Longyou caves

Ten enduring mysteries of the Longyou caves

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Located near the village of Shiyan Beicun in Zhejiang province, China, lies the Longyou caves - an extensive, magnificent and rare ancient underground world considered in China as ‘the ninth wonder of the ancient world’.  The Longyou grottoes , which are thought to date back at least 2,000 years, represent one of the largest underground excavations of ancient times and are an enduring mystery that have perplexed experts from every discipline that has examined them.  Scientists from around the world in the fields of archaeology, architecture, engineering, and geology have absolutely no idea how they were built, by whom, and why.

First discovered in 1992 by a local villager, 36 grottoes have now been discovered covering a massive 30,000 square metres. Carved into solid siltstone, each grotto descends around 30 metres underground and contains stone rooms, bridges, gutters and pools. There are pillars evenly distributed throughout the caves which are supporting the ceiling, and the walls, ceiling and stone columns are uniformly decorated with chisel marks in a series of parallel lines. Only one of the caves has been opened for tourism, chosen because of the stone carvings found inside which depict a horse, fish and bird.  The Longyou caves truly are an enigma and here we will explore ten mysteries that are still unexplained despite more than two decades of research.

1. How were they constructed?

A rough estimation of the workload involved in building these five caves is awe-inspiring. The quantity of rock that would have been removed in the overall excavation of the grottoes is estimated to be nearly 1,000,000 cubic meters. Taking into account the average digging rate per day per person, scientists have calculated that it would take 1,000 people working day and night for six years to complete.  These calculations are based purely on hard labour, but what they haven’t taken into account is the incredible care and precision of the sculptors, meaning that the actual workload would far surpass the theoretical estimation.  As for how they were constructed and what tools were used, it is still unknown. No tools have been found in the area, and, as we will explore later, scientists still don’t know how they achieved such symmetry, precision, and similarity between the different caves.

2. No traces of construction

Despite their size and the effort involved in creating them, so far no trace of their construction or even their existence has been located in the historic record.  Although the overall excavation involved almost a million cubic metres of stone, there is no archaeological evidence revealing where that quantity of stone went, and no evidence of the work. Moreover, there is not a single historic document that refers to them, which is highly unusual considering the sheer scale of the project.  Their origin is a complete and utter mystery.  

3. Why were the walls chiselled?

Longyou Caves - ChiselledEvery single one of the caves is covered, from floor to ceiling, in parallel lines that have been chiselled into virtually every surface.  The effect is a uniform pattern throughout the caves, which would have required immense manpower and endless hours to create.  The question is why? Was such labour-intensive work purely for decoration?  Are the lines or patterns symbolic in some way? All that is currently known is that the markings are similar to those found on pottery housed in a nearby museum, which is dated between 500 and 800 BC.

4. Lack of fish

When the caves were first discovered, they were filled with water, which presumably had been there for a long period of time.  They had to be pumped out in order to realise that these were not just like the other ‘bottomless ponds’ found within the area, but man-made structures. Most villages in southern China contain very deep ponds, which have been called "bottomless ponds" by generations of villagers. These ponds teem with fish, which are easily caught. However, after the first cave was pumped dry, not a single fish was to be seen, or any other sign of life.

5. How did the caves remain so well preserved?

One of the most interesting and challenging questions is how the caves have been able to keep their structural integrity for more than 2000 years.  There are no signs of collapse, no piles of rubble, and no damage despite the fact that in some areas the walls are only 50 centimetres thick.  Over the centuries, the area has gone through numerous floods, calamities and wars, the mountains have changed their appearance and exposed stones have been weathered, but inside the caves, the form, patterns and markings are still clear and precise – it is as though they were built yesterday.


These caves could have been carved same as caves in CooperPedi [spelling may be wrong there] in Australia. Chiseled. Little at a time.
Chiseling by hand, one can listen for what the sounds coming from chiselers on the other side are doing to that wall surface, and gauge how thick the wall is by "sounding".
These could be one more piece of evidence that proves high-civilizations existed LONG before current science wants to admit...hundreds of thousands of years longer ago.
WHERE were these caves, 10,500 years ago? Where were they longer ago than that?
This can be deduced by current science.
Perhaps the caves elevation sank, to where it is now, causing it to fill with water.

chisel marks go to the floor, those look more like machine marks.

