China Moves to Designate its First National Park

The landscape of Tangwanghe national park. Photo by Xu Congjun via ChinaFotoPress

Editor's note: In an effort to better understand how other countries are protecting their parklands, and to compare and contrast U.S. efforts to those from abroad, Traveler will on occasion run items from beyond U.S. borders. This story involves China's fledgling national park movement.

More than a century after the establishment of Yellowstone National Park kicked off the world-wide national parks movement, China has designated its very first "national park." The title goes to a 49,000-acre swath of granite-studded forestland in northeastern China that was heavily logged four decades ago.

In fact, the Korean, or red, pine forests around which Heilongjiang Tangwanghe national park is evolving are said to have shrunk by more than 93 percent since 1948. Still, according to China's Ministry of Environmental Protection and National Tourism Administration, "This region is home to the most intact and typical virgin Korean Pine forest in Asia, as well as more than 100 rare species of trees such as Dragon Spruce and Faber's Fir."

Additionally, the area features more than 600 identified species of plants, of which 10 are endangered, and 250 animal species, of which 40 are considered endangered.

Of course, it's not easy to reach the park. Apparently a 12-hour train ride is needed from the provincial capital of Harbin, although the Chinese have plans to build an expressway and an airport to reach the area.

Traveler trivia
: Though this is China's first officially designated "national park," the country already counts more than 2,500 nature reserves, scenic and historic areas that cover 15.2 percent of the country.

Comments

If this is truly the "first" National Park - it sounds like this really raises the question of what is a National Park. It sounds like China is interpreting a "National Park" to be a place that is oriented towards visitation in a way that does not necessarily apply to all of the US National Parks - say like Kobuk Valley National Park in the United States.

Thanks, Sabattis, for bringing up the Kobuk Valley National Park.

What a special place. Is there anything else like it? And yes, other than the Kobuk River, and the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes (that actually might not be on federal land), tourists don't usually go there. But it is a crossroads of the arctic and the subarctic, of the flyways and caribou migration routes, midway between the coastal zone and the Interior, of nearly every phase of Alaska pre-history, and a nearly complete ecological zone.