Dujiangyan Irrigation System

Dujiangyan Irrigation System is a pearl in the irrigation work of ancient China, and it’s the oldest and the only preserved grand irrigation system in the world, which has no dam for water-diversion and still in service today. The system was built in 256 of Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC) under the leadership of Li Bing (李冰, the chief official of ancient Chengdu) and his son. Built over 2,200 years ago, Dujiangyan Irrigation System still provides benefits to the area, and it’s fame Tian Fu Zhi Guo (天府之国, means “country of heaven” or “land of abundance”).

Features of Dujiangyan Irrigation System

  • World Cultural Heritage (listed by UNESCO as “World Cultural Heritage” in 2000)
  • World Natural Heritage (Giant Panda Habitats in Sichuan Province)
  • National Key Cultural Relics Protection Unit
  • National Scenic Area
  • National AAAAA Tourism Scenic Area

Location of Dujiangyan Irrigation System

The irrigation system was built on the Minjiang River at the foot of Yulei Mountain, northwest of Dujiangyan City and west of Chengdu Plain in Sichuan Province

Background & History of Dujiangyan Irrigation System

Background

Dujiangyan Irrigation System was built on Minjiang River, which is a large tributary of Yangtze River and flows through the west of Sichuan Basin, an area of heavy rainfall. In ancient time, during flood period, the Chengdu Plain was just a world of waters while during drought period, it was a scene of utter desolation; generally, there was no single grain was reaped in a year and people lived around often suffer from hunger. To solve the livelihood of Chengdu people and because of its specific strategic position in unifying of China, the Qin Kingdom (770BC-221BC) appoint Li Bing, a wisdom who had good knowledge of astronomy and geography, to control the flood and had the Dujiangyan Irrigation System build.

Planning

Li Bing investigated the problem and discovered that the river was swelled by fast flowing spring melt-water from the local mountains that burst the banks when it reached the slow moving and heavily silted stretch below. One solution would have been to build a dam but Li Bing had also been charged with keeping the waterway open for military vessels to supply troops on the frontier,  so instead he proposed to construct an artificial leeve to redirect a portion of the river’s flow and then to cut a channel through Mount Yulei to discharge the excess water upon the dry Chengdu Plain beyond.

Construction

Li Bing received 100,000 taels of silver for the project from King Zhao of Qin and set to work with a team said to number tens of thousands. The levee was constructed from long sausage-shaped baskets of woven bamboo filled with stones known as Zhulong held in place by wooden tripods known as Macha. The construction of a water-diversion levee resembling a fish’s mouth took four years to complete.

Cutting the channel proved to be a far greater problem, as the tools available to Li Bing at the time, before gunpoder was invented, could not penetrate the hard rock of the mountain, so he used a combination of fire and water to heat and cool the rocks until they cracked and could be removed.  After eight years of work, a 20-metre-wide (66 ft) channel had been gouged through the mountain.

Engineering Constructions

Li Bing’s Irrigation System consists of three main constructions that work in harmony with one another to ensure against flooding and keep the fields well supplied with water:

  1. The Yuzui or Fish Mouth Levee(鱼嘴), named for its conical head that is said to resemble the mouth of a fish, is the key part of Li Bing’s construction. It is an artificial levee that divides the water into inner and outer streams. The inner stream is deep and narrow, while the outer stream is relatively shallow but wide. This special structure ensures that the inner stream carries approximately 60% of the river’s flow into the irrigation system during dry season. While during flood, this amount decreases to 40% to protect the people from flooding. The outer stream drains away the rest, flushing out much of the silt and sediment.
  2.  The Feishayan or Flying Sand Weir(飞沙堰) has a 200 m-wide opening that connects the inner and outer streams. This ensures against flooding by allowing the natural swirling flow of the water to drain out excess water from the inner to the outer stream. The swirl also drains out silt and sediment that failed to go into the outer stream. A modern reinforced concrete weir has replaced Li Bing’s original weighted bamboo baskets.
  3. The Baopingkou or Bottle-Neck Channel(宝瓶口), which Li Bing gouged through the mountain, is the final part of the system. The channel distributes the water to the farmlands in the Chengdu Plain, whilst the narrow entrance that gives it its name, works as a check gate, creating the whirlpool flow that carries away the excess water over Flying Sand Fence, to ensure against flooding.

Main Attractions of Dujiangyan Irrigation System

Erwang Temple (Two Kings Temple)

Located on the hillside of south bank of Minjiang River, the Erwang Temple just faces the Dujiangyan Irrigation System. It was originally an ancestral temple in memory of Shu King which later was changed to commemorate Li Bing and his son during Jianwu Period (494-498) of Qi Dynasty (479-502) during Southern Dynasties (420-589). In Song Dynasty (960-1279), Li Bing and his son were awarded as kings in succession by Song emperors, hence the name Two Kings Temple. In the temple are enshrined statues of Li Bing and his son, valuable famous remarks about water control and tablet inscriptions given by poets.

