Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Geology of a mountain in China (Emei Shan) ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Geology of a mountain in China (Emei Shan)
Category: Science > Earth Sciences
Asked by: olle-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 08 Jan 2003 08:21 PST
Expires: 07 Feb 2003 08:21 PST
Question ID: 139264
description of the geology of the mountain "Emei Shan" in China
including maps and/or satellite images. I'm especially interested in
caves and karst / Limestone

Request for Question Clarification by kutsavi-ga on 08 Jan 2003 14:48 PST
Hi Olle,
I've spent several hours researching your question, but have not
really found much of specific geologic importance to Emei Shan.  This
may be due at least in part to restrictions on information imposed by
the Chinese government.  I was able to find several maps, atlases and
reports that are available for purchase specifically on Chinese karst
and carbonate geology, along with quite a few reports available online
that deal specifically with the volcanic geology of Emei Shan.  I also
found a nice atlas of Chinese caves that is reccomended.  Would these
sources be acceptable as an answer for you?  If so, please let me know
and I will post my findings.


Clarification of Question by olle-ga on 09 Jan 2003 05:04 PST
Hi Kutsavi,

sorry for my brief question, I was under the impression that this
process is semi-automated and would confuse the search engine.

I have quite a number of sources regarding karst and caves in China
but none relate to Emei Shan. I was (maybe mistakenly) under the
impression that this mountain consists at least in parts of limestone
and I need to verify this. The long term plan is to explore the
potentials of undertaking a cave exploring expedition to this region
and for this it is vital to know more of the geology. I did find
numerous references about "Emei Basalt" and other volcanic rocks there
but none regarding limestone deposits and their depth. There are
documented caves on Emei Shan but I have no idea whether they are
Karst caves, Lava tubes or simply fissures. All web resources I've
found so far describe only the importance or the art and/or
archaeological finds discovered there.

I've also found geologic maps but they were mostly at a scale too
large for my research. I would need maps at about 1:5000 scale or more

I would be satisfied if the answer is conclusive negative like "there
are no limestone layers on Emei Shan". This would put my mind to rest
and I could search other regions in China.

I would be very grateful if you could help me on that matter.

Kind regards, Oliver

Clarification of Question by olle-ga on 09 Jan 2003 05:05 PST

sorry, the mapscale should read 1:50,000. I realised it about one
milisecond after hitting the "send" button

Regards, Oliver

Request for Question Clarification by kutsavi-ga on 09 Jan 2003 06:31 PST
Greetings Oliver, 

It sounds like I went over much the same ground as you have in my
research; I found maps that had scales in the millions, also.  Nothing

You said, though that you would be satisfied with a negative on the
limestone layer.  The opposite seems more likely.  There is an older,
late Permian carbonate unit, the Maokou Formation, associated with the
Emeishan Basalts.  I found these references yesterday:

Age of the Emeishan Flood Magmatism and Relations to Permian Triassic
Boundary Events

Speaking of the flood basalts and related ash layers, "Given the fact
that the Emeishan Traps were emplaced around the continental margin
underlain by a thick limestone formation, the vast eruption in a
'marine' environment is proposed to have played a key role in
triggering the profound biogeochemical changes across the P-T

And also:

"The Emeishan Traps, which were emplaced in the western margin of the
South China Block where thick piles of marine limestone (the Maokou
Formation) formed in association with a continental breakup,
therefore, may serve as an appropriate trigger..."

And from:
40Ar/39Ar geochronological constraints on the age and evolution of the
Permo-Triassic Emeishan Volcanic Province, Southwest China

"On the Yangzi Platform Emeishan basalt overlies the Late Permian
Maokou Limestone Formation, corresponding to the Capitanian/Kazanian
chronostratigraphic stage (Chung et al., 1998) or the Kungurian to
Capitanian stages (Ma et al., 1993). The basaltic-andesitic sequence
occurring in the eastern part of the Qiangtang Terrane of uncertain
(Late Triassic or Permian) age (Wang and Burchfiel, 2000) overlies
limestone beds which have been correlated with the Maokou limestone
(Chung et al., 1998)."

Unfortunately, neither of these reports addresses Mount Emei, AKA Emei
Shan, AKA Emeishan...directly.

