Dujiangyan Irrigation Project

Dujiangyan Irrigation Project (also referred to as Dujiangyan Irrigation System) is an ancient waterworks, and a marvel of engineering. Over 2,000 years old, the irrigation project is still used to irrigate thousands of square kilmetres of land. Situated on the western portion of the Chengdu Plain, it provides water resources to more than 50 cities in Sichuan province. In 2000, UNESCO deemed the Dujiangyan Irrigation Project as a World Heritage Site.

Interesting Facts

- Dujiangyan Irrigation Project irrigates over 5,300 square kilmetres (2,000 sq mi) of land in the region.

- It is located in Dujiangyan, a subdivision of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province.

- The ancient waterworks is the oldest and only surviving non-dam irrigation project in the world, and is called the “Treasure of Sichuan”.

- Dujiangyan Irrigation Project harnessed the Minjiang River using a new method of dividing and channeling the water, rather than simply damming it.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

History Of Dujiangyan Irrigation Project

Dujiangyan Irrigation Project was built around 256 BCE, during the Zhou dynasty. The largest tributary of the Yangtze is the Minjiang River. During this period, inhabitants along the Minjiang River had to contend with annual flooding which caused death and destruction. The governor of the State of Qin, Li Bing, was also an irrigation engineer. He investigated the problem, and discovered that the flooded was caused from annual runoff of spring melt-water from the neighbouring Minshan Mountains. Li Bing decided to construct an artificial levee to control the floodwater. The project received funds from King Zhaoxiang of Qin, and utilized a labor force in the tens of thousands.

Dujiangyan Irrigation Project would redirect a part of the Minjiang River, then channel it through Mount Yulei, were it would flow into the arid Chengdu Plain. To construct the artificial levee, Li Bing used Zhulong (long sausage-shaped baskets of woven bamboo filled with stones), which were held in place by wooden tripods called Macha.

Carving a channel through Mount Yulei in a time prior to the invention of gunpowder, proved more problematic. Li Bing resolved the issue by using fire and water to het and cool the hard mountain rocks, until they could be cracked and carted off. This process took eight years to complete, and resulted in a 66-ft-wide (20 m) channel carved through the solid rock.

Dujiangyan Irrigation Project took years to complete, and even in modern times is considered an ecological engineering feat. The project transformed the region of Sichuan into the most productive agricultural area in China. Inhabitants of the region were no longer plagued by the threat of floods. As a token of gratitude to Li Bing, a shrine was constructed in his honor on the eastern side of Dujiangyan.

Throughout the Tang, Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasties, the irrigation system has been modified and enlarged.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

Culture Of Dujiangyan Irrigation Project

Dujiangyan Irrigation Project is comprised of three parts: the Yuzui Bypass Dike, the Feishayan Floodgate, and the Baopingkou Diversion Passage. The Yuzui is also known as Fish Mouth Levee, because of its resemblance to a fish’s head. The artifical dike is designed to divide the Minjiang River into two parts. The western section is referred to as “Outer River” is used for draining floodwaters. The “Inner River” in the eastern section is used for irrigation. It is able to carry about 60 percent of the river-water into the irrigation system during the dry season.

The Feishayan Floodgate is essential for protecting the Chengdu Plain from flooding. It is a 200-m-wide opening that connects the inner and outer rivers. Having the silt drained and a discharge process regulate the water-flow.

The Baopingkou Diversion Passage is essentially a control valve for the flow of the river. It was designed to automatically control the water-flow of the “Inner River”. The channel distributes water to the Chengdu Plains. The Baopingkou was considered a famous attraction during ancient times.

Located on the right bank of the Minjiang River is Erwang Temple. Constructed in the architectural style of the Qing dynasty (1644 to 1911), it was built in honour of of Li Bing and his son. The wooden complex comprises 10,072 square metres (108,414 sq ft) in total area. The main hall contains a statue of Li Bing that was erected in modern times. The complex also contains a garden area in the eatern section. There is also an observation platform that provides stunning panoramic vistas of the entire Dujiangyan Irrigation Project.

The irrigation project also has an incredible bridge known as the Anlan Cable Bridge, which spans the Minjiang River above Yuzui. It was originally built before the Song dynasty (960-1279), and then was reconstructed. During the end of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), it was completely destroyed by fire. In 1803 during the Qing dynasty (1644 to 1912), the bridge was rebuilt. The present-day Anlan Cable Bridge was constructed in 1974. It is one of the best vantage points to see the entire layout of the Dujiangyan Irrigation Project.


- It is recommended to set aside about two hours to see the entirety of the Dujiangyan Irrigation Project.

- It is open from 8 AM to 6 PM, March 2 to November 30. From December 1 to March 1, it is open from 8 AM to 5:30 PM.

- The best time to visit the irrigation project is from April to October, when the weather is cool and the landscape is lush.

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