Fulong Temple (Unawakened Dragon Temple)

Fulong Temple is located in Lidui Park and faces a pool below. Legend has it that during his flood control, Li Bing had subdued a dragon and had it under the Lidui. The existing temple is consists of three halls, the front of which possesses a Stone Statue of Bi Bing built in Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220). In the temple, there is also a precious remain of female Taoism priests Jinxian and Yuzhen (both are princesses of Tang Dynasty (618-907)), the Feilong Ding (Flying Dragon Ding, an ancient cooking vessel).

Anlan Suspension Bridge(Couple Bridge)

Annan Bridge is located on Fish-mouth Dyke of Dujiangyan Irrigation System and stretches across both inside and outside rivers. It is hailed as one of the Five Bridges of Ancient China and is the most characteristic landscape of Dujiangyan. The previous bridge was built before Song Dynasty which was unfortunately destroyed in the war in late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and during the rein of Jiaqing (1796-1820) in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Anlan Suspension Bridge was rebuilt with woods supported by stone piers and for a length of 500 meters.

How to Get to Dujiangyan Irrigation System

Travel with ChinaDragonTours (top recommended)

If you want to get rid of hustle of transportation and troublesome navigation, you can book a private tour package which covers visiting, dining and transfer from us. Our local tour guide and driver will escort you to Dujiangyan Panda Base with speed and convenience, and take care of all the details. You just need to focus on visiting.

Independent Travel

For Independent travelers you can

  • By Coach: If you choose to take a bus from Chengdu to Dujiangyan, Chadianzi Bus Station is the main tourism station to Dujiangyan Bus Station. Usually it takes about 1 hour to get to Dujiangyan Bus Station. The ticket fare is about 17RMB. Then you can take a bus or taxi to the scenic spots.
  • By CRH: Since 2003, the Intercity High-speed train from Chengdu to Dujiangyan has become the convenient and comfortable way to Dujiangyan. There are 21 bullet trains every day from Chengdu (North)Railway Station or Xipu Station to Dujiangyan Railway Station. The ticket will cost 15RMB. The earliest one starts at 06:02 and the last one start at 21:19. Usually it takes about half an hour to arrive at Dujiangyan Train Station. After arriving at Dujiangyan Railway Station, you can take a bus or taxi to scenic spots.

Read more about Dujiangyan Transportation.

Recommended Tour Route in Dujiangyan Scenic Area

Route 1:

Lidui Park – Fulong Temple – Precious Bottle Neck – Feisha Weir – Fish Mouth – Anlan Rope Bridge – Two Kings Temple

Route 2:

Xingfu Road- South Bridge – Lidui Park – Fish Mouth – Rope Bridge – Two Kings Temple – Li Bing Memorial Hall – Buyun Veranda – Yulei Pavilion – Ancient City Wall – Douxi Pavilion – Town God’s Temple – West Street – South Street – Confucious’ Temple Park

Accommodation

Being a popular tourist destination around Chengdu, Dujiangyan offers different star-rated hotels for travelers, ranging from 5-star hotel to budget hotel. You can choose where to stay in accordance with your requirements and budgets. Some visitors prefer to stay around Mount Qingcheng. 

Please read more about Dujiangyan Accounmondation.

Nearby Attractions

Qingcheng Mountain

Qingcheng mountain is the birthplace of Chinese Taoism which is divided into two parts: the front mountain and back mountain. If you want to explore the most essential elements of Taoism culture, the front mountain is the best choice, while if you like to climb mountains and enjoy the natural scenery, the back mountain is better.

Dujiangyan Panda Base

China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP), Dujiangyan Base (中国大熊猫保护研究中心都江堰基地) is a brand new giant panda breeding base in Chengdu. You can hold a panda to take photos and do a panda volunteer job in Dujiangyan Panda Base.

Dujiangyan Confucius Temple 

It is the largest county-level Confucius Temple in Sichuan Province. In ancient times, it was used for commemorating and worshipping Confucius and his disciples and it was the place to study Confucianism.

Useful Travel Tips

1. Best Time to Visit

You can go to travel Dujiangyan all year round. The best time is between March and June or from September to November. While Dujiangyan and Mount Qingcheng are ideal summer resorts with pleasant climate and cool wind. Besides, in summer, tourists can experience beer festival in summer night, lively and extraordinary, with foreign carnival atmosphere. See more about Dujiangyan Climate.

2. Dressing Tips

  • Spring: The Spring in Dujiangyan is warm with average temperature from 10℃ to 20℃. Long-sleeved T-shirts and thin coats are recommended when you travel Dujiangyan city in spring.
  • Summer: Dujiangyan and Mount Qingcheng both are good summer resorts near Chengdu with average temperature from 21℃ to 31℃. While there are lots of rains in summer and umbrella or a raincoat is necessary. You can wear T-shirts and shorts if you visit Dujiangyan in Summer, as well as sunglasses and sunscreen.
  • Autumn: It is cool and pleasant in autumn with average temperature from 11℃ to 20℃. It is suggested to wear long-sleeved T-shirts and thin coats.
  • Winter: It is a little bit cold and damp in winter with average temperature from 4℃ to 10℃. Down jacket, thick trousers and shoes are necessary when you visit Dujiangyan in winter.

3. Other Tips

  • You must climb up to Yulei Pavilion to see the panorama of Dujiangyan.
  • In the evening, you can see beautiful night scene at South Bridge.