Highlight of Yangtze River: Hanging Coffins in Three Gorges

The Three Gorges area is a unique zone. Everyone comes to Yangtze River will be deeply impressed by its exceptional natural scenery and many unusual cultural phenomena. The hanging coffins are one example. The term hanging coffin refers to a coffin that is suspended in a natural or a man-made cave high up in the cliff.

Hanging Coffins on the Cliff of Three Gorges

According to historical records, the earliest coffin had a 1500-year history. Because of the low technology level in ancient times, people considered the mystery of the coffins for a long time. During that time, lots of folk legends came about.

Legend about the Hanging Coffins

People thought that human beings came from the water, mountains and caves, so they needed to return there. During the age of troglodytism, humans hunted in the forests and fished in the water, so they had a special connection with nature. Placing their ancestors’ coffins on cliffs above the water could be seen as sending them back to nature. There was a sentence in the famous poem “Flower Burying”: “the inner being came from cleanness and would return to the cleanness”, which is an example of the returning to nature theory.

Hanging Coffin along Yangtze River

History of the Hanging Coffins

Most of which date from the Spring and Autumn Period to the Warring States Period (770 BC-221 BC), were placed high above the water, particularly the ones found along the Daning River, with the lowest distance being 30 meters (98 feet) and the highest 500 meters (1,640 feet). With no support and backstop in the surrounding area, how the heavy coffins were placed in such a high place still remains a mystery. However, experts have speculated several feasible means by which ancient people did the great work. One theory is that the coffins were lowered down from the top of the mountain by ropes.

It was a common funeral custom in ancient times for Yangtze River people to hang coffins on the cliffs. But the intention remains controversial. One legend among the Ba people has it that a man called Wuxiang defeated his rival competing for the chief of the tribe by making a boat out of earth that would float in the water. In order to commemorate the great leader, his descendants made his coffin boat-shaped and placed it high up in the cliffs. Thus this practice was retained by later generations.

Hanging Coffin in the Cliff along Yangtze

Places to See the Hanging Coffins

The length of the Three Gorges is 192 km, from the beginning of Qutang Gorge to the end of Xiling Gorge, where more than 10 cliff coffins have been found. If you take a Yangtze River cruise, you’ll not only just see the hanging coffins along Three Gorges but also discover more during your shore excursions to Lesser Three Gorges and Shennong Stream.

Three Gorges - Wu Gorge

“There are countless treasures in the cliff coffins in the Three Gorges, which can not be obtained, even by risking your life”. While, you could travel with yangtze-river-cruises.com to discover some treasures of the hanging coffins not by risking your life.

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