Immemorial Memory of Cultural Remains (Part Two)

  • offcial website of Beijing Expo 2019 2016-06-01 11:36:52

Mystery of the Ancient Cliff

The Ancient Cliff Dwelling faces the towering Haituo Mountain to the north and the shimmering Guanting Reservoir to the south. As its name implies, it is the historic site of houses on the cliff made by the ancients. It is the largest rocky cave house site of the ancients ever found in China.

The Ancient Cliff Dwelling, with spontaneous and ingenious skills, heeds the legends of ancient architecture. It is located in a peaceful ravine about 10 meters wide in Zhangshanying Town, Yanqing. Spreading throughout the steep sand and gravel stone wall of nearly 100,000 square meters are more than 130 man-made stone caves. With different shapes, the stone chambers, of which the biggest one is a three-room suite, measure 3 square meters to 29 square meters in size. The caves, with neither stairs nor roofs, have accessible upper and lower floors. Some suites are parallel to each other, and some have two floors, while others look like modern houses with three bedrooms. The round houses and the square ones display primitive aesthetic sentiments. Inside the caves, the chambers have got all necessary items, such as doors, windows, beds, stoves, feeding troughs, cupboards and flues. Based on their purposes, the rooms with stoves are kitchens, the ones with beds are bedrooms, and the ones with troughs are horse stables. The empty rooms are assembly halls or living rooms or storage spaces for militiamen at the front line. Each with unique advantage, the rooms, with everything in place, are divided into front, middle and rear sections. Focusing and pondering in the stone chambers, one will find himself floating down the river of history. The slash-and-burn farming, the striking figures of soldiers flash before our eyes.

Streaks of gangue rocks in the Ancient Cliff Dwelling, which were formed by geological changes in the past 130 million years, are clearly visible. The stone walls, spontaneously formed between the mountains, take our breath away. We marvel at the awesome machinery of nature. Gravel rocks, with soft quality, are easy to excavate. Ancient Cliff Dwelling makes a name as the “First Maze of China”, “Dunhuang of Beijing”, and “Goldbach Conjecture” in the realm of humanities and arts.

However, the background of the Ancient Cliff Dwelling, that is, who, when and for what purpose was the Ancient Cliff Dwelling made, is still a great unanswered question of history.

A sensible explanation now is the theory of Xi Clan cottage, which is mentioned in Xin Tang Shu (New Book of Tang Dynasty), Xin Wu Dai Shi (History of the Five New Dynasties), Liao Shi (History of Liao) and Jin Shi (History of Jin). Xi, a clan under Khitan tribe, was a nomadic people of the Five Dynasties over 1,000 years ago. Unable to bear the oppression and enslavement of Khitan, the Prince of Xi fled. He and some of his men arrived at the northern part of Yanqing, where they hunted and tended the land. They excavated the rock caves and went back to the routine.

The Mansion of Prince Xi (commonly called “Guan Tang Zi”) is the central cave among the caves in the Ancient Cliff Dwelling cluster. Airy and able to shield from the wind, it is located in the central area with a broad view.

Measuring 11m×8m×3.6m in width, depth and height, the Mansion of Prince Xi, the largest stone architecture of the highest status with most complex structure has two floors. It was the place in which tribal headmen or garrison leaders lived, discussed, rallied, made major decisions and held pre-battle meetings. It was also the place in which major offerings and honoring were conducted.

The Mansion of Prince Xi had chosen that site for significant military purposes. The broad view was suited to tell the conditions outside the mountain and in the way to the mountain. The Mansion, with its central location, could keep people up to the minute with the going-on of wars and make commands, attacks and defenses easy. The secrecy of the place made it difficult to be discovered, while the steep cliff in front could bar the way of beasts or enemies.

Back in the days, the Ancient Cliff Dwelling looking down Guichuan from a vantage viewpoint, was an ideal place for people to tend the land in Guichuan, hold the ground in the mountain, and take refuge in the ravine. The Ancient Cliff Dwelling represented in all aspects the unique and extraordinary wisdoms of the ancients. Over the years, the ingenious stone chambers seemed to freeze into an unyielding historical symbol, reminding people that the deliberation, exploration and inspiration for history shall never end.

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