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Chinese underwater city - Lion City

The ancient underwater Lion City of China


The Lion City, otherwise known as Shi Cheng, is an ancient submerged city that lies at the foot of Wu Shi Mountain (Five Lion Mountain), now located about 25 – 40 metres beneath the spectacular Qiandao Lake (Thousand Island Lake) in China. In 2014,  officials took a renewed interest in the sunken city after discovering that, despite more than 50 years underwater, the entire city has been preserved completely intact, transforming it into a virtual time capsule. By 2017, the place had been opened up to tourists as a diving site and underwater mueum of the well preserved architecture and carvings dating back 1400 years.

Shi traditional Chinese statues - underwater city

The structures in Shi Cheng feature traditional Chinese statues. Photo credit.

The Lion City was built during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 – 200 AD) and was first set up as a county in 208 AD. It was once the centre of politics and economics in the eastern province of Zhejiang. But in 1959, the Chinese government decided a new hydroelectric power station was required - so it built a man-made lake, submerging Shi Cheng under 40 metres of water.

sketch of the Lion City - underwater city

A sketch of the Lion City, which remains perfectly preserved underwater. Photo credit.

After erecting a dam, now known as Xin'an River hydroelectric, the historical metropolis was slowly filled with water until it was completely submerged by the turquoise-blue mass now referred to as Qiandao Lake.  Qiandao Lake covers an area of 573 km² and has a storage capacity of 17.8 km³. More than 1,000 large islands dot the lake and a few thousand smaller ones are scattered across it.

spectacular Qiandao

The spectacular Qiandao (Thousand Island) Lake. Photo credit.

There, lying at the bottom of the Thousand Island Lake, the Lion City lay undisturbed and forgotten for 53 years, until Qiu Feng, a local official in charge of tourism, decided to see what remained of the city under the deep waters. He was amazed to discover that, protected from wind, rain, and sun, the entire city complete with temples, memorial arches, paved roads, and houses, had become a ‘time capsule’ as almost every structure was completely intact, including wooden beams and stairs.

Chinese underwater city - Lion City

Divers have rediscovered the opulent city. Photo credit

Unsurprisingly, this amazing site has now been opened up by the local tourist office and divers are vying to get a look at this ancient sunken city and all the historical treasures it has to offer.

Featured image: The submerged Lion City. Photo credit: Europics/CEN

By April Holloway



Beautiful photos. I'm sure some of the noveau riche in China will take full advantage of the scuba-tourism sure to spring up.

malisa wright

I love all these shocked "How could they?!" comments. Besides it was "he", not "they". For it was Mao Zedung - the greatest mass murderer in the history of humanity - who drowned Shi Cheng. Because after you've killed somewhere between 30 and 60 million of your own people, putting a beautiful, ancient city under 40 meters of dam water is not worth a single tear.

Zuell's picture

Its the new Atlantis


China is literally covered with old cities. Its not incredibly rich in electricity. The city would have continued to be populated, updated, &c but is now - actually - more preserved than it would otherwise have been.

I can't believe they chose to submerge an old city instead of preserve their heritage and this city. This blows my mind on a level I can't comprehend. All so they could have a hydroplant/lake?

aprilholloway's picture


April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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