Zhangbi Ancient Castle, perfect for tunnel warfare

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Speaking of tunnels, the most typical one is none other than tunnels made in the time when the Chinese people fought against the Japanese invaders. Such hidden underground tunnels connect from one village to other village, from one house to other house, giving the Japanese a heavy fight back. I always thought the tunnel warfare was the invention in the Second Sino-Japanese War period, until I visited the Zhangbi Ancient Castle, I realized there had been tunnel warfare since ancient times. In fact, Zhangbi Ancient Castle is the remains of the Sui and Tang dynasties.

Zhangbi Ancient Castle, also known as Zhangbi Ancient Village, which located at Longfeng Zhen (Dragon and Phoenix Town), Jiexiu City of Shanxi Province is one of the National Heritage Conservation Units and at the same time was named as one of the Top 10 Charming Town by CCTV in year 2005. The castle was built in 617 AD, at an altitude of 1,040 meters (3412 feet) above sea level, a total circumference of 1,300 meters (4,265 feet) and an area of 2,000 square meters (3 acres). Inside the isolated castle are preserved a large number of ancient streets and buildings. It is most famous for its underground tunnels, which have three layers, connected by crisscrossing tunnels as long as 5 kilometers (3 miles). The complicated attack and defense system makes Zhangbi Ancient Village a top and rare ancient underground military site in China.

September 4, we departed from Taiyuan and drove for Hukou Falls, and paid a visit to Zhangbi Ancient Castle midway. At first, I was quite a pity to that, because I wanted to go the famous Pingyao, I really didn’t know any about Zhangbi. Most people are familiar with the Wang's Grand Courtyard and Mianshan Mountain nearby, and Zhangbi is little known to people. But when I came here, I found that it was really funny.

German Castle

When talking about ancient castle, we may naturally think of Europe. I also have traveled to Germany and made a special trip to the Rhine River, enjoying one night in an ancient castle hotel. Few people noticed there are also many ancient castles in China. Zhang bi, standing silently as the Pearl in the countryside, has less petty tone of luxury but more natural beauty.

Shanxi was the military significance in ancient time. To protect themselves, people built many dock walls to defend their home. Although there is no historical records of the construction of Zhangbi Ancient Castle, but surely it was built to protect the villagers.

Different from the elegant south towns in China, Zhangbi Ancient Castle is not amazing at my first sight. Instead, it is a very antique primitive northern village. From the gate into the ancient castle is a stone main street for car passing, which is known as Dragon Street. There is no crossroad necessary for the town in the castle, but the T-shaped roads. It is said that it is required in the military, in order to prevent the enemy and easy to play roadway war.

Then I got into the Sui and Tang dynasties tunnels. The developed tunnels have 3 layers and one thousand meters long. Along the way there are identities, there are also tips in the crossroads, I didn’t need to worry about getting lost. Let me feel about the tunnels. Under the dim lights, there was some kind of very strange feeling. Go inside, I had the feeling of exploring tombs…

The tunnel system is divided into 3 layers. The top layer is only 1 meter (3 feet) deep from the ground, the middle is 8 to 10 meters (26-32 feet) deep, and the bottom is 17 to 20 meters (55-65 feet) deep. Walking in the secret tunnels, visitors might feel like entering a labyrinth. Its passages hide mangers, kilns, caves, wells, grain silos, flood-prevention facilities, wall-hole communication facilities and assassination devices, which all dye the castle a color of mystery. From the lowest point of the tunnel, about 20 meters (55 feet) deep from the ground, visitors can see the sky from through the patio above.

Out from an exit in a farm house on the hills, I strolled freely in the village. All are the local farmers’ houses. The yard planted with fruits and vegetables, and the trees were hung with hawthorn and jujubes. Indeed, it has came to fall.

In addition to the Sui and Tang underground tunnels, there are also other tunnels. What’s more, the Ming and Qing temples are worth seeing. But I was attracted by this even pull this fancy blue car car.

Shanxi Travel Guide: http://www.tourdechina.cn/ChinaGuide/Shanxi/

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