Hidden deep in the Greater Hinggan Mountains, about 74 km (50 miles) to the northeast of Arshan, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the Arshan Tianchi (Heavenly Pool) is found at an elevation of 1,332 meters (1,457 yards) above sea level, with 484 stairs leading to it. It is the third highest lake of its kind, following the one in the Tianshan Mountains in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and another one on the Changbai Mountain in Jilin Province.
The Arshan Heavenly Pond covers a total area of 13.5 hectares (about 33.4 acres) and is about 1,500 meters (1,640 yards) in circumference. Formed during a volcanic eruption 2 million years ago, its depth is still hard to measure today. Seen from the air, the lake looks like a drop of water among the luxuriant greenness of the Greater Hinggan Mountains.
A lot of things about the Arshan Heavenly Pond remains mysterious. Firstly, it never dries up even during a serious drought disaster, nor overflows in raining days, its water level remaining the same in the past years. Secondly, the water keeps clean all year round. No river joins the lake, nor does any stream flow out of it. Thirdly, no fish swims here though other lakes in the same area abounds in fishes. Someone once put some fries in, but later harvested neither bigger fish nor dead ones. What’s more, the pond is fathomless. Somebody tried to measure its depth by throwing in a heavy article tied on a rope, but failed. While some people say that the lake is connected with the core of the earth, others add that it is connected with the Great Lakes in Chicago of the United States on the other side.
Recently, six more such lakes have been found in its surrounding area. Some of them are in the shape of a big foot, some are egg-shaped, and others look like mirrors. Together, the seven lakes attract people as a great wonder.
Legends about the Heavenly Pond are also wonderful. One of them goes like this: Long, long ago, a Mongolian hunter named Angezheng often hunted in the mountain. One day, he found a hungry wolf was dashing towards a girl. So he put up his bow and shot the wolf. The girl said nothing but presented him an arrow and disappeared in the forest. It turned out that the girl was a fairy who, together with her sisters, often bathed and did her make-up in the Heavenly Pond. She fell in love with Angezheng since he was such a strong, handsome and kind-hearted young man. The arrow she gave him was actually a magical arrow.
With the magical arrow, Angezheng could always hit his target whatever he shot. He captured only a few games a day though, because he hated to be harmful to the animals. Sometimes he sent his preys to the poor. However, his arrow was known by a greedy local ruler, who managed to take the arrow and push Angezheng down from the Tianchi Mountain.
The next day, when the ruler came to the mountain with the arrow, he found a white rabbit and shot it dead. When he went over to pick up the rabbit, however, he got nothing but had his own body smashed to pieces. The rabbit turned into the fairy saved by Angezheng. The young hunter and the fairy held their wedding by the lakeside. It turned out that when Angezheng fell from the mountain, he was caught by the fairy sisters.
What’s more interesting is that there’s a Dichi (Earthly Pond) about 84 km (52 miles) to the northeast of Arshan, echoing distantly with the Heavenly Pond. It was formed at the crater of a volcano which erupted 1.64 million years ago. The water level of the Earthly Pond is over 10 meters (11 yards) above the ground, making the lake famous.
(china.org.cn translated by Li Jinhui October 31, 2002)