A sinkhole nestled in the depth of mountains in Fengjie county, Chongqing, remained unknown to the outside world until a group of British explorers from the Royal Geographical Society stumbled across it in 1994. Its fame has been spreading all over the world ever since.
Acclaimed as a wonderland in Southwest China, it's called Tian-keng Difeng by locals-literally "the sky hole and earth cave".
Located at one of the Three Gorges, Qutang Gorge, the site is a fine example of how nature works its magic to create a fantastic landscape.
The "sky hole", one of the world's deepest of its kind, is more than 600 metres deep with vertical walls. Its opening is about 600 meters long and 500 meters wide.
China National Geography, one of the country's top travel magazines, depicts the sinkhole as a hidden paradise filled with peach blossoms in the spring, like a utopia described by Chinese ancient poet Tao Yuanming (AD 365-427).
We were fortunate to explore this paradise in the spring-the best time.
The sinkhole and its crust are located in Xiaozhai village on Qiyao Mountain. Our car departed from the town centre of Fengjie county in early morning and travelled through the heavy fog.
The county is located on hills, which challenges new drivers' nerves. Our car went up and down for about 15 minutes and passed across a bridge over the Yangtze River. Suddenly the mountain appeared in front of us. Orange trees are planted on both sides of the road, and their fragrance combined with the fog to provide a mysterious prelude to our trip.
After an hour of climbing along the Jiupan River, we finally arrived.
The wall of the sinkhole forms a nearly 90-degree angle, as if the mountain had been cut by a cake knife.
"The rocks inside the sinkhole have been dissolved and carried away by the river. Water is stronger than rocks here. In autumn when leaves turn red, the mountain and the sinkhole look like a colorful painting," says Ran Wei, a tour guide.
The sinkhole is a nested double structure-the upper bowl is 320 metres deep and the lower bowl is 342 metres deep.
Staring down the hole from above, we saw mostly green. But as we looked carefully, it was easy to spot some pink-the peach blossoms.