Mount Qingcheng And The Dujiangyan Irrigation System | Kidadl


Mount Qingcheng And The Dujiangyan Irrigation System

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Dujiangyan is a World Heritage Site, situated on the northwest side of the Chengdu plains.

The irrigation system was unique for its time and controls the water that flows into the Minjiang river. This water is properly distributed to the farmers in the Chengdu plains.

Furthermore, there are many ancient Chinese temples and historical sites in the area. Visitors can learn a lot about the Tang dynasty from Dujiangyan city.


China contains many mountain peaks and rivers, which caused concerns about the intense rain and flooding in rivers, such as Minjiang river and Min river. So, Dujiangyan irrigation system was built, after a lot of surveys and planning, to solve this problem.

Annual floods afflicted residents near the banks of Minjiang river every year. Li Bing, the governor of Qin, examined the issue. He noticed that the water was in full flow down the river. This was molten water in the spring season. The snow on the mountains was melting but the river below was laden with silt. The banks were slashed with a huge amount of water, creating a flood, so a solution for this flood control was to build a dam.

It was not that easy to make a dam. The route had to be kept open for the military movement in the region for supplies, so Li Bing suggested an artificial levee. A small part of the river was to be cut and redirected through the region of Yulei mountain. This water would then flow to the Chengdu plain, where the water was needed for irrigation purposes.

100,000 silver teals were sanctioned for this project by King Zhao, ruler of Qin. The levee had been constructed using woven bamboo baskets filled with stones and kept in position by wooden tripods, lengthy constructions in the shape of sausages. The entire project ended up looking like a fish mouth. The total time of completion was eight years.

The diversion of the channel was a tedious task. The rocks beneath the local mountains were hard rocks, so building this structure was a much more difficult task than previously thought. They used hot and cold treatment to crack open the rocks, and finally, a channel was successfully made through the mountain. The system was a marvelous project, as there were no floods after its completion. Also, the land of Sichuan became fertile and agriculture flourished. Ancient temples were constructed on the east side in honor of Li Bing.

The construction of this dam changed the lives of the people of the area. They were now at peace and had no fear of floods. As there was a bloom in harvest, they were never hungry and had plenty of time to rest and enjoy life, so the attitude of the residents changed and they became more relaxed.

Not many people know that the original dam under the Dujiangyan irrigation system was badly destroyed. When an earthquake hit in 1933, known as the Diexi earthquake, the dam could end up badly damaged. Later, Zhang Yuan and his son, Zhang Shiling, reconstructed the dam.

Finally, in 2000, the dam was included on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. The dam is a highly visited tourist spot in Sichuan. In 2008, another massive earthquake occurred. There were rumors of the dam and the diversion being damaged, but there were only minor cracks and the water still flows through Mount Qingcheng.

Irrigation System

The Dujiangyan irrigation system is marvelous water management and technical development milestone for the whole world.

The Dujiangyan irrigation system was built initially in 256 BC, but still works well. The original design was by Li Bing, and there have been later modifications and maintenance by the Tang, Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasties. At the intersection of the Sichuan basin and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the dam is located in the western half of the Chengdu flatlands.

There are two parts to the project. One is the Weir Works, at an altitude of 726 m (2382 ft), the highest point in the Chengdu region. It solves water-diversion concerns by utilizing natural topography and hydrological factors, working without dam construction for irrigation, sediment drainage, flood control, and flow control.

Three essential components of the Weir Works manage the flow of water from the upper valley of the Minjiang River. They are the Yuzui Bypass Dike, the Feishayan Floodgate, and the Baopingkou Diversion Passage. The Baizhang Dike, the Erwang Temple Watercourse, and the V-Shaped Dike are among the constructions that have supplementary embankments and watercourses. This maintains a consistent flow of water to the Chengdu Plain, and the system has been critical in flood management. It is also used for agriculture, transporting water, and ordinary water use.

This is the earliest irrigation system to have been constructed in China and is still being used. The Temple of the Two Kings, the Bridge of Peaceful Waves, the Temple of the Hidden Dragon, and Li Mounds are among the cultural relics in the area.

The irrigation system is made up of three major components, that work together to prevent floods and water the farms. The first part is the fish mouth, also called Yuzui in the local language. The important component of the architecture is its conical head, which is supposed to resemble a fish's mouth. It is essentially a man-made levee that splits the river into inner and outer streams.

The inner stream is designed to be thin and deep, while the outer stream is designed to be shallow and wide. The inner stream takes about 60% of the water supply and the rest is sent through the outer stream for irrigation. When there is a possibility of floods, the ratio is reversed, so the inner stream gets only 40% of the water. The outer stream also works to clear the silt and sediments.

