"Dujiangyan" Dujiangyan by mke1963

Dujiangyan Travel Guide: 30 reviews and 68 photos

Dujiangyan is home to the world's oldest irrigation system. It remains operational to this day, although its remarkable hydraulic system has been significantly altered by the installation of sluice gates in the 1970s and 1980s, so seeing the system in its natural state is no longer possible - except, ironically, when there is a risk of flood. Now, in normal conditions, the main Minjiang river sees virtually no flow at all, whereas the system originally allowed for 40% of the river to continue with 60% diverted into the irrigation system.

To fully appreciate the magnitude of these works, it must be appreciated that the work was started in 256BC. At a time when much of the world was still living in the technological dark ages, 2250 years ago, a Chinese local government official was constructing a major irrigation system. This was before printing presses, before surveying equipment, before universities and the collected scientific works of scholars and scientists. Even more remarkable is that it is still operational today, is still not completely understood by modern scientists and is considered one of the most effective in the world - despite the high silt content of the Minjiang river, the Dujiangyan system hydraullically uses the river's own force to remove so preventing the destruction of the system. It's almost perfect. I must admit to being a bit tired of Chinese claims to have invented nearly everything, yet Dujiangyan is definitely someting of which the Chinese can be justifiably proud. In many ways Dujiangyan far surpasses the achievements of the builders of the Great Wall: after all, building a wall is something that largely anyone can do - the splendour of the Wall is simply in its scale. Dujiangyan, however, is a masterpiece of engineering skill. It isn't particularly large, as the key elements are just a few thousand square metres of engineering work, but the combination of location, design and execution is superb. The more you sit back and think about Dujiangyan, the more the genius grows on you. It is, quite simply, a genuine wonder of the world.

Today Dujiangyan is a thriving city, mixing its tourism potential with some heavy engineering - one of Asia's largest and most modern cement-works is nearby, but it is also an increasingly popular location for seeing some of the most interesting areas of western China. Despite the comments in some guidebooks, I understand that there are now some better hotels in the town which make Dujiangyan an attractive option as a base for seeing the nearby Qingchengshan (part of the overall UNESCO World Heritage nomination for Dujiangyan), the Wolong Panda Reserves (also now UNESCO listed after the Chinese authorities finally got their act together) and the west and north-west of the province.

While it might seem that Dujiangyan is just a quick possible stopover on the way somewhere else, there is a lot to see here. The irrigation works themselves take up half a day, with many temples and old buildings in the surrounding hills.

  • Last visit to Dujiangyan: Oct 2006
  • Intro Written Oct 13, 2006
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