BENEATH the water of a lake lies a peculiar time capsule of Imperial China. Its perfectly preserved temples date back thousands of years.
HIDDEN in the depths of Qiandao Lake in China lies an eerily beautiful sunken city. Its ornate temples and intricately carved monuments perfectly preserved, a peculiar time capsule of Imperial China.
The city, known as Shi Cheng, lies 40m underwater in Zhejiang province, 400km south of Shanghai. Built during the Eastern Han Dynasty, the historical buildings date back to the 2nd century.
Its name loosely translates to “Lion City” but since the regal city was drowned and forgotten about until recently, Shi Cheng has come to be dubbed the “Atlantis of the East” (after the mythical underwater island).
But unlike Atlantis, Shi Cheng didn’t succumb to the depths under dramatic or mysterious circumstances. The city was purposely flooded in 1959 to create the Xin’an Dam, built to power a hydro-electric plant.
According to the BBC, nearly 300,000 people were relocated for the project, some of whom had families that had lived in the city for centuries.
It was left untouched and unremembered for decades until 2001, when the Chinese government decided to see what might remain of the lost metropolis.
Interest in this ancient city frozen in time increased when Qiu Feng, a local official in charge of tourism, introduced the idea of using Shi Cheng as a destination for diving clubs. “We were lucky. As soon as we dived into the lake, we found the outside wall of the town and even picked up a brick to prove it,” he said.
It was later discovered that the entire town was intact, including wooden beams and stairs. Expeditions revealed that the city had five entrance gates, as opposed to the traditional four, according to the BBC, and its wide streets had 265 archways featuring preserved stonework of lions, dragons, phoenixes and historical inscriptions.
Today, it is popular attraction for tourists with dive operators running regular dives between April and November when the water is warmer.
There are plans to boost its tourism potential by constructing a floating tunnel across the lake.
The city has also attracted interest from archaeologists and a film crew has been on site to record the preservation of the lost ruins.