We parted Baidi through the morning clouds
down to JiangLing in a day, a thousand miles
Wild Monkeys called, along the river shores,
As the boat swiftly passed mountains and hills
This famous poem by Li Bai described was written during his homeward journey from Baidicheng to Jiangling by boat down the Yangtze River, after he was pardoned by the emperor. Baidicheng is an ancient city that is full of history, and is now a popular destination on the Yangtze River. When we were on the Three Gorges Cruise, we went on an excursion to explore this mysterious site.
From the wharf, passing stalls selling local produce and historical homes, we arrived the entrance of Baidicheng within ten minutes. From here, a long stone bridge connects the shore to the Baidi Hill, an island standing in the middle of Yangtze River where the ancient city of Baidicheng was located. The actual city had long been destroyed and buried under rocks and stones, the only place that is left intact and opened to the public is the ancient Baidi shrine that was stood on top of Baidi Hill looking over the ancient city.
The Baidi Shrine dated back to the Eastern Han Dynasty in 30 AD, when it was built to commemorate Gongsun Shu, a general who declared himself the emperor in the Shu region, calling himself the “White Emperor” or Baidi, and was later stamped out by the Eastern Han Army. During the Three Kingdom Period, the Emperor of Shu, Liu Bei, retreated here after his massive at was defeated by the tactics of Wu's young general Lu Xun, failing to revenge for his blood sworn brothers Guan Yu and Zhang Fei. Liu Bei fell ill from grief for his brothers, and passed away in Baidicheng. On his deathbed within Baidi Shrine before he died, he called upon his Grand Counsellor Zhuge Lang, asking him to protect his young son and the Kingdom of Shu. And Zhuge Lang did, fighting for the good of the Kingdom till he died. This touching story was made popular by the Romance of Three Kingdoms published in the Ming Dynasty hundreds of years later, and so the state councillor at the time decided to put into the shrine statues of these Heroes of Shu, calling the shrine “Hall of Benevolence and Loyalty”. The Statues can still be seen in the wooden shrine hall today, with the wooden plaque on the ceiling hand written by the Local Governor during Kangxi’s rule in the Qing Dynasty.
Apart from the main shrine hall, there are many other classical style building in within the shrine, such as the Stargazing pavilion where Zhuge Lang practised astrology to make predictions on upcoming battles. A lot of buildings were repaired or rebuilt during the Ming and Qing Dynasty, and therefore follow the architectural style of that period.
Behind the shrine there is a massive Chinese style garden, with famous poems written on the walls to commemorate the many poets that come to Baidicheng during Tang and Song Dynasty to get inspirations.
Coming down from the top of the hill, we can see the beautiful scenery of the Yangtze River along the way. Here, we can admire the close by Qutang Gorge, one of the narrowest gorge of the Yangtze River, flanked by near vertical steep cliffs. The close proximity of Baidicheng to this narrow gorge is the reason why this ancient city is extra important as a fortification historically.
At the bottom of the hill, we walked past a large square, where a giant bronze statue of Zhuge Lang stood beside a large stone tablet with writings on it. This is Zhuge Lang’s famous “Proposal to March”, where he outlined to Liu Bei’s young son, the new emperor of Shu, why for the good of the people they must befriend Wu and conquer Wei, and how he would work tirelessly for the good of Shu til the day he die. Such loyality and devotion is surely admirable and had inspired the Chinese for generations
As we walked back towards the wharf, we were treated with the beautiful view or he Yangtze River and its shores. Although we were only at Baidicheng for a couple of hours, it was enough to give us a taste of the long history of the region and the scenery that inspired generations of poets and artists. For those who want more time in the city, you can also take a ferry from Chongqing to Fengjie, where Baidiching would just be a 30 minutes bus ride away, giving you the freedom to explore this historical site to your heart’s content.