Zuell's picture

These caves were obviously constructed by an advanced intelligence not indegious to the local area. What if any are the acoustical elements of these caves? The carved lines suggest to me either acoustical properties or a means to reflect light.


True.You are right.

Please go read sourate " al kahf " or " the cave " in the saint Coran. You will find an explication to your questions.
There were ancient people who stayed 309 years in these caves, and the light only entered at 12:00.

As you can read and find out by yourself in the Saint Coran, in the verses 1 to 30, sourate " Al Kahf " or " The Cave " :
These were young kids who believed in one God " Allah " and feared the prosecution of the non believers, so they went to hide in the cave, and by a divine intervention, they entered a long sleep of 309 years in these caves, and they have one dog with them. The sun shined a precise time in sunrise and sundown, and they didn't hear any noise. So the things in the walls should be for acoustic isolation.
Go read by yourself, I can't understand all, this is what I am able to give you so you can search and find out more.

As it is stated in the Saint Coran, the sun entered from North and East, and that corresponds to the orientation of the Longyou caves, with Southwest orientation !
The number of 24 caves corresponds to the verse 24 of Sourat Al Kahf where Allah discusses the number of the caves !

My friend they found 36 caves. Not 24.

I read Dr Brian Weiss's books on his journey to reveal his findings with past life regression when using hypnosis on his patients....in one of his books he revealed information from a session where the patient talked about caves which would be discovered when mankind is ready and lots of hidden documents.....I am not sure if this could be linked, because I am not in possession of that books anymore....

These walls look as tho they were scoured out with some kind of abrasive machining - I think this just goes back to the concept of many thousands of years ago there were highly civilized peoples in the world
which would explain so much that had been discovered recently. I do not think we are the 'masters' of all that we think we are !!!

It would appear obvious what all the lines evenly etched in the walls and ceilings are from. Tell me they don't look like the walls and ceilings of a salt mine after being excavated.

Could it be that the caves where made by a underground river that dryd up then found by man and some amazing BIT of work to finish off ......


Yeah, I was thinking that too.

Don't think so. Water doesn't let in its wake signs like these. It is intelligent activity there, not signs of elements.

Hmm, maybe not specifically a river, or there would be an exit which isn't mentioned, but I think they're more likely to have been carved from existing natural caves than completely man-made.

There's no evidence that it was entirely excavated artificially: actually quite the opposite as the article points out (lack of rubble and so on). And if they were planned from scratch, why are they such an irregular shape, rather than set out in the straight lines and arches that it seems (from the carving we can see) the people working on it preferred? The fact that the diagonal markings are intact show that it's remained in its completed form and not been much changed since.

Who's to say they weren't carved in prehistoric times by tribes of cavemen with an awful lot of time on their hands who had found and continuously inhabited the caves for perhaps hundreds of year. Would be truly amazing if they were made by the hominids that preceded Sapiens.

Tsurugi's picture

None of the grottoes are connected, despite being very close to each other deep in the rock. In some places as little as 50cm separates one from another.
Many of the grottoes are identical in layout, or are mirror images of each other.
All of the grottoes discovered thus far were full to the top with water. The entrances to them are small openings in the ground. The locals considered them to be natural pools or springs.

These things, IMO, argue against the grottoes being natural formations that were modified. Natural caves would be interconnected and not nearly so regular.

Surely part of the carvers' work could well have been to open the connected caves into single caverns, so what you're then saying is just that the ones that are separate are separate, by half a meter or more. As for the regularity/mirroring (and mentions of the disappearing fish below): I couldn't find much more about these caves online; please share your sources!

The only problem there is cavemen didn't have a lot of time on their hands. They were hunting constantly and not living long enough in the first place to undergo something this large.

Actually, it has been proven that hunters and gatherers had more free time than we in the working world have now.

