Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Jacob. Jacob Wonders, “How beautiful is China?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Jacob!
Do you have a list of places around the world you would like to visit during your lifetime? What does it include? The Eiffel Tower? Mt. Everest? Timbuktu? As you think about the many places your quest could take you, be sure to include China.
In addition to the Great Wall of China, you’ll want to find your way to Zhangjiajie in China’s Hunan province. From there, it’s just a short trip to visit Tianmen Mountain, home of the famous “Heaven’s Gate.”
When you glimpse the huge, gaping hole known as Tianmen Cave, you’ll understand why its nickname is Heaven’s Gate. It was a normal cave until 263 C.E. Then, one of the mountain’s huge cliffs collapsed and took the back side of the cave with it.
What’s left is now the world’s highest naturally formed arch (approximately 5,000 feet in elevation). It creates a massive opening (430 feet tall and 190 feet wide). Some think it looks like a portal to another world!
How can you reach Heaven’s Gate? There are a couple of ways. Many visitors choose the Tianmen Mountain Cableway. The world’s longest aerial tramway ride begins in Zhangjiajie and takes about 30 minutes to travel over four miles to the top of the mountain. Along the way, you’ll be treated to incredible views of sheer cliffs as the tram ascends at a steep angle of about 37 degrees.
If the line for the tram is too long, you can always take a bus. It will take you to the base of the mountain along a narrow road. And if you think that sounds boring, think again. The road features the “99 Bends.” These are 99 sharp curves that switchback up the mountain.
When the bus drops you off, you’ll have just one last obstacle before you can walk through Heaven’s Gate. It’s the “Stairway to Heaven.” We hope you’re ready for a climb! The stairway that leads to Heaven’s Gate contains 999 steps!
Once you reach the top of Tianmen Mountain, there’s more to explore. In addition to checking out Tianmenshan Temple, visitors can walk on several walkways that hug the sides of the steep cliffs.
Three of these walkways are made of glass. With names like “Coiled Dragon Cliff Glass Walkway” and “The Walk of Faith,” they’re not for the faint of heart. Can you imagine staring straight down thousands of feet as you walk on clear glass along the edge of a cliff? Many say the views are worth it, if you can muster up the courage!
Standards: NGSS.ESS1.C, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2