In June, 1992, near the village of Shiyan Beicun in Zhejiang province, a man named Wu Anai, decided to pump the water out from one of the locally known caves revealing the first of many man-made caves in the region. After 17 days of pumping, enough water had been removed to reveal the cave including several carved stelae, thus confirming the idea that they were not natural reservoirs at all, but rather man-made structures. 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.
At least 36 caves have been discovered so far, аll of which were carved by hand. Although the overall excavation involved almost a million cubic metres of stone, there is no historical record of them or written evidence of the work whatsoever. Their origin remains a complete mystery. At present there is no explanation for their existence or purpose. They represent one of the largest underground excavations of ancient times and are considered by Chinese to be the ‘Ninth Wonder of the Ancient World’.
According to archaeologists, the chiselling on the cave walls and ceilings was executed in such a way that it has left them covered in a uniform pattern which some people believe is symbolic. It is similar to pottery found in the nearby museum which is dated between 500 and 800 BC.
This extraordinary discovery has called the attention of many specialists from from around the world. One of the most interesting and challenging questions is how the caverns have been able to keep their integrity for more than 2000 years.
Scientists have estimated that it would take 1,000 people working day and night for six years to complete the elaborate caves. However, no tools have been found in the area and scientists still don’t know how the ancient Chinese achieved such symmetry, precision, and similarity between the different caves.
Will we ever be able to solve the mystery of the Longyou Caves? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure – we should not underestimate the skills and craftsmanship of ancient civilizations. They were able to build structures with such precision that dwarf even our modern engineering accomplishments.