The Feishayan, also known as the Flying Sand Weir, is a 200 m (660 ft) aperture that joins the inner and outer streams. This prevents floods by enabling the river's natural swirling movement to discharge surplus water again, from the inner towards the outer stream. The swirl also removes silt and debris that did not make it to the outer stream the first time. The ancient heavy baskets made of bamboo that were originally used, have been replaced by a contemporary reinforced concrete weir.

The system concludes with the Baopingkou or Bottle-Neck Channel. It has been carved through Mount Qingcheng. The channel transports water to farmlands on the Chengdu plain. The tiny entry acts as a check gate, causing the whirlpool to flow. It transports surplus water over the Flying Sand Fence, minimizing floods.

Anlan, also known as Couple's Bridge, spans the whole width of the river, linking the artificial reef to both sides. It is considered one of China's five ancient bridges. The original Zhupu Bridge design only crossed the inner stream that connected the dam to the bottom of Mount Yulei. This was later replaced by Pingshi Bridge during the Song Dynasty, but was destroyed during the conflicts that brought the Ming Dynasty to an end.

It is said that in the Qing Dynasty, a local person called He Xiande and his wife advocated the construction of a new bridge. It was constructed of wooden plates with bamboo railings to cross both streams, and it was dubbed Couple's Bridge to honor them.


China has many World Heritage Sites, displaying Chinese culture in all corners of the country. The famous Mount Qingcheng is also such a place, where there are temples, dams, and a spiritual center to witness.

On the mountain, large stone carvings by Huang Yunhu are noticeable. Huang Yunhu belonged to the Qing Dynasty. A 2.9 m (9.5 ft) tall sculpture of Li Bing was erected 1,800 years ago. The first alto rilievo stone artwork in Chinese history, it is presently on exhibit at a mountain hall after being excavated from a riverbank in 1974. Inscriptions documenting water management procedures, Qing Dynasty maps of Dujiangyan, and testimonies to Li Bing and his offspring are also on display. Several notable modern artists, such as Guan Shanyue, Xu Beihong, and Zhang Daqian, have valuable art pieces in the exhibit.


Taoism in China was established on Qingcheng Mountain. There are numerous temples on Mount Qingcheng and in the surrounding area, with many examples of Taoist culture.

There are over 20 shrines and religious locations for Taoism, and the structures show the architecture of the Sichuan style. It is well-known for being the site where, in 142, the philosopher Zhang Ling established the concept of Chinese Taoism. During the Jin and Tang dynasties, several temples exhibiting Taoist culture were erected at the peak. There are 11 significant Taoist temples, such as Two Kings and the Temple of the Hidden Dragon, where Zhang Ling presented his teachings, showcasing western Sichuan's traditional architecture.

The Two Kings temple is located on the riverbank at the base of Yulei Mountain. The initial Wangdi temple was constructed to honor an ancient Shu king, called Erwang Temple.

Except for the lack of a north-south axis, the Qing Dynasty timber structure adheres to the conventional norm of temple architecture. The main hall also houses a contemporary monument of Li Bing, which leads into a courtyard with an opera stage in the center. Local operas were played for the public on Li Bing's traditional birthday. It is on the 24th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. A water-throwing festival is celebrated on Tomb Sweeping Day. A contemporary statue of the deity Erlang Shen may be found in the rear hall.

In honor of Fan Changsheng, the Dragon-Taming temple in Lidui Park was built in the third century. After Li Bing's death, a hall was built in his honor and the dragon battling stories that surrounded him. Legends state that Erlang Shen, Li Bing's legendary son, shackled the dragon here. He and his seven allies had caught the dragon in an ambush at the River God temple, when it had arrived to collect a human sacrifice. Legend has it that this effort has kept the region safe from floods ever since.

During the tenure of the East Han Dynasty, a huge statue of Li Bing was put in the river to observe the flow of water. When the level rose beyond his shoulders it meant there could be a flood, and if water decreased below his calves, it signified a drought. This is China's earliest known stone statue of a human to be retrieved from the river. It was retrieved in 1974 and is displayed in the main hall.


What is the cultural significance of Mount Qingcheng?

Taoist religion is believed to have originated on Mount Qingcheng.

What was the Dujiangyan irrigation system used for?

The Dujiangyan irrigation system still regulates the Minjiang River's waters to avoid floods. It also distributes the excess water to the vast agriculture of the Chengdu plain.

How was the Dujiangyan irrigation system built?

The levee was made of long sausage-shaped bamboo baskets, filled with Zhulong stones, and kept in place by Macha wooden tripods. This diverted the water into two streams and avoided floods.

What is Dujiangyan Panda Base?

It is a base for the Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas.

Where is Mount Qingcheng located?

Mount Qingcheng is in Dujiangyan city, in China.

Written By
Lydia Samson

<p>A diligent and driven mass communications graduate from Caleb University, Lydia has experience in media and a passion for digital marketing and communications. She is an effective communicator and team-builder with strong analytical, management, and organizational skills. She is a self-starter with a positive, can-do attitude.</p>

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