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China: Mysterious and Enigmatic Longyou Caves and Grottos

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The Longyou Caves were first discovered in 1992, the Longyou Caves are a series of large artificial caverns located in Zhejiang province, China. So far, 24 caves have been found—all carved by hand. No one knows who built them. Although the overall excavation involved almost a million cubic metres of stone, there is no historical record of them or evidence of the work. Their origin is a complete mystery!

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At present there is no explanation for their existence. They represent one of the largest underground excavations of ancient times.

They are considered by Chinese to be the 'Ninth Wonder of the Ancient World'

In June, 1992, a villager named Wu Anai, decided to pump the water out in one of the locally known caves revealing the first of many man-made caves in the region. 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. 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. Following this discovery, he continued to pump out another four caves only to find that they all bore the same markings on the walls and ceilings.

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Every single one of the caves is covered, from floor to ceiling, in parallel lines that have been chiseled into virtually every surface. The effect is a uniform pattern throughout the caves, which would have required immense manpower and endless hours to create.

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According to Yang Hongxun, an expert at the Archaeological Institute of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, “At the bottom of each cave, the ancient [builders] wouldn’t be able to see what the others were doing in the next grotto. But the inside of each cave had to be parallel with that of the other, or else the wall would be holed through. Thus the measure apparatus should have been very advanced. There must have been some layout about the sizes, locations, and the distances between the caves beforehand.”

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A rough estimation of the workload involved in building these five caves is awe-inspiring. The four caves cover an average floor surface of 1,200 square meters, so each of the caves should have involved excavation of 36,000 cubic meters of stone. Since a total of at least 24 such caves have already been found in Shiyanbei Village, the overall excavation would be 900,000 cubic meters.

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It is said that among them are seven caves whose distribution pattern resembles that of the seven stars of the Big Dipper.

In Cave 1, which has been opened for tourism, stone carvings executed in a craftsmanship of ancient simplicity, of horse, fish and bird, may be seen (Land, Water and Air). The bird head has an appearance similar to one unearthed at the Hemudu site.

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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.

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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.


Credits: ancient-wisdom.co.uk; utaot.com

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