, Heaven's Gate Mountain
) is an incredible cave natural arch
eroded through a karst syncline
. And yes, someone had the bright idea to fly stunt planes though it - an opening only 30m high, 70m deep, and 30m wide - it's a great video
, though.Tianmen Shan
may be unique among the world's great arches
(view from the back) in that its formation is recorded in history. Documents from China's "Three Kingdoms
" period report that the entire opening formed in one cataclysmic event when the back of a huge cave collapsed in 263 AD. As a result, the name of the mountain was changed from Songliang Shan (嵩梁山) to Tianmen Shan by the emperor of that period, Emperor Wujing
. Thus, Tianmen Shan is also one of the very few natural arches with a precisely known age.
To get there
, you drive up Tongtian Avenue
(Avenue toward Heaven), which has 99 turns
, symbolizing that Heaven has nine palaces.
Then you take the Tianan stairs (also known as Tianti, or the Celestial/Heaven Reaching Ladder), all 999
steps - and there's no platforms for stopping
Alternatively, you can take the cable car
(if you're at all afraid of heights, don't click on this pic) straight from the city - which they claim is the longest cableway in the world with a distance of 7455 meters and a height gap of 1279 meters.
itself is quite famous, being the subject of a poem by Li Bai
, 'Viewing Tianmen Mountain from a Great Distance.'
Should you want to go, it's located about 8 km south of the city of Zhangjiajie
(formerly Dayong) in northern Hunan Province, China.