Professor Zhu Xuewen 1933-2023


Well-known member
Obituary Professor Zhu Xuewen 1933-2023 - by Andy Eavis

I am very sad to report that Professor Zhu Xuewen passed away at 8.45 am on January 21st 2023.

He was 91 years old. In many ways Prof. Zhu could be considered as the modern father of Chinese Speleology.

I first met him in 1982 when Tony Waltham and I were on a tourist trip to Guilin after that meeting he helped organise the first major foreign caving expedition to China led by Tony and myself in 1985. Then he worked with us in a very hands on, dedicated and helpful capacity for the next 20 or so expeditions for 40 years.

His background was geology and hydrogeology, being involved with very spectacular civil engineering projects in China including the Chengdu Kunming railway which is 30% underground with huge cave passages being intersected in the limestone towers that the railway passes through.

In 1977 he moved to the institute of Karst Geology as Deputy Director and had a spell as Deputy Secretary General of the China National Committee of Hydrogeology, then as Chairman of the Cave Professional Committee of the Geological society of China.

He retired from active work in 2002 but has remained involved with karst and caving expeditions right up to his death. Helping many Chinese and foreign groups explore the huge and wonderful caves of China.

He was responsible for classification of cave deposits and also proposed theories on the evolution of peak forests and peak clusters.

He was particularly well known for promoting the word Tiankeng and indeed theories for their evolution.

On his retirement he also moved into the development of tourist caves and the protection of karst areas and was instrumental at helping local people maximise their income from their natural local resources, he was quoted as “developing a cave and invigorating a county”.

His death is a great loss to Speleology, a great loss to caves and karst not only in China but also around the world. I personally will miss him enormously, a wonderful knowledge, wit, nice thinking international Chinese Professor.

The caving world sends condolences to his wife Dr.Chai and his two daughters and their families.

Andy Eavis


Active member
Very sad; what a humorous and polite gentleman he was.

And an excellent ballroom dancer, if I recall.