Wednesday, 27 March

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Guan County Waterworks, returned to Chengdu

Wednesday, 27 March


I woke at six in the morning. I went to buy some native-produced stonework. Local people call it “jade”, with its hardness it’s the same as jade. Brush pots, boxes for colour seals and wine cups are made of it but it is a pity that there are not many samples, otherwise they would make ideal export products. I also bought cordyceps[1] (mushrooms) which are a local product.

After breakfast, County Magistrate Yang and Director Wang gave us a tour around the county town and we passed through the Yangliu River area. It was a pity that there was no water in the river otherwise it would be as nice as the small streams near the West Lake. We went to the New Estate then we returned to the County government offices. We took sedans to leave the town and visit the Dujiang Gorge, which is the nationally renowned water works.

The so-called Chengdu Plain is so big that it covers sixteen or seventeen counties. It is surrounded by mountains and is low in the centre. As the water of the Minjiang River flowed south from the northwest point, the southwest suffered from flooding while the northeast point had a dearth of water. The prefecture chief of Shu of the Qin State and his son, Li Erlang(李二郎), put a “fish mouth” underneath the Dujiang Gorge which was Suoqiao now so as to divide the water into an inner and outer river, thus directing the water to irrigate some 5,000,000 mou of arid land. And in this way the flooding in the areas around the southwest was alleviated. They also built Jingang dike to block the water. Under the dike the Feisha gorge was built. At the Baopingkou of Lidui, gates were constructed to trap water and block the river to make a dike. This was an unchanged principle from Yancheng’s construction work. The project itself used the local materials available. (People) were able to make nest shapes to keep the stones so that they could be used as dikes. Also three-legged wooden stands were made to block the water flow. They were really intricate. We first went to Erlang temple at which both Erlang and his father were worshipped. The wall outside the temple had a picture of the movement of the river. Also, the six-character motto in the form of a three character classic was engraved on the wall in block character form: “深淘灘,低作堰 ; 遇灣截角,逢正抽心。” The temple was said to be worshipping Li Erlang, but what was actually worshipped there was the “three-eyed” and the “howling dog”, who was absolutely Yang Erlang in the Investiture of the Gods. Yang Erlang was in place of Li Erlang. I thought it was a great pity for Li Erlang. At the back of the temple the statue of the teacher of the Qing prince, Ding Baozhen (丁寶楨),[2] was worshipped. Ding Baozhen had put great effort into tempering the river, and the Sichuan people really appreciated him. Among the Sichuan cuisines, there was one called “gongbao chicken”, which was in honour of him. The temple was a new one as the original one was burnt down in 1925, although the new one was not as magnificent as the old one. Behind the temple there was a temple for worshipping tudi[3] which was named “central tudi”. I just wondered if tudi was also differentiated by local and central? We left the temple and walked to Suoqiao. The bridge was made of large bamboo ropes. The ropes were as thick as the opening of a bowl. Nine strings were arranged in parallel order, and underneath wood plates were placed and fastened by [unclear]. Suoqiao was five [unclear] in total and its length was one mile. People who passed over it would feel faint as the bridge vibrated violently. We only went to the middle of it and then went to Dujiangyuzui instead. Here Li Bing accumulated soil to make the “fish mouth” and as a matter of fact this was the main point for dividing the water. The water flow was rapid and powerful. Ji Dangpu(吉當普) of the Yuan Dynasty used some sixty thousand jin of iron to cast a tortoise weight to divide the water flow here. Shi Qianxiang (施千祥) of the Ming Dynasty used some seventeen thousand jin of iron to cast two iron oxen. The heads of the oxen joined while the tails divided to balance the water flow. Nevertheless later they were flushed away. Ding Baozhen of the Qing Dynasty piled stones instead but they were also washed away. Now the surviving one was made in 1935. From here we took sedans to Lidui. On the mound there was a Fulong Temple. It is said that it was the place where Li Bing and his son tempted the evil dragon. The front hall was originally a shrine for Li Bing but now it is occupied by the water works bureau. The rear temple worshipped Fan Changsheng (范長生) as it was the place where Fanxianguan was built by Li Xiong (李雄) so as to entice Fan Changsheng (to work for him). We went upward to the Guanlan Pavilion and could view the scenery around there. After we left the mound we found the Bupingkou underneath. On the rocks by the left there were twenty-two scale markers in total. If the water reached to number eleven, various counties of Neijiang would have enough water to use. If there was a deficiency, more three-legged wooden stands were removed so the water flow would increase. This was the irrigation hub for various counties. On the inner side of the mould there was Xiangbi Stone which stood in the water in a strange shape.

At 12.00 noon we took the car to Director Wang’s village residence outside the town to have lunch. There was a certain part of the road which the car could not reach. We had to change to wooden bicycles. Director Wang said this was like the wooden Niuliuma. I do not really believe it though it was quite comfortable. After lunch at 1.20 p.m. we took the car to leave Guan county and returned to Chengdu. As two of the roads had problems, the journey was quite a tough one. We arrived at the hostel after 5.30 p.m.

I went with Deng Zhaoyin and Zeng Qihui to go to town to buy souvenirs.

[1] The wild fungus is rare – used in traditional Chinese medicine as a cure for arthritis and other ailments.

[2] Ding Baozhen (1820-1886) was a senior Qing official.

[3] A Chinese deity.