Old Times In Chengdu

By Hou Wenwen |  release time:June 12th,2018

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In the end of Qing Dynasty, a large number of Forbidden Palace collections were scattered among civilians or even overseas, including the painting Li Gonglin's The Shu River in the Song Dynasty, which was among the "four most beautiful collections" by Emperor Qian Long, "the devoted collector". This is the earliest existing transportation map of Sichuan, a map with all the places with chariot and boat access indicated.

The character "川(Chuan)" in "四川(Sichuan)" is a pictograph, with banks on both sides and a river in the middle. In the classics of pictograph interpretation, it is generally recognized that "川(Chuan)" means water flowing through an area.


When we slowly unroll this 7-meter scroll of The Shu River, we are faced with a panorama which "traces the source of Yangtze River, mountains of Wenshan and Minshan, as the water runs through Maozhou, Shiquan, Yongkang Military Regime, Qingcheng Mountain, Chengdu, Shuangliu, Xinjin, Pengshan, Long'an, Meizhou, Qingshen, bypasses Jiazhou, Xuzhou, Luzhou, Yuzhou, Fuzhjou, spans Zhongzhou, Wanzhou, Yun'an, Kuizhou, and ends at Wushan County".

The Shu River in the Song Dynasty.jpg

The Shu River in the Song Dynasty

Outsiders' first impression of Chengdu matches what is marked in Li Gonglin's painting: It is covered with water flow and ripples here and there. Water from Wenshan Mountain and Minshan Mountain flows through more than 188 places in the Song Dynasty, was described by Marco Polo, and gathers in today's Chengdu Plain. Upon arrival in the Plain, it is distributed to multiple rivers which form a dense river network. Every 3 to 5 kilometers, there is a considerable large river, making Chengdu Plain an area with the most dense river network in Sichuan Basin.

Researchers at the Chengdu Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology discovered a 4000-year-old dam at Hongqiao Village in Wenjiang, the earliest prehistoric water conservation facility ever found in Chengdu Plain. The combination of archaeological discoveries and ancient legends, the ruins of ancient cities on Chengdu Plain are mostly due to flooding. Tianfu (Sichuan) with vast land of abundance in the later times is the result of the people's fight with the climate and water.

This article is an excerpt of Tianfu Culture issued in April, 2018, "Stories of Chengdu" in the 6th issue, with some content somitted.

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