Dujiangyan Irrigation System

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The Chinese mania for taming rivers goes way back, preceding today's controversial Three Gorges and proposed Tiger Leaping Gorge projects by well over two thousand years. Sichuan's Dujiangyan Irrigation Project (Dūjiāngyàn Shuǐlì Gōngchéng, 都江堰水利工程), for example, dates back to the third century BC, when provincial governor and engineer Li Bing devised a scheme to both control the flood-prone Min River (Mín Jiāng, 岷江) and to use its waters to irrigate the surrounding farmland. The project has continued and expanded in the centuries since, with today's network of dams, pumping stations, canals and bridges covering some 3 million hectares (7 million acres).

Fulong Temple (Fúlóng Guàn, 伏龙观) was erected in 168 AD to honor Li Bing and to commemorate the taming of the river.The temple sits in Lidui Park (Líduī Gōngyuán, 离堆公园), overlooking a manmade fork in the Min. Li Bing is further celebrated at the Two Kings Temple or Erwang Temple (èrwáng Miào, 二王庙) in a park surrounding the dam—the "two kings" being Li Bing and his son, Er Lang, a renowned river-wrangling engineer just like his dad.

Handy cable cars connect Lidui Park and the Two Kings Temple. Though the scenery itself can tend toward the dreary industrial, the site is a great place to visit, providing insight into China's historical struggles with its uppity rivers.

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