China has some of the most breathtaking natural landscapes in the world. Almost 12,000 mountains pepper its landscape, including the famous Mount Everest, whose range is divided between it and Nepal.
Many of the mountains are shrouded in religious mystery and have at one point served as beacons of pilgrimage for China’s several indigenous faiths, like Taoism.
Some are, however, harder to reach than others, with reams of paperwork needed to even get within earshot.
This is true of the Kunlun Mountain, one of the longest mountain chains in Asia, which sits in one of China’s so-called “forbidden zones”.
China’s forbidden zones and restricted areas can be found across the country and serve various purposes, including not disturbing the local ecological environment, though are shrouded in mystery.
While Kunlun Mountain is said to be included in this list, at least parts of it can be accessed by those wishing to climb it.
Extending for 1,900 miles, it would be hard for the authorities to establish a permanent no-go zone and constantly surveil it.
From the Pamirs of Tajikistan, the range runs east through southern Xinjiang to Qinghai province, stretching along the southern edge of the Tarim Basin, the Taklamakan desert, and the Gobi Desert.
It is difficult to find information on the mountain, but some Chinese websites, like INF, described parts of the range as being “heavily guarded all year round”.
The range is sacred and significant to China’s history and culture and is mentioned in some ancient Chinese texts such as the Shanhaijing (Classic of Mountains and Seas) and the Journey to the West.
In almost all the texts they are depicted as hiding some sort of secret and mythical paradise, a place where people can gain immortality.
And in Chinese mythology, the mountains are said to be the dwelling place of ancient gods and goddesses, and have as such become great sites of pilgrimages for Taoists and Buddhists. The name ‘Kunlun’ itself is thought to derive from a mythical mountain mentioned in Taoist texts.
Several important rivers flow from Kunlun — perhaps explaining why religious believers look at it as a life-giver — including the Karakash River (Black Jade River) and the Yurungkash River (White Jade River).
Given the range’s vastness and scattered restricted zones, flora and fauna thrive across the region despite the hostile desert environment.
Several wild ungulates — large mammals with hooves — call Kunlun home, including the Tibetan gazelle and Tibetan goat antelope. Wild assess and clusters and wild yaks similarly roam the steppes around the range.
In the more humid western regions, argali sheep graze, and along the upper crags, blue sheep and ibex.
There are other alleged forbidden zones around China. The Lop Nur no man’s land in Xinjiang is a geographical stone’s throwaway from Kunlun, while Qiangtang no-man’s land sits northeast of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
The remote areas of Shennongjia are also included on the list as is, Meili Snow Mountain, also known as Kawagebo Peak.