A good friend of mine publishes Caver's Digest, and I have written him
asking for any info on Emeishan that he might have.  If I receive
specifics from him on caves within Mt. Emei, I will post that as an
answer if that would be acceptable.  Otherwise, would the "positive"
result afford you the answer you're looking for? ;-)


Clarification of Question by olle-ga on 22 Jan 2003 09:01 PST
Hi Kutsavi,

sorry for my late answer, I was a few days out of town. I've read your
answer below and the two links you've posted. The area described there
is unfortunately very large. The useful bit was that the top of Mt
Emei is Basalt. I still hope that there might be some karst on this
mountain... It seems that there is very little information out there
for the mountain itself and I think we can close this topic. I would
be satisfied with the answers you gave me provided you could ask your
caving friend whether he heard anything about karst in on Mt. Emei
(positive or negative) and if you could point me to sources where I
could find inexpensive satellite images to purchase. These images
should be at about 5 to 10 meters per pixel and can be old (up to five
years). Sorry for posing such a difficult question but that what
Google search is for :-)

Thanks for all your efforts and sorry again for dropping
communications for such a long time

Regards, Oliver
Subject: Re: Geology of a mountain in China (Emei Shan)
Answered By: kutsavi-ga on 23 Jan 2003 12:46 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi Oliver, 

Thanks for getting back in touch.  You wrote:

>The useful bit was that the top of Mt
>Emei is Basalt. I still hope that there might be some karst on this

I agree that this is significant because the basalt occurs *above* the
older late Permian Moukou carbonate layer, which is of course
limestone.  Granted the mere presence of limestone doesn't necessarily
mean there will be karst action, but at least you know that there is a
significant layer of carbonate material on the mountain, and the
Moukou is known for karst formations in other regions.

My hunch is that there is a thick limestone bed under the basalt cap,
and that there might well be some karst activity there.  My questions
revolve around why, if there were a cave system under the mountain,
has it not been exploited by now, given the extent to which the rest
of the mountain has been developed: eg. the trail and steps to the
top, the tram service and cable car, food and souvenir/curio vendors
along the trail, etc.  Those, along with what sounds to be a fairly
large city at the foot of the mountain, seem to speak more of the
absence of caves than otherwise, but who knows.

Here is what I was able to come up with regarding your last requests:

After two weeks, no word from the subscribers to Caver's Digest about
any caves, karst examples or exploration of Emeishan.  There are close
to 200 subscribers to the digest, and none had any information to pass
along.  They might be a good group for you to get a hold of, however,
if you wind up making the trek to China.  Here is the website with
subscription info:

As far as high resolution images of the area, I was unable to find any
that were readily available on the internet.  However, I called
Digital Globe, probably the most widely known supplier of digital
satellite imagery:
(800)496-1225, web address:

I spoke with Adam, and he ran some numbers by me that were pretty
surprising.  They can make a pass over any area of the Earth you want,
(it must be a minimum of 64 square miles), and they will return
imagery at 60 CM/Pixel...that's 60 centimeters per pixel, for $1300
US.  Wow!  Adam said that they can convert that to any scale you want,
but that's the base scale.  I had thought that the cost would be much
higher, as well.  I realize it's not all that inexpensive, but your
own private satellite pass over China would seem worth it to me.

I hope this supplies the information you are looking for.  If I can
help you order imagery from Digital Globe, please don't hesitate to
contact me here.  They don't have an international toll-free number,
and I'm inferring that you're in the UK.  Just use the Request
Clarification button for that, or if I've missed anything.

(I had already written up an inclusive answer that contains a lot of
links that aren't mentioned in our correspondence above, so I've
appended it below.)



Emei shan geology
Karst geology emei shan
Karst geology china 
Limestone geology china
Limestone geology emei shan 
Limestone geology sichuan
Geology emieshan
Limestone emieshan 
Karst emieshan
Karst geology Sichuan
Geology Sichuan
Aerial photography china
Satellite imagery china
Remote imagery china
cave geology emeishan
caves emeishan
cave emei shan

It looks as though if you need general geology reports on the Emei
Shan region, you will be reading through a lot of information on flood
basalts that occurred in the area  at the Permian / Triassic juncture.
   Because of the significance of volcanism to the mass extinction of
species on Earth at that time, there  are quite a few related reports 
available online, and I've included most of them below.   Information
on karst geology for that region specifically  is a little hard to
come by in online sources.   However, I found a source for very good,
if slightly expensive geologic maps and reports on the region which
should show good detail and provide you with all the information
you're looking for.  Also, I made a concentrated effort to find
satellite imagery of the area but had almost  no luck.  The US
Geologic Survey's web site, ( ),  is not
functioning today, and this probably posed more problems than I'm
aware of.  Aerial photographs were not found.  I found some satellite
information at the following site, but nothing specific to Emei Shan:

US Dept. Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service

Geologic maps and information on karst/carbonate geology of China:
(There are several other maps on the geology of China available at
this site, but they didn't sound as though they would address your

China--Karst Environment Geological Map of China. 1:5,000,000.
Geological Publishing House, Beijing, 1997. One sheet, folded, with
43-page descriptive text booklet. Completely in English.

