Chongqing’s Fishing City Fortress (Diao Yu Cheng)

Shi Guan Men

 Chongqing’s Fishing City Fortress (Diao Yu Cheng)

by Eric N. Danielson


The Fishing City Fortress (Diao Yu Cheng) is located about an hour-and-a- half drive from Chongqing’s downtown city center, just outside the small county town of Hechuan.  Driving from Chongqing on the Yu Wu Expressway (Yu Wu Gao Su), the highway passes through five extremely long tunnels dug through the mountains, including the Bei Bei Tunnel and the Xi Shan Ping Tunnel, and passes by turn offs to the other scenic sights of Bei Bei Town, the North Hot Springs (Bei Wen Quan) and Jin Yu Shan.  A taxi ride from the downtown Chongqing city center to Hechuan city costs about 300 Rmb.  Once you arrive in downtown Hechuan, the Fishing City Fortress itself is still another 8 km outside of town to the west.  The other historic sites of Lai Tan and Er Fo Si (Two Buddha Temple) are 36 km to the west, and the first city in Sichuan province, Nanchong, is 113 km away.

This hilltop fortress is surrounded by three rivers, the Jialing Jiang, the Fu Jiang, and the Qu Jiang, with very steep cliffs on all sides providing natural defenses that made it almost impregnable.  The mountain has a height of 391 meters.  The summit area measures 1,596 meters from east to west, and 960 meters from south to north, covering a total area of 2.5 km.

In addition to being surrounded by 8 kilometers of city wall with an average height of 15 meters, it had nine city gates perched on the edges of vertical cliffs dropping down to the rivers below, where there were two naval bases, one on the north side and another on the south side.

The fortress was built by the Southern Song Dynasty in 1243 to defend Chongqing against an invasion from the west by the Mongols.  Its defenders successfully resisted repeated attacks by the Mongols for a period of 36 years lasting from 1243 to 1279 , thus extending the life of the Southern Song Dynasty by several decades longer than it would have lasted otherwise.  Not only that, but since the Mongol’s supreme leader Mongke Khan was killed in a battle here in 1259 while attempting to capture the Fishing City, it caused all the Mongol leaders around the world to have to return home to Mongolia for a meeting to choose the new supreme leader, and thus saved Europe and the Middle East from further invasions.  When the Mongols finally did capture the Southern Song capital city of Hangzhou in 1276, the defenders of Diao Yu Cheng actually invited the emperor to take refuge with them and built a palace for him to live in.  Although he never arrived, the Fishing City was the last Southern Song fortress to fall to the Mongols.  Even then it wasn’t actually captured by force, but rather the commander of the fortress made the still controversial decision to surrender in 1279, reasoning that the Song dynasty had already been defeated everywhere else.

Over the centuries since, Diao Yu Cheng became an important place of pilgrimage for Chinese nationalist political leaders and intellectuals, many of whom left stone inscriptions at the site which can still be seen today, including those written by Jiang Jieshi, He Yingqin, Chen Yi, and Guo Moruo.  There are also a number of Buddhist rock carvings.

Other historic sights within the Fishing City include the Fishing Terrace (Diao Yu Tai), Three Saints Cliff (San Sheng Yan) carved in 1843, Thousand Buddha Cliff (Qian Fo Yan), the Sleeping Buddha (Wo Fo) supposedly dating from the Tang dynasty, Hu Guo Buddhist Temple (Hu Guo Si), supposedly originally built in 1155 and rebuilt in 1494, and the Loyal Ancestors Temple (Zhong Yi Ci) first built in 1494.  These two temples stand side by side and have been converted into a combined museum devoted to the history of the Fishing City.

The nine gates still survive in varying conditions.  In recent years there have been increasing efforts to restore/rebuild the site, which in some cases has unfortunately resulted in damaging the original ruins and relics that had survived until then.  The nine city gates of the Fishing City include Hu Guo Men, Shi Guan Men, and Xiao Dong Men of the south town; Xin Dong Men and Qing Hua Men of the east town; Chu Qi Men of the north town; and Qi Sheng Men, Shui Dong Men, and Zhen Xi Men of the west town.  The traditional approach to the city was from the south naval base on the Jialing River, up steps to Shi Guan Men and the lower south city wall, and then up further steps to Hu Guo Men and the upper south city wall, and then a short climb to the top where you emerge on the summit in front of Hu Guo Si and beside the Fishing Terrace (Diao Yu Tai).  An alternate route was up an even steeper flight of steps from the South Naval Base to Xiao Dong Men and the lower south city wall, and then up to Xin Dong Men and the upper south city wall.  There were two parallel south city walls forming a walled box between the four city gates of Xin Dong Men, Xiao Dong Men, Shi Guan Men, and Hu Guo Men on the south side of the city facing the Jialing River.

However, in recent years a road for motor vehicle has been built all the way up the back side of the mountain to the summit.  There is one very primitive stone walled hotel on the summit which actually falls into a category of lodging Chinese call a “shan zhuang,” or mountain lodge.  It is called the Gu Jun Ying Shan Zhuang and doubles as a supposed historic relic known as the “Ancient Army Barracks,” although it was built in 1987-89.

I’ll post my more detailed travel and research notes later.  For now enjoy this brief summary and the photos from my most recent October 2009 visit posted below.  This was my third visit to the site and at the time it was undergoing some pretty major restoration work.

