The Wuyi Mountains (Chinese: 武夷山; pinyin: Wǔyí Shān; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Bú-î-soaⁿ) are a mountain range located in the prefecture of Nanping, in the northern border of Fujian province with Jiangxi province, China. The mountains cover an area of 60 km². In 1999, Mount Wuyi entered UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites, both natural and cultural. It is the most outstanding biodiversity conservation zone of Southeast China.
The Wuyi Mountains are located between Wuyishan City, Nanping prefecture in Fujian province and Wuyishan Town, at Shangrao city in Jiangxi province. The area is connected to the road network by provincial road number S303. The world heritage site has an area of 999.75 square kilometres within an additional buffer zone of 278.88 km².
Numerous types of tea are produced around Mount Wuyi; it is the origin of the real Da Hong Pao tea and Lapsang souchong, further described in Wuyi tea.
The region is part of the Cathayshan fold system and has experienced high volcanic activity and the formation of large fault structures, which were subsequently subject to erosion by water and weathering. The landscape is characterized by winding river valleys flanked by columnar or dome-shaped cliffs as well as cave systems. Peaks in the western portion of the Wuyi Mountains typically consist of volcanic or plutonic rocks, whereas peaks and hills in the eastern area are made up of red sandstone with very steep slopes but flat tops. The Nine-bend River (Jiuqu Xi), about 60 kilometers in length, meanders in a deep gorge among these hills. The highest peak in the area is Mount Huanggang at 2,158 meters, making it the highest point of Fujian, the lowest altitudes are around 200 meters.
The Wuyi Mountains act as a protective barrier against the inflow of cold air from the northwest and retain warm moist air originating from the sea. As a result, the area has a humid climate (humidity 80 to 85%) with high rainfall (annual average 2,200 millimeters in the south-west and 3,200 millimeters in the north) and common fogs. Lower altitudes experience annual temperatures in the range from 12 to 18 °C.
The area is relatively pollution free. The Chinese government set up its first air quality monitoring station in the area on January 31, 2005. That explains the haze that can be seen in the accompanying photographs.
The Wuyi Mountains are the largest and most representative example of Chinese subtropical forests and South Chinese rainforests' biodiversity. Its ecology has survived from before the Ice Age around 3 million years ago. Biologists have been conducting field research in the area since 1873.
The vegetation of the area depends strongly on altitude. It is divided into 11 broad categories: 1) temperate coniferous forest, 2) warm coniferous forest, 3) temperate broad-leaved and coniferous mixed forest, 4) deciduous and broad-leaved forest, 5) evergreen broad-leaved and deciduous mixed forest, 6) evergreen broad-leaved forest, 7) bamboo forest, 8) deciduous broad-leaved shrub forest, 9) evergreen broad-leaved shrub forest, 10) brush-wood, and 11) meadow steppe. Most common are evergreen broad-leaved forests, some of which make up the largest remaining tracts of humid sub-tropical forests in the world. Higher plants from 284 families, 1,107 genera and 2,888 species as well as 840 species of lower plant and fungus have been reported for the region. The most common tree families are Beech Fagaceae, Laurel (Lauraceae), Camellia (Theaceae), Magnolia (Magnoliaceae), Elaeocarpaceae, and Witchhazel Hamamelidaceae.
The fauna of the Wuyi Mountains is renowned for its high diversity, which includes many rare and unusual species. In total, approximately 5,000 animal species have been reported for the area. 475 of these species are vertebrates and 4,635 insects. The number of vertebrate species is divided as follows:
mammals 23 71
birds 47 256
reptiles 13 73
amphibian 10 35
fish 12 40
49 vertebrate species are endemic to China and 3 are endemic to the Wuyi Mountains. The latter are the bird David's Parrotbill (Paradoxornis davidianus), Pope’s Spiny Toad (Vibrissaphora liui), and the Bamboo Snake Pseudoxenodon karlschmidti (family Colubridae). Other known endangered species in the area include: South Chinese Tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis), Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), Leopard (Panthera pardus), Hairy-fronted Muntjac (Muntiacus crinifrons), Mainland Serow (Capricornis sumatraensis - a goat antelope), Cabot's Tragopan (Tragopan caboti), Chinese Black-backed Pheasant (Syrmaticus ellioti), Chinese Giant Salamander (Andrias davidianus), and the Golden Kaiserihind (Teinopalpus aureus - a Swallowtail Butterfly).
Human settlement on the slopes of Mount Wuyi can be traced back 4,000 years by archeological remains. During the Western Han Dynasty, the ancient city of Chengcun was the capital of the Minyue kingdom. In the 7th century, the Wuyi Palace was built for emperors to conduct sacrificial activities, a site that tourists can still visit today. The mountains were an important center of Taoism and later Buddhism. Remains of 35 academies erected from the era of the Northern Song to the Qin Dynasty and more than 60 Taoist temples and monasteries have been located. However, most of these remains are very incomplete. Some of the exceptions for which authentic remains are preserved are the Taoyuan Temple, the Wannian Palace, the Sanqing Hall, the Tiancheng Temple, the Baiyun temple, and the Tianxin temple. The area is the cradle of Neo-Confucianism, a current that became very influential since the 11th century.
The number of visitors to the area has increased from approximately 424,000 in 1993 to 700,000 in 1998. A raft trip down the Nine-bend River is the most popular activity followed by a visit to the "Thread of Sky" caves, where the narrowest walkway is only 30 cm. Visitor access to the biodiversity protection area is controlled.