Beneath the tranquil waters of Thousand Island Lake in China’s Zhejiang province lies an astonishing secret—a submerged city known as Shicheng, also referred to as the “Lion City.” This incredible underwater archaeological wonder, a testament to history and engineering, was lost to the depths following the construction of the Xin’an River Hydropower Station. In this article, we dive into the submerged city of Shicheng, uncovering its rich history and the efforts to preserve its sunken treasures.
Shicheng, or Lion City, was founded over 1,300 years ago during the Eastern Han Dynasty. Nestled in a valley, surrounded by lush green hills and flowing rivers, the city thrived for centuries. Its well-planned urban structure, intricate architecture, and artistic treasures made it a cultural and historical gem in the heart of China. The city earned the nickname “Lion City” due to a hill that loomed over the city, resembling a crouching lion. This majestic landscape was not only picturesque but also added to the city’s charm and unique character.
The fate of Shicheng took a dramatic turn in the 1950s when the Chinese government approved the construction of the Xin’an River Hydropower Station. This ambitious project would create a massive reservoir, flooding the valley and the Lion City itself. The decision was made to sacrifice the city to harness the power of the river and provide electricity for the rapidly developing region. Over several decades, the city was slowly submerged beneath the rising waters, eventually vanishing from the surface. What remained of the ancient city was now hidden beneath a man-made lake.
Despite the watery depths that envelop Shicheng, the city has been remarkably preserved, thanks to the oxygen-deprived environment. The absence of oxygen has kept the city’s wooden structures, intricate carvings, and ornate sculptures nearly intact. The underwater conditions have even helped prevent the spread of decay and biological deterioration. The city’s preserved architecture, including stunning archways, temples, and intricate stone carvings, offers a rare glimpse into a past era. The underwater environment has, in essence, acted as a time capsule, freezing the city’s historic beauty for future generations.
In the early 2000s, Shicheng began to re-emerge from the depths, as divers and archaeologists started exploring the underwater city. They have documented the incredible relics, structures, and art that have been resting beneath the lake’s surface. To protect and share this remarkable heritage, the Chinese government has worked to promote and preserve Shicheng. Measures include reinforcing the city’s relics and offering diving tours for tourists and history enthusiasts, making Shicheng one of the most unique and captivating underwater attractions in the world. Shicheng, the lost underwater city of China, is a living testament to the inexorable march of time, development, and the preservation of history. As the city continues to reveal its secrets, it captures the imagination of explorers and historians alike, offering a unique window into a vanished world. Shicheng’s remarkable preservation beneath the waves serves as a poignant reminder of the need to protect and honor the cultural and historical treasures of our past, even when they are submerged in the depths of a seemingly timeless lake.