A conclusion is not proof.

How about this:
1. What are the dimensions (WxHxD) of these caves? This detail, very important, is not given in the article.
2. Who built them? Here I have two explanations for this: a). the giants before the Flood (take a look at the pictures, the space is not for normal people); b). a population after the Flood who built them for their protection.

Tsurugi's picture

Your first question is a good one. I have not been able to find any precise info regarding the dimensions. They are multiple levels deep(4 or 5), and the scale of each level can be visualized by looking at some of the images available which contain tourists. I would say each level is cathedral-like in scope.

it is also possible this is actually formed poured concrete and not solid rock at all - there are some archaeologists who claim that a lot of ancient 'rock' could be an unknown type of cement - these strange 'carvings' also look as tho they might be the result of supports to hold a cement ?? This idea of old concrete would explain so many apparent huge stones and structures that cannot be duplicated even now - everything scientists call 'fact' is only a theory anyway, so we just have to keep throwing out the ideas until we find the best solutions to all these mysterious 'buildings' . What fun !!

I would be willing to accept they had a form of concrete, but I will not jump to conclusions in regards to this article. I want to wait til the evidence and facts come in. It is possible but we do not know if it was carved in rock or not. I could imagine that at some point along the irrigation line they may have come to a point where there was no exposed rock.

Yes, I agree with you when we speak about the Pyramids (they were erected by the Giants, it seems before the Flood, using huge concrete blocks). Here, it wouldn't be technologically possible: imagine preparing millions of cubic meters of concrete, then forming a huge cube or rectangle of tens of meters high and finally pouring and waiting for curing. And now here is the catch: they would have needed complex equipment for drilling the galleries. Too much hard work and too time consuming.
What I believe is that the Giants used drilling equipment, but for digging in the actual, natural rock.

Tsurugi's picture

In ancient texts and myths there are references to a stoneworking tool of immense power called the Shamir.


Perhaps such a thing was used here....?

Giants? really? I suspect there have been giants, either individuals or groups, but that is so far from what we KNOW about this cave that it comes out of left field.

What do we know.
Carvings or marks
No sign of tomb or shelter use
No traces of construction

I wonder how they were dated? You can’t date stone, and nothing was found inside?

Using Occam's razor (also written as Ockham's razor from William of Ockham (c. 1287 – 1347), and in Latin lex parsimoniae) is a principle of parsimony, economy, or succinctness used in problem-solving. It states that among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected.

1. How were they constructed?
So let’s suppose that carving the caves creates the marks. Next, perhaps an ancient man didn't view time like we do, so carving caves at a very slow pace does not upset his sensibilities like it upsets us.
2. No traces of construction
No information we can use here.
3. Why were the walls chiseled?
See question 1.
4. Lack of fish
This sounds like an unrelated modern issue.
5. How did the caves remain so well preserved?
Has anyone asked a geologist?
6. How did the builders work in the dark?
Mirrors? Fire? Is there any soot on the ceiling?
7. Who built them?
No point asking until you prove your date.
8. Were the caves meant to be connected?
If so, they most likely would have been.
9. How did they achieve such precision?
I believe if you check with the evolution folks you will find that our IQ has never changed over time. They were just as smart as you are. Most things can be reasoned out, given time and motivation.
10. What were they used for?
Buildings. Unless signs point other uses like aqueducts. From the article, they sound like buildings.Weather tomb, temple, home or storage vault, they are all just underground buildings.


Tsurugi's picture

"4. Lack of fish
This sounds like an unrelated modern issue."

Not sure what you mean by that...? The reason the lack of fish is strange is because when the grottoes were full of water and thus were being used as pools or springs by the locals, they had fish in them. Large ones that were easily caught by hand. Yet when the water was pumped out....no fish were to be found(and no, they didn't get sucked out by the pumps)

"5. How did the caves remain so well preserved?
Has anyone asked a geologist?"

Yes. The stone from which the grottoes are cut is sedimentary(siltstone) and should degrade in water. Yet no degradation is apparent.

