TWHS: Baiheliang Ancient Hydrological Inscription, China

This is a particularly nifty Tentative World Heritage site visit today; we’re heading out to the northeast Fuling District of Chongqing to visit the world’s only underwater museum: the

Baiheliang Ancient Hydrological Inscription

 

Baiheliang (White Crane Ridge) is located in middle of the Changjiang River north to Fuling City, Chongqing. The name comes from cranes which used to gather on the stone ridge in the past. The stone ridge is 1600 m long and about 25 m wide, approximately parallel to the south bank. It is submerged under the water all year round and only appears during the low water season of the river in winter. The stone ridge has a leucocratic sandstone surface which is rather flat with a 14.5°northward obliquity. Lying on the main traffic route of the Changjiang River the ridge provides a very good location for inscription.

With the large number of underwater inscriptions, long history, authentic and detailed water level records, rich inscription contents, diversified forms and perfect integration with the Changjiang River and the environment, Baiheliang is called a great underwater wonder.

In 1988, the State Council of the People’s Republic of China listed Baiheliang ancient hydrological inscriptions as Key Cultural Relic under State-level Protection. The launch of the Three Gorges Project causes the stone ridge to be submerged under the water surface of the reservoir. To protect this valuable cultural relic and enable the public to see this historical landscape, the authorities concerned have designed Baiheliang site underwater protection project…

Back in the day, these inscriptions marked water levels, like in this painting,

Baiheliang Ancient Hydrological Inscription

for miles and miles along the river banks;

Baiheliang Ancient Hydrological Inscription

However, when the Three Gorges Dam was built, these were all submerged. So what to do about that? Why, build an underwater museum, naturally!

From the surface, it looks like a fairly regular museum at the side of the river,

Baiheliang Ancient Hydrological Inscription

and if you didn’t know that this level of the river was brand new, no way you’d figure that out by looking at it from the quay:

Baiheliang Ancient Hydrological Inscription

But inside, you get packed up in groups and go through multiple airlocks and a very long escalator down into the river depths,

Baiheliang Ancient Hydrological Inscription

where you take a walking tour in a tunnel around the inscriptions, lit up by underwater floodlights you can see through its portholes:

Baiheliang Ancient Hydrological Inscription

While the inscriptions themselves are only moderately interesting — we probably wouldn’t recommend going overly far out of your way to see them if they were still above water —

Baiheliang Ancient Hydrological Inscription

— this site makes the Seriously We Recommend You Visit List just because of the we’re walking on the bottom of the freaking river factor! If there’s anything else comparable to this anywhere else in the world, we have no idea where it is.

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p dir=”ltr”>So, if you have one spare day in Chongqing, definitely the Dazu Rock Carvings should be top of your visit list; but if you have two spare days, we’d definitely recommend heading out to Fuling City for this engineering marvel of an experience!

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Alex Curylo

Alex

I go places.

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