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Sanyou Cave Scenic Spot

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Sanyou Cave or Sanyou Grotto(三游洞, literally means Cave of Three Visits) is not only a natural scenic spot but a more famous tourist attraction of humanity featured with its significance and influence in history of China’s culture and history.

Sanyou Cave Sanyou Cave is located 10 kilometers afar from northwest Yichang City. Sanyou Cave is a huge cave on the cliff of the northern peak in Xiling Gorge, one of the famous gorges and tourist attractions of Yangtze River Cruise. It backs on three gorges of Yangtze River and mouth of Xiling Gorge, and faces Xialao Stream(下牢溪), and at least, it is a quite well-known ancient historic site of Yangtze River. Currently, as the improvement of sense of environmental protection nationwide, this attraction is also highly focused and becomes a famous place of interest under the unprecedented protection of local government. Sanyou Cave shapes with the continual corrosion of groundwater for millions of years, and it belongs to karst cave of limestone. The depth of the cave is roughly 30 meters, and 23 meters wide and 9 meters high, and the paralleled stone columns divide the cave into two rooms, and the front one was bridge and large, also the wall is full of the poem inscriptions, and the rear war was simple but mysterious. It is also a good point to view Yangtze River. What is more, it is a scenic area indeed. Overlooked from the downstream section of Yangtze River, the north peak of Xiling Mountain seems like a solitary island between Yangtze River and Xialao Stream, and the Zhixi Pavilion on the summit is quite noticeable and eye-catching. Probably, the most highlighted scene of Sanyou Cave is the original exhibition of stele inscriptions and cliff carvings in the cave or on the exterior part of cave. They are highly worthy of artistic appreciation and historic value. 

Thanks to the unique location of Sanyou Cave, which is exactly located at the east side of Three Gorges Waterway, a large amount of literators, scholars and cultural giants coming and going to Sichuan would spend much time visiting here or gathering for traditional creation of poem. During their visit and gathering, they expressed their emotions and affectations and inscribe their poems and some highly-valued words or sentences in different styles of calligraphy on the cliffs. From then on, there have been a lot of stone inscriptions themed with poems in Sanyou Cave. Since Tang and Song Dynasties, the representatives of those famous historical figures visiting Sanyou Cave included: Bai Junyi(白居易), Yuan Zheng(元稹), Ouyang Xiu(欧阳修), Su Xun(苏洵), Su Shi(苏轼), Su Zhe, (苏辙), Huang Tingjian(黄庭坚) and Lu You(陆游)and so on. The well-preserved works contain more than 100 wall inscriptions and stele carvings other than nearly 60 calligraphy works. Unfortunately, due to the undermining of nature and humankind, many of them have been ruined or destroyed partially or absolutely. In the way, cliff inscriptions and the steles represented by the prose of Ouyang Xiu about the Preface of Sanyou Cave(三游洞序) have been the valuable materials of history and culture

The Origin of Sanyou Cave

In 819, after suppressing the insurgence of Wu Yuanji(吴元济), Emperor Xianzong of Tang Dynasty pardoned a lot of prisoners or demoted officials who included Bai Juyi and Yuan Zhen, both of who were the leaders of Yuanhe Poem School and gave a large influence on the development of Chinese poetry. Bai Juyi was promoted to be the governor of Zhongzhou, today’s Zhong County of Chongqing Municipality from Jiangzhou, today’s Jiujiang city of Jiangxi province. On the way, he with his young brother named Bai Xingjian(白行简) accidentally met his bosom friend Yuan Zhen, who was promoted to be the governor of Guozhou(today’s Sanmenxia City, Henan province) from Tongzhou(today’s Dazhou, Sichuan province). They were all in rapture, because in that unstable time, meeting a bosom friend was absolutely impossible, and they considered this meeting as the gift of heaven, because they never met in the past five years. And Bai Juyi wrote a long poem Zheng Yuan Weizhi(The Poem Presenting Yuan Zhen, 赠元微之) 

They discovered a natural cave when they were visiting at the area the inner of Sanyou Caveof Mouth of Xiling Gorge. This place was an incomparable site, and they could not describe it thoroughly though they were good at description and illustration, but they did not want to leave at all. Yuan Zhen said:” It is really not easy for our meeting, and this perfect beauty is not discovered easily either, so let us create the ancient poem with 20 rhythms respective and then inscribe them on the wall. ”. So Bai Juyi created this famous prose named Preface of Sanyou Cave and inscribed it on the wall. At the end of the prose, Bai Juyi wrote: this place is firstly visited by three people, Yuan Zhen, Bai Xingjian and me, so this cave could be named Sanyou Cave. And this is the origin of Sanyou Cave.

Since their visits to Sanyou Cave, this unknown cave rapidly became quite famous gradually, but its fame extending nationwide started from Song Dynasty, and it owes to Ouyang Xiu, the literature master and leader of Song Dynasty. In 1036, Ouyang Xiu was embroiled into the incident caused by supporting Qingli Reform operated by Fan Zhongyan, another famous reformer and literature master of Song Dynasty, and he was demoted as well to be the governor of Yiling, today’s Yichang. On July 10, 1037, Ouyang Xiu with Ding Baocheng, an official of Xiazhou, visited this cave and left his rarely-seen inscriptions. Since then, this cave really became nationwide famous. In winter of 1059, Su Xun, Su Shi and Shu Zhe left Sichuan to Bianliang, which is today’s Kaifeng and the capital of Northern Song Dynasty, and they visited this cave, and also left their poems in the cave. The public called them the latter Sanyou, distinguishing it from the first visits of Bai Juyi, Bai Xingjian and Yuan Zhen. Besides, their mood to visit Sanyou Dong was also different from the former one. Therefore, Sanyou Cave owns four masters of Eight Literature Masters in Tang and Song Dynasties, and it is also impossible for Sanyou cave to be unknown. Besides, many other famous figures like Huang Tingjian, Ye Heng, Lu You and Wang Shizheng etc visited this cave as well. And an unknown spring is even named Spring of Lu You, the greatest poet of Southern Song Dynasty. Today, there is also a Tea House of Lu You.

Zhixi Pavilion(Rapture Pavilion, 至喜亭) 

Zhixi PavilionZhixi Pavilion is comprised of three pavilions and a double-eave pavilion with a layout of Ping” 品”, a Chinese character. Its decoration is quite good and tradition. In 1036, for facilitating the boatmen and businessmen, the governor of Xiazhou named Qing Qingji built this pavilion, and the next year, Ouyang Xiu specially wrote an article named Xiazhou Zhixi Ting Ji(峡州至喜亭记, Essay of Rapture Pavilion in Xiazhou), and this pavilion also becomes one of top three excellent scenes of Xiazhou in Song Dynasty. So coming to visit Sanyou Cave, Zhixi Pavilion is a must-see
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