"6. How did the builders work in the dark?
Mirrors? Fire? Is there any soot on the ceiling?"

No evidence of fire. From what I've read, even a forensic examination of the ceilings of the deepest rooms showed no evidence of fire...not even "clean" fire like lamps using oil or gas.
Mirrors are inadequate. Even experiments using modern mirrors have shown that total lumens drop precipitously with each successive reflection.

The rest of your post I agree with, in general. Except for the bit about ancient man not viewing time like we do. While speculatively interesting, I don't think it passes Occam's Razor.

Coincidentally, the application of Occam's razor unfortunately points in such a direction unpopular to some who seem to have drawn the line at permitting the consideration of intervention by, shall we say "unknown" entities, races, or dimensional possibilities imponderable within their hegemony.
Of course, so far, I have no proof that God can't be doing/being everything, including my own seeming capacity for consciousness, and every thought, I all along thought mine, along with possibly everything else. Or I might be me. Even if I am, who am I? Might not know.
All I can say is that I seem awash with gratitude for having seemed to have been included in whatever this unspeakably magnificent representation of existence with all its meticulous perfection in the crafting of every aspect and idea imaginable and infinitely farther yet. Beyond mortal imagination. And lest I dare to pretend to "know" any thing, let alone any aspect of my creator, in all honesty, I must say maybe perfect. But I must also say, perfect or not, it certainly seems more perfect than anything I might be able to come up with. The most I can confirm is the maybe perfect. But if it is, what have I done? Might depend on who I am.

Tsurugi's picture

I recall reading somewhere (in The Kolbrin, I think) that it is perfect for its purpose. Any perceived imperfections are a result of a misunderstanding of that purpose.

I am NOT suggesting by any means that it was the Giants (Nephilim) mentioned in Genesis who built this cave, but the inhabitants of Canary Islands (Guanches- possible bastardization of UaShems- ancient Egyptian for "those who rebelled; those who plotted to rebel") were pyramid builders who mummified their dead. They ranged in size from 6-8 feet in height, and had light-colored eyes & red & blond hair. In the ancient world THAT would have been considered a "giant". We shouldn't scoff at things we read in the Bible as there are many actual facts in it. Consider also that "army" of terracotta soldiers. If these 'caves'/'grottoes' were built by Qin Shi Huang, wouldn't it have made sense to 'house' his army of terracotta soldiers in it? I agree with the poster who speculated these were the work of a superior intelligence.

Yep someone thought along time ago " this is gunna mess with alot of heads in a few millenia " and how right they were. I agree with others that these where previous cave dwellings that were just developed over time , once ya did ya hunting and gathering you didnt have much else to do

Ok, Obviously these caves are thousands of years old. Why is no one asking. How long would it actually take to fill up these caves. As to the question of "Why is there no fish life?". I would safely assume to say that these caves were inhabited at one point and there was no water. They are not connected as they say in the article. I would guess that there is no way for fish to actually get into them. They said they didn't find fish in only one. It's possible fish could have been manually transferred by man in modern times. For an explanation to these caves. I would look to ancient myths. Especially local ones. This kind of sounds a bit like the Native American Indians myth of the gods taking them underground to survive some upcoming apocalypse only to come out from below hundreds or thousands of years later. I am guessing the caves were fashioned by an ancient civilization with the help of their "gods" or aliens if you want to put a name on them in modern terms. I also find it quite funny that I have never seen any article on these till now. These being found 22 years ago! Why are scientist from all over banging on the door to excavate and document these? You would think that these would be on par with the pyramids. Anyways, Just my thoughts on the matter.. Keep an open mind!

Tsurugi's picture

Good questions here.

There are no local myths or legends regarding the grottoes. Not one. The closest might be the locals' referring to the pools as "bottomless"....though that could simply be because they were deep despite being so small in size.

The reason the fish are mentioned is because there were fish in them before they were pumped out, but no sign of them afterwards, and no obvious means of escape for them.

