Dujiangyan, Sichuan Province, China

For the third post in the Chengdu series, we stayed in the northwest area and explored Dujiangyan with its ancient towns and incredible man-made irrigation system.

In this series from Chengdu:

Dujiangyan Ancient City

Dujiangyan is a county-level city of Sichuan Province, in Southwest China; it is under the administration of the prefecture-level city of Chengdu. It borders Tibet, has an area of 1,208 sqkm and has a population of ~400,000 in the urban area.

Bridge in Dujiangyan
Dujiangyan Gucheng; GFX100S 32mm ISO-1600 1/6sec f/8
Lady with balloons in Dujiangyan ancient town
Dujiangyan Gucheng; GFX100S 64mm ISO-1600 1/20sec f/4
Dujiangyan ancient town at night in the rain
Dujiangyan Gucheng; GFX100S 32mm ISO-1000 1/25sec f/4

Dujiangyan was formerly a county named Guanxian or Guan County (“irrigation county”). The county became a county-level city in 1988 and was renamed after the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, in the city’s northwest, famous for providing Chengdu with water for over two millennia, since around 250 BC.

Chinese flags glow at night in Dujiangyan alley
Dujiangyan Gucheng; GFX100S 32mm ISO-1600 1/9sec f/4
Rushing river near Dujiangyan at night
Rush of the river shows the power of Mother Nature; GFX100S 64mm ISO-1600 1/15sec f/4
Lit up bridge in Dujiangyan
GFX100S 32mm ISO-250 1/25sec f/4

On May 12, 2008, the city was the closest to the epicentre of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and the city suffered severe damage. When I saw the impact of that earthquake on TV from Canada, I immediately donated money to the Red Cross; it was surreal to be in the same location several years later with little evidence of the devastation that occurred there.

Couple holding each other in a wet alley in Dujiangyan ancient town
Dujiangyan Gucheng; GFX100S 80mm ISO-640 1/58sec f/1.7
Chinese temple in bokeh
Dujiangyan Gucheng; GFX100S 80mm ISO-1600 1/7sec f/1.7
Lit up gate to Dujiangyan Ancient Town
Gate to Dujiangyan Gucheng; GFX100S 32mm ISO-1600 1/20sec f/4

The ancient town is large and a great place to spend the day. There are beautiful bridges to cross (and photograph), parks along the river, and of course, the very, very large and photogenic irrigation system. The rush of the rivers can be intense at times, with the ground rumbling from the immense power of Mother Nature.

I really enjoyed walking around this ancient town and taking in all of the local beauty. If you visit Dujiangyan Gucheng, please set aside a full day to enjoy all that this ancient town has to offer. I wish I had spent more time there as I barely scratched the surface.

Chinese flags in a wet alley in Dujiangyan ancient town
Patriotism is high around the Golden Week celebration; GFX100S 80mm ISO-1600 1/52sec f/1.7

Jiezi Ancient City

Jiezi Gucheng, 57 km from Chengdu, is the hometown of the Ladle Poet, Tang Qiu. This 1000 year old ancient town is the typical reflection of old town in western Sichuan with Qing-dynasty dwellings, Millennium gingko tree, ancient stone pagodas and 32 temples. It is reputed as “the Back Garden of Mount Qingcheng” and “Hometown of the Orchid”. Jiezi is much smaller than Dujiangyan and can be covered in 2-3 hours. If you stay for food like I did, add on another hour or two.

Lit up ancient bridge at Jiezi Ancient Town
Jiezi Gucheng; GFX100S 32mm ISO-800 1/25sec f/4
Ribbons overhead in Jiezi Ancient Town
Jiezi Gucheng; GFX100S 32mm ISO-320 1/25sec f/8
Western Chengdu style hotpot
Local Northwest style hotpot in Jiezi. Interesting but not my favourite; I much prefer the regular Chengdu spicy hot pot. GFX100S 32mm ISO-500 1/25sec f/4
Man with a dog in Jiezi Ancient Town
Jiezi Gucheng; GFX100S 64mm ISO-1600 1/14sec f/4
Watch tower at Jiezi Ancient Town
Da Ma (literally, “big mothers” in Mandarin) dancing in the streets to pumping music; GFX100S 45.7mm ISO-1600 1/25sec f/4

Dujiangyan Irrigation System

I have a confession to make; while the Dujiangyan Irrigation System is the most important destination to visit in this area, I left it to the last day, and paid a heavy price. The weather in this region is often misty during the autumn months, and I missed my chance for taking beautiful images of this interesting river diversion system. If you google images of this area, you’ll see spectacular images of the irrigation system, with the temples set along the mountains as backdrops. Unfortunately, I could barely see 100 meters in front of me due to the fog so the below images are the best that I could muster. Apologies in advance!

The Dujiangyan is an incredible man-made irrigation system that has provided water to Chengdu city for more than 2,000 years. From wikipedia.org: The Dujiangyan Irrigation System was originally constructed around 256 BC by the State of Qin as an irrigation and flood control project, it is still in use today. The system’s infrastructure develops on the Min River (Minjiang), the longest tributary of the Yangtze. The area is in the west part of the Chengdu Plain, between the Sichuan Basin and the Tibetan Plateau.

Originally, the Min would rush down from the Min Mountains and slow down abruptly after reaching the Chengdu Plain, filling the watercourse with silt, thus making the nearby areas extremely prone to floods. King Zhao of Qin commissioned the project, and the construction of the Dujiangyan harnessed the river using a new method of channeling and dividing the water rather than simply damming it.

The water management scheme is still in use today to irrigate over 5,300 sqkm of land in the region. The Dujiangyan, the Zhengguo Canal in Shaanxi and the Lingqu Canal in Guangxi are collectively known as the “three great hydraulic engineering projects of the Qin.”

My favourite part of this visit was feeling the intense rush of the river where it bifurcates into the two channels, and crossing the Anlan Bridge, with the temples along the mountain playing hide and seek with the mist. It’s a surreal and beautiful spot that looks straight out of a movie set.

Dujiangyan water diversion in the fog
My sad picture of the river bifurcating. I highly recommend using Google Images to search for “Dujiangyan” to see how beautiful this location is when the mist isn’t hiding everything; GFX100S 38.9mm ISO-200 1/28sec f/8
Anlan Bridge in Chengdu China
Anlan Bridge; GFX100S 32mm ISO-200 1/58sec f/4
Dockside view of Anlan Bridge in Chengdu China
Anlan Bridge; GFX100S 41.8mm ISO-500 1/30sec f/8
Ancient lit up building in Dujiangyan Chengdu
GFX100S 32mm ISO-320 1/25sec f/4
Water spouting out of lion head in a park
GFX100S 64mm ISO-2500 1/50sec f/4

As always, I hope you’ve enjoyed this short trip through the Dujiangyan area of Chengdu. For the next and final post in this series, we’ll visit the main reason why people come to Chengdu, to see the pandas!

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