The Ancient Town of Sandaoyan: a region of rivers and lakes in Sichuan and a dreamland
JiangNan is a region of rivers and lakes, so are the central plains of Sichuan with tributaries winding through. Driving out of the Pixian County towards the north for 6.5 km, you’ll reach the Ancient Town of Sandaoyan with a history of over one thousand years, famous as a wharf and a key town of commerce and trade.
Of less than 4 km between the north and south, the Ancient Town of Sandaoyan is noted for its water which nourishes the Baitiao River and the Xuyan River with its unique temperament. However, it's weird that the two rivers belong to two different water systems. And there are another 18 tributaries and numerous brooks and ditches flowing in the town like a spider web, which makes the ancient town special and beautiful as well as fully displays its long splendid history.
Where there is water, there are boats. Since ancient times, the northern people ride horses while the southern people row boats. Thanks to the Minjiang River, the rich Chengdu Plain is described as “The weather here depends on the local people. Due to no famine here, they have never suffered hunger.” Wharves are for boats to berth and commercial goods to collect and distribute. Before the Liberation, the Ancient Town of Sandaoyan was the most famous wharf in the Chengdu Plain. The Xingfa Warehouse on the south bank and the Zhongxin Warehouse on the north bank were piled with goods to be collected and distributed, including mountain products, local products and aquatic products. Food and fruits are abundant. About ten boats were anchored on the south bank berth ten boats throughout the year, which was twice less than that on the north bank. Across the mighty Baitiao River was the wooden Yongding Bridge with a roof of grey tiles, under which the rafts and boats came forth and back continuously. Although the scene is not as grand as hundreds of boat, it has the unique features of wharves in the region of rivers and lakes. Handcarts and passerby on the bridge are in an endless stream.
The wharf’s booming can promote the local economic prosperity. But two prerequisites are for being a wharf of collecting and distributing goods. One is that the wharf should be back to a place where there are rich products and large groups of consumers; the other is that the wharf should have sufficient water and a wide river to make the net road smooth enough. Obviously, the Ancient Town of Sandaoyan possesses both.
We have every reason to believe that a raft began its first voyage in the Ancient Town of Sandaoyan silently and set downstream on a spring morning several thousand years ago. At the beginning, the river surged forward along the edge of the West Sichuan Plain. Later it grew into an irresistible force crisscrossing the hinterland of the Chengdu Plain and mixes with the water from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
Today, we have no way of knowing how magnificent the river was at that time. Local people said that the major introduced goods of the ancient town before the liberation were the bamboo weaving products, straw plaited article, palm fibre weaving products, marijuana, etc., increasing the agricultural income. And even in the period of dynasty replacement and frequent war, the businessmen of the Jintang, Zhongjiang, Ziyang and Neijiang County still gathered in the Ancient Town of Sandaoyan in spite of their safety.
Now, it’s hard to imagine that the brave raft started from this wharf with many other rafts and boats followinguntil the Republic of China, displaying the spectacle of the water transportation of the Ancient Town of Sandaoyan and the sorrow and happiness of the people who created the spectacle. Thus, those who ramble in the ancient town nowadays feel rather grateful for them.
There are many other downfallen ancient towns like the Ancient Town of Sandaoyan. Compared with the Ancient Town of Sandaoyan, towns similar to others in the new city construction are more unfortunate. When we visit tourist attractions, such as Wuzhen and Zhouzhuang, there are thousands of towns like Sandaoyan behind us. In face of cultural renewal and the return of peaceful mind, can we build another Wuzhen or Zhouzhuang among thousands of Sandaoyan?
The beauty of the ancient town is embodied in the boats across the rivers, square ladders and black tiles and bricks. The flowing water is placid like an ancient painting. But the romantic charm may lie in the small stone bridge with green trees shading and leisurely boats passing through its opening. The folk custom is simple and those who control the boat are in ancient costumes. Middle-aged women agilely paddle boats down with the fishtail-like oars. Looking out at a distance, it seems that the soaring brick tower and large area of lakes stand on an isolated island, just like cranes.
With a long history and rich cultural deposits, tourists speak highly of the ancient town as serene, quaint, peaceful and elegant. Accompanied by the bridge, flowing water and households by rivers, the ancient town appears to be mysterious and delicately beautiful. Pictures of beautiful scenery, people and rivers flash in front of eyes. As a region of rivers and lakes experiencing ups and downs for over a thousand years, the Ancient Town of Sandaoyan has impressed people more deeply, achieving the reality like a dream.
Address: near the Nanyiduan Street, Yongning Road, Pixian County in Chengdu
Transportation: Take the No. 315 bus from the Jinsha bus station to the Pixian County with a ticket of 3.5 yuan. Nearly one hundred shifts in the Chadianzi bus station head for the Pixian County every day and the fare is about 5 yuan. Several shifts of minibus from the Pixian County to the Ancient Town Of Sandaoyan with a ticket of 1 yuan. The price of the tricycle varies with the distance, about 1-2 yuan.
Self-driving: Drive on the old Chengdu－Dujiangyan expressway to the crossroad of the Pixian County for about 20 km and then turn right and drive to the Ancient Town of Sandaoyan on the secondary road. On returning, drive from the Tuanjie Town to the Anjing Town and then to the Dongzikou or from the Ancient Town to the Xinfan Town and then to the Dongzikou.
Food: thick broad-bean sauce made in the Guwangfang Company in the Pixian County, yellow catfish, fried prawns, Dai’s meat and tofu pudding of the Ancient Town of Sandaoyan
Accommodation: Agritainment, inexpensive