Dujiangyan (Dūjiāngyàn, 都江堰) lies between the swiftly rising Tibetan plateau and the Sichuan Basin. While the highlands of Tibet border the north and west of Dujiangyan, the Sichuan Basin sits at its south, with the Min River (Mín Jiāng, 岷江) coursing down from the plateau, through the town and into the capital.
Dujiangyan is most famous for the 2,250-year-old irrigation project, the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, built by Li Bing (Lǐ Bīng, 李冰), governor of the ancient Shu state during the Qin Dynasty, and his son. The Dujiangyan dam deftly re-directs the roaring Min River down through the Sichuan Basin, providing the people with mountain water and earning Sichuan the moniker “Land of Abundance.”
The dam and river form the heart of Sichuan’s famed abundance and thus the heart of Sichuanese civilization itself. Several bridges built in ancient architectural designs still span across the Min, including An Lan Suspension Bridge (ān Lán Suǒ Qiáo, 安澜索桥), a noteworthy landmark which sits on an old trade route leading into western Sichuan. The dam is surrounded by a large park dotted with temples and shrines, dedicated to former governors and Taoist sages.
Much of the park was damaged during the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, including the beautiful Erwang Temple (èrwáng Miào, 二王庙), which had sat atop the hillside for centuries. The city has rebuilt much of the temple, brushing away the debris and fixing the cracks in the pavement and toppled statues. If you go there now, the park looks brand new in many ways.
The dam itself did not suffer a scratch, which is a testament to Li Bing's ancient building methods. As you are walking through the park, be sure to check out the signs which explain the dam's construction.
During the sticky Chengdu summer, Dujiangyan is a godsend – only a short ride away but deep enough in the mountains to provide relief. Every summer, a beer festival is held along the banks of Dujiangyan.
Just a few minutes' drive from Dujiangyan lies a scenic spot, where the waters of the Min blend into the mountains of the plateau to create a setting ideal for meditating and finding peace – an area that drew the attention of the legendary Taoist sage, Zhang Daoling (Zhāng Dàolíng, 张道陵).