Shi Cheng – Hangzhou, China - Atlas Obscura
Free iron-on Atlas Obscura badge when you preorder our new kids’ book. Shop now.

Hangzhou, China

Shi Cheng

China's very own Atlantis is an ornate dynastic city resting at the bottom of a lake. 

Hidden beneath the waters of China’s Qiandao Lake is a collection of ornate historical buildings dating back to the 2nd century, but this city, known as Shi Cheng, was not drowned under mysterious circumstances but rather to make make room for the march of energy progress. 

Built during the Eastern Han Dynasty which lasted from around 25 to 200 CE, the regal city of Shi Cheng, which loosely translates to “Lion City,” was named after the Wu Shi Mountain which rose behind it and which itself translates to “Five Lion Mountain.”

Unfortunately in 1959, the valley in which the ancient city of Shi Cheng was located was flooded in order to create the man-made Qiandao Lake, which in turn would power a hydroelectric plant. While this hid the city from view under, at some points over a hundred feet of water, it also had the unintended net positive of preserving the ancient architecture from the ravages of the far more damaging wind and sun. To this day there are almost 300 arches still standing beneath the waves in addition to a great number of intact buildings.

Recently a Shanghai-based dive company has taken to exploring the ruins of Shi Cheng and there are plans to build a bridge across the entire lake that should increase tourism in the area, hopefully without effecting the ruins.