Going downstream on the Yangtze River, travelers first encounter
Shibaozhai... a gem of Chinese architecture. From a distance the protruding
220-meter hill resembles a jade seal.
Located on the south bank of the Yangtze River, it was first built during the
Qing Dynasty in 1650. As one of the most spectacular sites along the river, this
12-story 56m wooden red pavilion hugs a sheer rectangular cliff. It consists of
three parts: the entrance gate, a nine-story wooden pavilion and a small temple
at the top.
On its yellow-glazed entrance gate is an inscription inviting the visitor to
climb a ladder and ascend into a 'Little Fairyland' (the top temple). The top
temple was built during the reign of Emperor Qianlong. Originally, the top
temple was inaccessible because of its elevation but later an iron chain was
attached to the cliff so visitors could access it. In 1819, the nine-story red
wooden pavilion was added so that monks and visitors to the temple would not
have to suffer the discomforts of the ascent by using chains. Designers also
built interior spiral staircase to make climbing more convenient.
At the top appears a stone terrace of 1200 square meters(1440 square yards).
Visitors can get a panoramic view of the winding river, the village and the
countryside and feel immersed in a sea of clouds. A series of halls stand in the
middle of the terrace with a well in Ganyu Palace at the top of Jade Seal Hill.
The well is called Duck Hole. It was said that during late spring, if you
dropped a duck down the hole, it would quickly reappear swimming in the Yangtze.
Another bit of local gossip said that in the past monks apparently drew their
drinking water from this hole by using a pipe made of bamboo.
The spirit wall in the temple's main hall is constructed of excavated Han
dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) bricks. The hall behind is dedicated on the right to
Generals Zhang Fei and Yan Yan (see Zhongxian) of the Three Kingdoms, and on the
left to General Qin Liangyu (1576-1648) who fought bravely against the Manchu
forces. A mural depicts the goddess Nuwo repairing the sky. Fossils of fish and
a tail section of a dinosaur found by the river's edge are on exhibit in the
In the rear hall are the remains of the Rice Flowing Hole. Legend has it that
long ago just enough husked rice would flow from the small hole each day for the
needs of the monks. One day a greedy monk attempted to get more and chiseled a
bigger hole and so the flow of rice ceased forever.Many of tourist cruise ships
dock at Shibaozhai for a few hours' visit.