China--Map of Soluble Rock Types in China. 1:4,000,000. 1985. CPH. The
map shows the location, age, structure, and gross composition of
carbonate units in China. The map and legend are bilingual; the
50-page text is in Chinese.  An English translation of the text
accompanies the map. 160 x 112 cm.
Set, folded   $39.95

China--Underground Worlds. Guizhou People's Publ. House. 1987? This
atlas is clearly aimed at the tourist market. There are 127 pages of
full-color photographs showing a wide variety of features of Chinese
caves. The high quality printing includes high-gloss paper and a
decent binding. We recommend this book highly. In English, softcover.
Atlas   $32.95

The National Physical Atlas of China. 
China Cartographic Publishing House, 1999. 1st edition, 1st printing.
Compiled and edited by the Institute of Geography, Chinese Academy of
Sciences. This is an excellent summary atlas of China, made even more
attractive by its being in English. The following themes are covered:
Geology/Geophysics, Geomorphology, climate, Hydrology, Soils, Biology,
Oceans, Natural Resources, Natural Disasters, and Natural Utilization
and Conservation. Hardbound, 230 pp., 20" x 14". ISBN 7-5031-2040-1.
In English.

China--Geologic Map. 1:4,000,000. 1991. Geological Publishing House.
This English-language map is an excellent summary map.
Set, folded  $100.00

China--Geologic Atlas of China - An Application of the Tectonic Facies
Concept to the Geology of China. K.J. Hsu, 1999. This atlas contains
25 foldout plates; 23 plates on geology and 2 general plates
(political map and geologic map). Nearly 260 pages of text describe
the theory behind the geologic plates. Size is 22 x 30 cm, cloth
China Geologic Atlas.  $249.95

I searched on < >, (Advanced Book Exchange; a
site connecting used book sellers from across the country), and < >, but was unable to find any of these
titles for less than the prices quoted above.

I also tried looking through the online map library at Humboldt State
University in California, knowing that HSU has a large Geology
department, but could find none of these specific titles.  If you have
a university nearby, however, this might be another avenue to use in
finding the titles.


Here are a few reports that deal with the flood basalts of the Emei
Shan province:

Nice 10 page report on geology of Emei Shan:
Age of the Emeishan Flood Magmatism and Relations to Permian Triassic
Boundary Events

Here is  an overview in MS Word format:
40Ar/39Ar geochronological constraints on the age and evolution of the
Permo-Triassic Emeishan Volcanic Province, Southwest China 

Lots of information on Chinese karst geology and ecology, but nothing
specific on Emei Shan:
Guidebook for Ecosystems of Semiarid Karst in North China and
Subtropical Karst in Southwest China

Here is a report that I wasn't able to find online, but sounds as
though it may be interesting as far as fossil assemblages in the
Sichuan Province  limestones are concerned:
Chen Junyuan & Lindström, M. 1991. A Lower Cambrian soft-bodied fauna
from Chengjiang, Yunnan, China. - In: Early Life. Proceedings of a
Geological Society Symposium in Stockholm, March 22-23, 1990. Geol.
Fören. Stockholm Förhandl., 113: 79-81. Chen Menge 1982. [The new
knowledge of the fossil assemblages from Maidiping section, Emei
County, Sichuan with reference to the Sinian-Cambrian boundary]. -
Scient. Geol. Sin., 1982: 253-262.

Another report unavailable on line, but with reference to related
rocks in the Emei structure:
 Zeng, Zhengwen  1984: “Experimental Investigation of Texture
Influences on the Failure Mode of Emei Mountain Basalts,” BS Thesis,
Southwest Jiaotong University, China.