A Bibliography of Chinese Sources on the Fishing City (Diaoyu Cheng)

Eric N. Danielson


Chi Kāizhì [池开智], 合川钓鱼城 (He Chuan Diao Yu Cheng), Chongqing: Southwest Normal University Press [西南师范大学出版社](Xi Nan Shi Fan Da Xue Chubanshe), August 2003. Produced by a large editorial committee with the cooperation of the Hechuan Municipal People’s Government (Hechuan Shi Renmin Zhengfu). 99 pp. of Chinese text. 124 numbered color photos. Large folio size hard cover coffee table book. This work was produced by a large Editorial Committee [编委] ( biān wěi) of 13 members. Text by Chi Kāizhì 池开智. Editor in Chief [主编] (zhǔ biān): Li Ming [李明]. Deputy Editorial Committee Chairmen [编委会副主] (biān wěi huì fù zhǔ): Tang Chuan [唐川] & Li Ming [李明].

Chi Kāizhì [池开智], Fishing Town of He Chuan City [合川钓鱼城(He Chuan Diao Yu Cheng), Chongqing Publishing Group (重庆出版集团) & Tian Jian Publishing Net (天健出版网). 1 VCD and a 94 page pocket size paperback booklet of bilingual text with 122 color photos. ISBN: 7-88905-019-4. VCD and booklet have the same ISBN#. No author or date are listed anywhere on the packaging, the VCD, nor the booklet itself. Even the publisher’s website does not list any author or date of publication. Nonetheless, the Chinese text and photos seem to be the same as in the larger volume with the same Chinese title published by Southwest Normal University Press in Chongqing in August 2003. The addition of an English translation of the text makes this the Rosetta Stone of Fishing City studies.

Chi Kāizhì [池开智], editor [编者] (biān zhě), 合州·钓鱼城 (Hechuan Diaoyu Cheng, Chongqing Publishing Group [重庆出版集团], 2009. ISBN 9787229005337. [A third Chinese publication with the same title. However, the text and at least some of the photos in this one seem to be different from the 2003 title by the same author. Certainly they aren't identical.]

Liu Daoping [刘道平], History of the Fishing City and the Later Period of the Southern Song Dynasty [钓鱼城与南宋后期历史] (Diaoyu Cheng Yu Nan Song Houqi Lishi), Chongqing: Chongqing Publishing House [重庆出版社] (Chongqing Cubanshe), 1991. 511 pages. Produced in cooperation with the Fishing City Museum Preparation Bureau [钓鱼城博物馆筹备处] (Diaoyu Cheng Bowuguan Choubei Chu). This publication was also part of the China Fishing City and Southern Song Dynasty Later Period History International Academic Symposium Collected Works [中国钓鱼城暨南宋后期历史国际学术讨论会文集] (Zhongguo Diaoyu Cheng Ji Nan Song Houqi Lishi Guoji Xueshu Taolunhui Wenji).

Liu Daoping [刘道平], Editor in Chief, China Scenic Spots and Historical Sites Vision, Pictorial Series, Vol. I, Chongqing Publishing House, January 1996. Preface on p.7 dated October 5, 1995. Bilingual text and captions in both Chinese and English. 100 pp. Color photos. Contains one brief chapter, “Diaoyu Castle Scenic Spot,” pp.65-70, followed by “Shan He Gu Hezhou,” pp. 71-76 about the modern-day Hechuan town center. There is an excellent map of the Diaoyu Cheng city walls and gates on p.65.

Liu Daoping [刘道平], Fishing City History and Culture [钓鱼城的历史与文化] (Diao Yu Cheng de Lishi yu Wenhua), Beijing: Central Literature Publishing House (Zhongyang Wenxian Chubanshe) [中央文献出版社], 2006. 365 pp. [The most authoritative monograph on the subject.]

Southwest Teachers College History Department [西南师范学院 歷史系] (Xi Nan Shi Fan Xue Yuan Lishi Xi), Fishing City Historical Facts Investigation [釣魚城史實考察] (Diaoyu Cheng Shishi Kaocha), Sichuan People’s Publishing House [四川人民出版社] (Sichuan Renmin Chubanshe), 1961. 102 pages. [This was the first academic study done of the Fishing City site. Southwest Teacher's College in Chongqing was the predecessor of Southwest Normal University [西南师范大学](Xi Nan Shi Fan Da Xue) before the school’s name was changed in 1985. The school’s name was changed again in July 2005 to Southwest University [西南大学](Xi Nan Da Xue). The school is situated at the foot of Jinyun Mountain, near the Jialing River, in Chongqing’s Beibei District. As such it is the closest university to the Diaoyu Cheng site.]

Tang Weimu [唐唯目], 钓鱼城志 (Diaoyu Cheng Zhi), Chongqing: Chongqing Publishing House [重庆出版社] (Chongqing Chubanshe), 1983. 176 pp.

Wang Jueying [王爵英], 合州·钓鱼城 (Hechuan Diaoyu Cheng), Sichuan People’s Publishing House [四川人民出版社] (Sichuan Renmin Chubanshe), 2001. 281 pages. ISBN: 722005288X/ 9787220052880. [A fourth Chinese publication with exactly the same Chinese title, but different publisher, author, publication date, and ISBN. Since I don't actually have this, and haven't used it, I can't vouch for its quality.]

For an annotated outline translation of Liu Daoping’s most comprehensive monograph on the Fishing City please see my other blog post at this link:

About YangziMan

I'm a U.S. citizen who has spent the last 14 years living, working, and traveling in China continuously without a break. I have written five books about China for overseas publishers, and a host of scholarly articles for academic journals such as the Royal Asiatic Society and China Heritage Quarterly. Visit My Author Page:
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