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Rock of ages

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2012-06-27 10:48

Rock of ages

La Haiqing's passion for geology inspired him to open Guide County National Geological Park, Qinghai province, in 2010.

Rock of ages

Left: Haiqing's 12-year-old son La Yufan guides visitors around Yellow River Stone Garden, which he describes as an "amusement park". Right: The garden is home to 500 rocks Haiqing has collected over the past decade. Photos by Chen Nan / China Daily

The Nuwa myth inspired La Haiqing to build a garden and park celebrating Qinghai's unique rock formations. Chen Nan reports in Guide county, Qinghai province.

Among all the Chinese myths, La Haiqing loves the story of Goddess Nuwa the most. She is said to have repaired the ceiling of heaven and, feeling lonely at the beginning of the world, created animals and humans out of clay. La, 50, says he used to enjoy watching and listening to the Yellow River, which flowed past his house in Guide county, Qinghai province. And he adds, the stones and soil under his feet have reminded him of Nuwa's story since he was a kid.

This inspired him to build Yellow River Stone Garden in the west of Guide county, in 2000. The 10-yearlong project costs nearly 40 million yuan ($6.28 million) and covers an area of 5,400 square meters, and features 500 rocks collected by La during the past decade, the biggest weighing 5 tons.

La also opened Guide County National Geological Park on June 23, 2010.

The 340,000 square meter park costs 350 million yuan and features the seven-colored Danxia landform, comprised of red sandstone and conglomerate and formed primarily by tectonic activity and water erosion.

"Isn't it a perfect place to tell the story of Nuwa," he says.

La enjoys nothing more than walking in Yellow River Stone Garden and Geological Park, despite the extremes of temperature - the afternoon heat and chills after sunset.

"I walked in the park for hours every day when construction started. I kept on thinking about the stories behind each mountain. How did they appear in this place and shape themselves?" La says.

La says one of the mountains impressed him in particular, as it has rocks that "look like arms and legs. To me, they look like leftover creations of the Goddess Nuwa when she made humans."

"Soil and rocks are the most ordinary things in the world. People ignore them because they are so common. But I want people to appreciate their power and importance."

Since it was opened to the public in 2010, more than 150,000 people have visited Guide County National Geological Park. A rock climbing competition held in the park in 2012 drew more than 80 climbers from 14 countries.

Born in Gerjia village, Guide county, La is from the Hui ethnic group and majored in Chinese history at Minzu University of China, Beijing, in the 1980s. He started his real estate business in 1994 after working as a government official for seven years.

But he never forgot his love of Chinese history and local culture and the garden and park are the realization of his dreams.

He has composed stories for each rock and mountain, along with historical information, at both the garden and park.

Rock of ages

La's 12-year-old son, La Yufan, is his biggest fan, and has listened to stories about the rocks and mountains told by his father since he was 4. He now serves as a volunteer tour guide during summer vacations.

"The two places are my amusement parks. It's easy to remember the stories because they are interesting," Yufan says. "I also have my own versions of the stories. I am writing them down and will present them to my father one day."

The La family currently lives in Qinghai's provincial capital Xining, which is a two-hour-drive away from Guide.

"I won't leave my homeland, because it gives me direction," La says. "I believe that rocks and soil are the roots of mankind. For me, who grew up drinking water from the Yellow River, this place is my root."

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