You will want to check into the Institute of Karst Geology, under the
Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences.  Presently, their web site is
down, however you can view it here:

Or here:

An interesting comparison of carbonate rocks in China and Nevada:

Another report on related geology:
Ma, X., M.W. McElhinny, B.J.J. Embleton, and Z. Zhang, Permo-Triassic
palaeomagnetism in the Emei Mountain region, southwest China,
Geophysical Journal International, 114, 293-303, 1993a.  This report
is probably only able to be found in libraries, as the online archives
only go back to 1998, however, you can buy a subscription to this
journal or purchase individual articles online from this page:


The Maokou Formation overlies limestone/carbonate rocks in all the
regions mentioned in this quote.  I believe that Mt. Emei lies within
the Qiangtang Terrane:

“On the Yangzi Platform Emeishan basalt overlies the Late Permian
Maokou Limestone Formation, corresponding to the Capitanian/Kazanian
chronostratigraphic stage (Chung et al., 1998) or the Kungurian to
Capitanian stages (Ma et al., 1993). The basaltic-andesitic sequence
occurring in the eastern part of the Qiangtang Terrane of uncertain
(Late Triassic or Permian) age (Wang and Burchfiel, 2000) overlies
limestone beds which have been correlated with the Maokou limestone
(Chung et al., 1998). In the Songpan-Ganzi terrane the basaltic
succession overlies Late Permian carbonate formations.”

I couldn’t find thickness information on the Maokou for Sichuan
Province, but came across this for the Hunan and Yunan areas:

Field Camp 2001: Exploring the Human and Physical Diversity of Yunnan,
(The Kong Kong British University site was not accessible, so I used
Google’s cached HTML version:

“The main strata in the Stone Forest area are comprised of carbonate
rocks of the Qixia Formation and Maokou Formations of Lower Permian
age. These units average 505 m thick and consist of shallow sea
platform sediments…”

Another good report concerning karst and the Maokou Formation is here:

Karst Geology, Geomorphology and Ecosystems of Shilin, Yunnan


A reference to Emei caves from a tourist site:
“Emei means in Chinese 'the eyebrows of Buddha'. One says you can see
the 'halo of Buddha' in the clouds when standing on the top and the
light is dim enough. Along the way to the summit (many many steep
stairs) there are macaw monkeys, which will grab everything and can be
quite agressive. There are different monasteries, temples, sacred
caves, ... and tea houses(!) on the mountain –“)
(Ellipsis as quoted from page.)

And from yet another tourist site:
“Recently, Emei Shan has become famous for a gang of three deformed
monkeys, fugitives from justice, who have taken to waylaying and
mugging honest travellers. The three, one of whom has a hare-lip,
another only one eye and the third only three fingers on one hand,
live in caves on the slopes of the mountain near the Elephant Bathing
Pool Temple.”

And another:
“Emei Shan - one of China's five sacred Buddhist mountains: its
limestone crags give shelter to merchants offering herbs gathered from
the mountain.”

From an interesting paper titled Buddhist Nunneries on Mt. Emei:
“Mt.Emei is famed for its miraculous power, wondrous beauty, and rich
cultural and religious heritage. Before the arrival of Buddhism in
China in the first century, there were Taoist practitioners living on
Mt. Emei. These Taoist practitioners dwelled in caves or hermitages
that were believed to be based on strong energy fields. The Taoists
worship Mt.Emei as a sacred site where the legendary Taoist master Lu
Chunyan has achieved immortality. The Taoist tradition honors Mt.Emei
as "the Seventh Cave Heaven" among the thirty-six Cave Heavens located
in various regions throughout China.”

I get the impression that Emeishan is quite the tourist destination.  
There are food and gift kiosks on the mountain, a staircase that goes
to the top, and a bus and cable car system that also take people up to
the top.  It would seem that any significant cave system would have
been discovered and exploited by now, but who knows.  I guess that’s
why you want to explore the possibilities, right?

Clarification of Answer by kutsavi-ga on 28 Jan 2003 13:31 PST
Hey there Oliver, 

Thanks so much for the stars and tip!!  Both are MUCH appreciated. 
Personal contact is a no-no here at Google Answers, but I'd love to
hear about your trip and of course the offer to contact Digital Globe
is always good.  You can reach me either by requesting a clarification
to this question, or, if this question is no longer online, by
initiating a new question and making it "For Kutsavi re. Emei Shan",
or something similar.  Good luck with the expedition and I'll be
looking forward to hearing your findings.  Happy New Year!!

olle-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00
Dear Kutsavi,

thank you very much for your answer. I know this was a difficult
question but you made a great effort and provided a lot of leads and
good insight. I will go to Emei Shan in April; I can send you e-mail
about that trip if you like. Thanks also for offering to contact the
remote sensing company for me. I'll most likely wait with getting into
detailed images until I've returned but I might get back to you. How
can I reach you? Through this forum or by private mail? By the way, I
am in Hong Kong; It's not too far from Emei Shan. Thanks again and
happy new year (The Chinese New Year starts this year on January 31)!

Regards, Oliver

There are no comments at this time.

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy