day of the first month, the 3rd day of the third month, and the 6th day of the sixth month of the lunar calendar. It is an age-old celebrated happy event of Tujia minority group. Gannian Festival is the most ceremonious happy event and it is usually held in 28th or 29th of the twelfth month of the lunar calendar. It is to celebrate the coming Chinese New Year.
The Bai are well-known as a hospitable minority group by the drinking customs of 'Three-Course Tea'. The first cup called 'the tea of light bitter' is infused by using only the material of bitter tea leaf. The second cup is called 'the sweet tea' because it adds the material of brown sugar, sesame, Walnut Seed. And the third cup called 'aftertaste tea' because it tastes bitter as well as sweet and spicy by adding the honey and a little Chinese prickly ash. If you come to the village of Bai minority group in Zhangjiajie, you can enjoy the treat. Their most special festival is the Torch Festival which is held on 25th June of the lunar calendar. On that evening every family in the village lights a torch and then all the torches are collected in the center of the village. People pray for the crops' safety in the manner of striding across the fire. In this way the festival aims to aid the destruction of vermin and therefore protect the crops.
The Miao minority group is a populated and widely distributed group throughout Chinese nation. In the area of Zhangjiajie where the Miao minority group mostly lives you can see many traditional ceremonious activities. Their special festivals include Miao Folk Song Festival and Antiphonal Singing Festival (also called Miao's Valentine's Day). The former one is celebrated on the 6th day of the sixth month of the lunar calendar in the memory of their folk heroes. And the latter one is celebrated on the 3rd day of the third month of the lunar calendar.