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Dujiangyan Irrigation Project

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Dujiangyan Irrigation Project Introduction

Dujiangyan Irrigation Project, the famous ancient water conservancy works, is situated in the west of Dujiangyan city, Sichuan province, being 57 kilometers from provincial capital Chengdu. In 2000, it was listed into World Cultural Heritage List by UNESCO.

Minjiang River originates from mountainous area in north of Sichuan. In spring and summer when mountain torrents rushed down, the river water rolled down into Chengdu Plains, causing flood in ancient times due to the narrow river-way. In low flow season, the Yulei Mountain on the east bank of Minjiang River hindered the river to flow eastward, causing drought and flood alternatively.

Dujiangyan Irrigation Project

In 256 BC, faced with intractable Minjing River water, Li Bing and his son determined to cut a channel through Yulei Mountain with help of local people. At that time when the gunpowder had not been invented, he burned the mountain stones with fire, causing stones to burst (according to principle of thermal expansion and contraction), which greatly accelerated progress of project. After 8 years' hard work, a huge opening was cut through Yulei Mountain, named "mouth of bottle". The small hill separated from Yulei Mountain through cutting was called "separated heaps". When completed, the "mouth of bottle" water diversion project played the role of water diversion and irrigation; however, in low flow season, it was still difficult for the river water to flow into the "mouth of bottle" due to relatively higher terrain at the east of river. So Li Bing and his son led the masses to build water diversion weir on the upper reaches of Minjiang River in midstream not far away from the Yulei Mountain. They placed bamboo cages filled with pebbles on midstream, which piled up a narrow island, shaped like a big fish in river. When flowing by the "mouth" of fish, Minjiang River was divided into Inner River and Outer River. The Outer River still followed the original river course, while Inner River, by way of artificial channel, flowed into the Chengdu Plains through "mouth of bottle". In order to maximize the effect of water diversion and disaster reduction, a 200 meters long lower weir was built between water diversion weir and "separated heap" to let the outflow goes back to the Outer River, to ensure no disaster in the Inner River in flooding season. When river water overruns top of weir, the mud and stone entrained by flood would flow into outer river too, not silting the Inner River and "mouth of bottle" waterway. The lower weir is named "Feishayan Spillway". In order to observe and control water flow of the Inner River, three portrait stone carvings were placed on riverbed as water mark, warning people "low water flow does not submerge foot; high water flow does not overflow shoulder". Moreover, a chiseled stone horse was buried in the riverbed of the Inner River, serving as another mark to clean the riverbed in the lowest water flow season annually.

Dujiangyan Irrigation Project

Owing to "mouth of fish" Dyke dividing water, Feishayan Spillway spilling overflow, "mouth of bottle" diverging water, Chengdu Plains, ever waterlogged once rain fell, turned into a Land of Abundance with no famine and droughts. The project is still playing the effect until today, known as a "living water works museum". It is the world's only grand damless water project that still functions today with longest history. Fully utilizing the local terrains and water-flow features, Dujiangyan Water Project diverts water without dam, spills mud and stones naturally, irrigates the Chengdu Plains endlessly, making issues like water diversion, flood discharge, desilting, flow control to be interdependent systematically, which ensures a comprehensive benefits in regards of flood prevention, irrigation, river transportation and social water use. After the completion of the project, Chengdu Plain turned into a vast expanse of fertile land, known as the Land of Abundance free from drought or flood.