The reasons for there not being more news about the grottoes, or that scientists aren't banging down the doors, is IMO because this is a huge mystery, and it's China.
Meaning, they want some kind of handle on who, exactly, made these things before opening them up for global study. China can be a tad sensitive about evidence pointing to the presence of non-asians in their country in antiquity.

One dude built the Coral Castle over the course of 28 years, each piece weighing over a ton. Why? Cause his chick ditched him on their wedding day. How? He never really revealed. Then he spent 3 years moving the entire castle 10 miles from the original spot, ton by ton.

I understand it's fun to speculate on ancient super peoples and stuff, but normal men and women can make wonders too, and they don't all need reasons.

Tsurugi's picture

So what are you saying? Because the questions are hard, don't ask them?
You mention Coral Castle. Yes, one small man built it, then moved it. This is indisputable. But your reaction of, "It happened, therefore no mystery" is precisely opposite that of most people who hear about Coral Castle(and indeed makes me wonder what on this website you find interesting?). Coral Castle is baffling precisely because one man did it somehow all by himself, and hundreds of people have spent much time and energy trying to figure out how.

No one, as of yet, has succeeded in coming anywhere near close to duplicating Ed's accomplishments, or even understanding his methods.

Pretty sure that makes him a bit more than a "normal" guy.

How they were constructed?
Date the period to narrow down the possible results. Date the stone, or surrounding stone, stone can be dated. That question should be answered after how old is the construction.

No traces of construction?
Oh really, then why did you ask the first question how they were constructed?
Obviously they were constructed, so yes thats your trace. You want to know the evidence, You see the evidence, check the dimensions of the caves, if there are mathematical similarities it could mean there in a message in the math, hence the Giza pyramid.
You have to remember that these caves may be a lot older than our current recognized approved history suggest, therefore the construction technology could also be more advanced

Why were the walls chiseled?
Again you need to know the stone dating, to connect the reasoning with a possible civilization.
Or with our current knowledge ask someone who specializes in architecture like a stone mason.
Seems to me that the lines would help sound travel, or light travel,
Perhaps they knew how to make light travel through stone, or convert sound into light.
All energy is the same the more advance the technology becomes.

Lack of fish?
Who says fish need to be in a cave,
who is the say that the caves were always at that elevation?
Fish now, and then, who says they had our needs then. That's not relative.
That's like us saying theres no refrigerators, in the stone ages, its relative issue based on the needs of the times.

How did they remain so well preserved?
Well back then it seems like almost everything was built to last, the stone henge, pyramids, you name it its still there.
Perhaps they meant for it to last very very long.
And its relative, nowadays we don't create anything to last more than 100 years. We just don't have the need for preservation.
Which is sad because in a 1,000 years who's going to know about us? We don't have anything that will last that long.

How did the builders work in the dark?
As i mentioned earlier, who is to say there were at that current elevation in the time of construction.
And we can't always assume older means dumber, we see that their cave lasted this long so they must have had technology that was equally better than ours.
Stone frequencies and vibration technology could be the key here.

Skipping a few questions...

How did they create the caves with such precision?

Back in those days, apparently everything was mathematically precise, literally everything that was 10,000 + more years old was. The stones were cut to 1,10,000th of a inch, very advanced civilizations back then i guess. No mortar was used at all.
Some think they used the coral castle method, i think they had lasers, or they knew how to make stones very light using acoustics, a very advanced form of technology that we still don't know.

What were they used for?

From the looks of all the other constructions back then. Fine construction might have been for energy production, stones, metals, gases used in the right manner can create natural electricity or other forms of energy we aren't aware of...

Tsurugi's picture

By "no traces of construction" they mean that the surrounding landscape shows zero signs that such an immense undertaking ever took place. Remember that they had to take all that stone somewhere....presumably.

The lack of fish, as I've explained in response to other comments here, refers to the fact that there were fish in the grottoes before the water was pumped out, but no sign of them after.

The question about why they are so well preserved is because they are cut from a sedimentary stone which degrades in water, yet no degradation is apparent.

The rest of your post I agree with, in general.

