On June 9, 1992, a villager named Wu Anai made an incredible discovery, he accidentally unveiled a mysterious long-hidden cave on Phoenix Hil, near the village of Shiyan Beicun on the Lan River in Longyou County, Quzhou prefecture, Zhejiang province, China. Upon investigation, it turned out that this cave was one in a network of 36 hidden chambers in the area. The caves were carved in siltstone, a homogeneous medium-hard rock, and are thought to date to a period before the creation of the Qin Dynasty in 212 BCE, about 2,000 years ago. The floor of the grotto occupies more than 2,000 square meters, with the tallest point of the cave exceeding 30 meters. The four steles of cave 1 are symmetrically distributed. Despite their size and the effort involved in creating them, so far no trace of their construction or even their existence has been located in the historic record.
|Interior of the caves|
At the time, Wu Anai from the Chinese village of Longyou pooled his money with his neighbors to buy a water pump and began siphoning out the pond in his village. However, it wasn't really a pond at all, but the flooded entrance to an ancient, man-made cave. After 17 days pumping, enough water had been removed to reveal the cave including several carved stelae, thus confirming his idea that they were not natural reservoirs at all, but rather man-made. Like most villages in southern China, there are numerous ponds in Shiyanbei, but these are mostly rectangular, and very deep, having been known as "bottomless ponds" by generations of villagers. These ponds teem with fish, which are easily caught. After the first cave was pumped dry not a single fish was to be seen.
Unfortunately, there are no documents whatsoever have been discovered, that record the construction or purpose of the Longyou Caves, although the excavation would have been an immense, government-contracted project involving the movement of 900,000 cubic meters of rock. This is especially odd considering the ancient Chinese were meticulous record-keepers.
This discovery has called the attention of many specialists from China, Japan, Poland, Singapore and USA. One of the most interesting and challenging questions is how the caverns have been able to keep their integrity for more than 2000 years.