"Baidicheng - the White Emperor's Town" Baidicheng by mke1963

Baidicheng Travel Guide: 1 reviews and 7 photos

Baidicheng, the White Emperor's Town, is a beautiful place, sitting on the north bank at the very entrance to the first of the Three Gorges - Qutang Gorge. It lies just east of the town of Fengjie.
The old pavilions and temple used to lie high on the mountainside above the Yangtze, watching over the Waterwashed Wall on the south side of the river, and the extremely narrow entrance to the gorge. Now the water levels have risen, the Gorge is much wider, and has a serene feel in the early morning mist. The big cruise ships cannot reach the jetty at the foot of the 'town' requiring a transfer to smaller boats just a few hundred metres upstream. In a few years, when the waters rise to the 157 metre level, the hillside complex will become an island. Curiously, Badicheng may well look even more picturesque as an isle, as the sprawling modern settlement below will disappear for ever, and the cypress-studded slopes of the White Emperor's Town will be all alone.

Gongsun Shu assumed the kingdom of Shu - modern day Sichuan - at the end of the Western Han Dynasty, and named himself the White Emperor after the white steam that poured from the well here, in front of his hilltop palace. The steam was said to resemble a white dragon, a lucky omen. The luck ran out in AD 37, when the Eastern Han Dynasty emperor Guan Wu invaded and killed Gongsun Shu.
Baidicheng figures in the Chinese classic "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms", and reading this book before or during a cruise on the Yangtze is higly recommended, as it places many of the towns, villages and temples of the Three Gorges in a historical context.
At Baidicheng, the heroes and anti-heroes of "The Three Kingdoms" are commemorated with statues and stelae in several of the halls.
Nearby Fengjie was the home town of the Shu kingdom, and - in the early part of the 16th Century - its ruler, Liu Bei. The Shu and Wu had originally been allies against the Wei, but betrayal by Sun Quan of the Wu, led to a disastrous war against their former allies. Liu Bei eventually died in either Baidicheng or in Fengjie. As a mark of respect towards Liu Bei and his administrators, the palace on the hill was renamed the Ming Liang Palace in 1557. The name Ming Liang conveys the impression of an open-mided emperor and honest ministers. Presumably it was so rare to see uncorrupt administrators in those days, it was worth commemorating those who were.

Nearby is the temple of Wu Hou, the ancestral temple of Liu Bei's trusted general Zhuge Liang.
Baidicheng has attracted many poets, and a good number of poems are recorded on some really beautiful stelae in the buildings. Small pavilions and shelters sit all around the hillside and it really is a beautiful place. Sadly, there have also been a number of thefts from Baidicheng, with artefacts turning up at auction-houses in the US.
Originally, Baidicheng was only accessible from the river, but in the early 1990s a bridge was constructed to help locals and visitors get to the complex from Fengjie. Ironically, once again, access is by boat only.

Next stop upstream is Fengdu (also known as Huinan)

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Serene, beautiful temple and palace complex
  • Cons:The historical context will change as the Yangtze rises
  • In a nutshell:Beauty in the morning mist
  • Last visit to Baidicheng: May 2004
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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