Baidi Cheng (White Emperor City)

Admission:

RMB 80

Hours:

8am-5pm daily

How to get there:

Most visitors stop here as part of a Yangtze River Cruise. Local ferries run from nearby Fengjie (20 min) to Xin Town (Xīnchéng, 新城), from where you take a bus to White Emperor City.

Baidi Cheng (Báidìchéng, 白帝城) or "White Emperor City" is situated on Baidi Shan (Báidì Shān, 白帝山), now an island, at the entrance to Qutang Gorge, one of the famous Three Gorges of the Yangtze River.

The approach to this historic site from nearby Fengjie (Fèngjié Xiàn, 奉节县) passes through scenes of pagoda-topped hillsides but the view is sadly marred by factories and workers' housing built in the 1970s. Once ashore, however, the complex of temples and halls and great views of Qutang Gorge more than make up for this.

The story goes that the town was chosen as the headquarters of first century (AD) general Gong Sunshu. He spotted its strategic potential and remains of the old city wall can still be seen on the hill behind Baidi Shan. In AD 25, white vapour in the shape of a dragon was seen rising from a nearby well. Taking this as an auspicious omen, Gong declared himself the "White Emperor" and the town "White Emperor City." The12-year reign that followed was known as a time of peace and harmony.

A red wall with an imposing yellow dragon-head gateway surrounds the temple complex. Though originally built in his honor, statues of the White Emperor were removed in the Ming Dynasty and replaced with images of Liu Bei, Zhuge Liang, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, heroes of the Shu Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms Period.

The main sights include the attractive Tuogu Hall (Tuōgū Táng, 托孤堂), which displays statues showing Liu Bei, King of the Shu Kingdom, entrusting his son to his prime minister Zhuge Liang after failing in battle against the Wu Kingdom.

The Mingliang Palace (Míngliáng Diàn, 明良殿) also originally housed statues of Gongsun Shu, once worshipped by the people and later replaced by the same Shu kingdom heroes. A large bronze bell hangs in the upper storeys of the handsome, winged Guanxing Pavilion (Guānxīng Tíng, 观星亭), where Zhuge Liang was said to have observed the stars and forecast the weather to help him plan his victorious battle tactics.

Other relics to note are a stele forest, ancient suspended wooden coffins and painting and calligraphy works by celebrities of different dynasties.

Recommened visit time is approximately 2.5 hours.

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