Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dujiangyan, Sichuan

New York Times. Destruction in Dujiangyan, the epicenter of the earthquake.

The New York Times. The parents of a child killed in the school collapse in Dujiangyan. The child's body is covered with cloth.

Many people have never heard of the town Dujiangyan (pronounced "DOO-jang-yan") in Sichuan until yesterday when media reports cited it as the epicenter of Sichuan's 7.9 magnitude earthquake. It is believed 10,000 people died in this town alone. But the most horrifying story is how 900 students are believed to be trapped and buried under rubble after their school collasped. This morning, China's state news agency says hope is waning for rescue crews to find many survivors.

I remember Dujiangyan. I remember it fondly.

I had been living in Sichuan for a month, and my "grand-uncle" (a transliteration of what I call him in Chinese) and his family took me to Dujiangyan on a weekend trip. We met some of their family friends there, and I remembered the son of the other family prepared an English report for me on why Dujiangyan is special. He was very bright and his English was quite good for a 12 year old. He told me that he was very proud that he was from Dujiangyan because the city's irrigation system is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We spent about an hour and a half touring this irrigation system, but I wasn't quite sure why we were all taking photos of this structure.

The structure was built in 227 B.C. during the Warring States Period of China by the general Li Bing (who is very popular in Chengdu and has many statues and temples dedicated to him). The town was very prone to flooding due to its proximity to the Min River, so Li Bing commissioned an artificial levee to redirect a portion of the rivers's flow to discharge excess water to the plains.

Later in the day, we went up Mount Qingcheng, home to Taoist temples. It was beautiful up there: lush, tranquil and calming. We had dinner that evening in Dujiangyan City, and I remembered writing in my journal on the car ride home, "What an amazing and strong city."

That was the last memory I had of Dujiangyan. But as I see pictures of the earthquake's aftermath in Dujiangyan, I can't help but to think back what I wrote in my journal. Such a tragedy, and I can't even begin to think how much strength that town needs for the parents, the families.
This is a picture I took on Mount QingCheng, Dujiangyan.

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