KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
On Sunday, we decided to travel out of town to see the Dujiangyen Irrigation Project. David had seen it in 1979 when he travelled alone in China for three months, and felt it was something we should see. The Lonely Planet also spoke highly of it, even though the idea of seeing an irrigation project wasn't on most people's travel list. We took a taxi to the northern bus station, then a local bus to the town of Dujiangyen and then another short taxi ride to the site. We were amazed to learn that this was yet another World Heritage site. This was not mentioned in the Lonely Planet.
We had inquired about a tour but found the fee of RMB 460 per person more than a little high. By making our own way on public transport we cut the cost to RMB 60 and found it more interesting along the way. We are getting better at asking the hotel to write down the names of places we are going (in Chinese) so that we can show the taxi driver. The Lonely Planet is an invaluable resource because all the places are written in Chinese letters beside the English text. We love the challenge of trying to cope with the little spoken Chinese we are picking up and enjoy the smiles that result when we make an effort to speak.
It started to rain shortly after we left Chengdu, the first rain we had encountered since leaving Shanghai. We hadn't thought to bring our umbrellas along so we bought some at the bus station shortly after disembarking. We weren't in much of a position to bargain when it was pouring and the woman was pleased to help us select three different coloured umbrellas. When we arrived at the site, we found a few Chinese tour groups already there and we joined a sea of umbrellas walking through the entrance gardens as the rain splattered on the paving stones. I noticed that some of the trees in the gardens were beginning to turn colour now that the fall weather was at hand. The entrance to the site was enchanting in the rain, there was Chinese classical music playing as we walked along the paths, the speakers were disguised as rocks nestled in the grass.
The Dujiangyen Irrigation Project was undertaken in the 3rd century BC by an engineer named Li Bing. Until that time, the fast-flowing Min River periodically flooded as it emerged from the mountains onto the vast basin that is modern-day Sichuan. Drought often followed the floods and the people suffered severe famines. Li Bing's plan was to divert the surplus water into a series of irrigation channels using a large channel cut at Dujiangyen and then a series of weirs to direct the flow. His most brilliant idea was to devise an annual maintenance plan to remove silt build up. Flooding is almost unknown to this day and today Sichuan is considered the breadbasket of China with over three million hectares of land irrigated by the Min River's waters.
The people were so grateful for the foresight of this great man, that they built a beautiful temple (Two Kings Temple) to honour Li Bing and his son, Er Lang. Over the centuries, other beautiful buildings have risen in the vicinity and now the park encompasses a large area with paved walking paths, rope bridges and platforms high in the surrounding hills where visitors can get a bird's eye view of the Herculean task this energetic man undertook. He literally moved mountains to achieve his goal.
The rain subsided shortly after we arrived and we spent the day wandering through the old temples and climbing to the platforms high above the river for a view of the river. At the end of our long walk we came upon a lovely street with overhanging gingko trees and stopped for a lunch of rice, tofu and sautéed greens in local eatery. Our tummies full, we crossed back over the Min River on a stunning 5th century covered bridge and started our return journey to Chengdu as we had come.
NOTE: Here is a link to a news report about the irrigation project after the massive earthquake in May 2008. Earthquake