Houping 2004 Expedition Detailed objectives

Detailed objectives:

Houping is an 40km2 area of massively bedded limestone bearing a complicated system with at least three levels of development: an upper-level > 30m wide fossil phreas, mid-level 5-20m wide fossil phreas, and lower-level immature 2-4m wide vadose passage.

Thus far exploration in the area has focused on 2 main caves: San Wang Dong, and Er Wang Dong. San Wang is the westerly and larger of the two, comprised primarily of the upper-level extremely large fossil phreas, which has formed features such as Dancing Elephant Troupe chamber (34,052 m2) and The Old Department Store chamber (10,220 m2). In contrast, Er Wang Dong is relatively modestly sized: aside from an entrance series of upper-level phreas, most of the passage is comprised of mid-level phreas and low-level vadose. In both caves, there are literally dozens of easy, walking-sized leads which have been left open due to lack of time; we anticipate that many of these will lead to significant amounts of passage. Indeed, there are so many exciting leads in this area that it can be hard to choose which to push; we have therefore drawn up objectives largely based upon what we hope to achieve (for example, likely connections and pushes into blank spaces on the map), rather than in terms of which leads to push.


Specific high priority caving objectives are as follows:

  1. Connect San Wang Dong and Er Wang Dong
    • Combined system would be over 18km in length
  2. Ma Wan Dong
    • Huge entrance above Ma Wan Dong resurgence, reputedly contains a large streamway
    • Not yet entered by Hong Meigui
  3. Shi Wang Dong Tiankeng
    • Rumoured to connect to San Wang Dong
  4. Er Wang Dong streamway
    • Pitch down where locals report hearing sounds of a river in the rainy season
    • Hopefully this could lead to a feeder for the large resurgence at Ma Wan Dong
  5. The Deep South
    • The southern ends of both Er Wang Dong and San Wang Dong drop into lower level passages
    • This area has so far received relatively little attention
    • We'd like to push towards the resurgence
  6. The North West
    • Several sinks and dolines lie to the north west of the system
    • A number of inlets enter the system from the north west
    • We'd like to connect the sinks to the system


Houping is interesting geologically, as it contains Qing Kou Tiankeng, a textbook example of a tiankeng (very large doline) formed by erosion due to surface water (as opposed to collapse of a large underground chamber). A goal will be to map some of the high-level passages intersecting the tiankeng walls (7 in all) and map the cave at the bottom of the nearby Niu Bizi Tiankeng, to see if it intersects Qing Kou. This will be useful for Prof. Zhu Xuewen's study of tiankeng in China.


As part of an ongoing collaboration with scientist at the Kunming Institute of Zoology and Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Zoology in Beijing, we will collect biological specimens in the caves. Since the specimens will remain in China for study and identification, we have been assured that no special permits are required.