My thought when I see things like this… perhaps there was a simple "technology" if that's the right word or a technique known long ago to soften rock. The cut marks to me look like scoring in clay.

why must every hole or building be built for burial? plus i think they pre-date suggestion 2000 years, more like before china was colonized.

I believe the author is of the class 'Regular Village People' or lesser than!

Tsurugi, must have information that the author and us are not able to access... For example

"Most villages in southern China contain very deep ponds, which have been called "bottomless ponds" by generations of villagers. These ponds teem with fish, which are easily caught. However, after the first cave was pumped dry, not a single fish was to be seen, or any other sign of life"

NOT these caves... MOST VILLAGES.

Tsurugi wrote on 7 August, 2014 - 05:01

4. Lack of fish
This sounds like an unrelated modern issue."

Not sure what you mean by that...? The reason the lack of fish is strange is because when the grottoes were full of water and thus were being used as pools or springs by the locals, they had fish in them. Large ones that were easily caught by hand. Yet when the water was pumped out....no fish were to be found(and no, they didn't get sucked out by the pumps)

NOT these caves... MOST VILLAGES.

Love Peace and Respect

Tsurugi's picture


When I first found out about the Longyou Grotttoes a couple of years ago, I became extremely fascinated and spent a lot of time digging up whatever I could find on them. I knew from previous experience that if one really wants to find information about stuff in China, one good way to do so is to conduct the searches in Chinese, rather than English. There is a huge amount of info from China available online but almost none of it is translated.

With the help of copy/paste(to construct search queries composed of Chinese symbols), Google Translate, and a friend of mine who is from China and is fluent in the language, I collected a great deal of information regarding the Longyou Grottoes. Far more than the little that is available online in English.

So, do I have information that others here do not? Yes, I think so. But is it information that you and others are unable to access? No, it is not. I speak not a word nor recognize a single symbol of Chinese. Knowing that, I gathered the tools and help necessary to overcome that problem, and thus aquired the information I sought. You or anyone else could also do this, so it is not information you are unable to access, if you are willing to spend some time working at it.

But since I'd already put in the work and had the information, I set out to share some of it in these comments.  :)


P.S. What I read did indeed specify that the grotto pools had fish in them before they were pumped out.

i.e., NOT just most villages.....THESE CAVES   ;D

Tsurugi, That is excellent info thank you.

Tsurugi's picture


My pleasure. You were right to ask the question, too...thinking back, I don't know why I didn't take a moment to explain in the first place.



By the way, I have to ask....are you the Freeman?


Perhaps the development of the caves was not ancient but modern. Perhaps these were natural caves that were machine-carved into their present form on the whim and order of Mao, the detritus hauled off by truck to who knows where. Maybe the caves were intended as government bomb shelters but never outfitted due to Mao's death, or a lapse of interest. Given the warped mind of such a person, I wouldn't put it past him. As for who the workers were, he might well have purged them to erase any knowledge of the caves. After all, he thought nothing of killing about 10 million Chinese during his dictatorship.

what a pretty good comment!!

Perhaps the development of the caves was not ancient but modern. Perhaps these were natural caves that were machine-carved into their present form on the whim and order of Mao, the detritus hauled off by truck to who knows where. Maybe the caves were intended as government bomb shelters but never outfitted due to Mao's death, or a lapse of interest. Given the warped mind of such a person, I wouldn't put it past him. As for who the workers were, he might well have purged them to erase any knowledge of the caves. After all, he thought nothing of killing about 10 million Chinese during his dictatorship.

The walls of modern mines made with continuous mining machines look very much like the walls of the Longyou caverns.
Could these caves be indeed a modern creation of the Chinese government?

Zhau,Mizo or ZO people now settled in india an Myanmar has a falktale that their ancestors came out of a cave called Chhinlung or Sinlung or Khul,somewhere in China. Could this be the same cave the Zo people talked about in their falktale?
In the falktale the Zo people were let out from a cave from where the move to their present settlement.
Were they slaves who constructed these caves by Some chinese emperor who let them.out after the construction was finished?

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