Shibaozhai represents one of the gems of Chinese architecture along the banks of the Yangtze River. From afar, the protruding 220-meter (720 foot) hill on the north bank can appear to resemble a jade seal, and is so named. The creation of the hill is attributed to the goddess Nuwa in a Chinese legend, who caused a rockslide while she was redecorating the sky after a fierce battle between two warring dukes.
A red pavilion hugs one side of this rock. Its tall yellow entrance gate is decorated with lions and dragons and etched with an inscription inviting the visitor to ascend into a "Little Fairyland". The temple at the top was built during the reign of the Emperor Qianlong (1736-96) and access to it was by an iron chain attached to the cliff. A nine-storied wooded pavilion was added in 1819 so that monks and visitors to the temple would not have to suffer the discomforts of the chain ascent. In 1956 three more stories were added. Each floor is dedicated to the famous generals of the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220-65), local scholars and renowned Chinese poets. The rising waters of the river will eventually surround the pagoda, which will be preserved with a tiny dam of its own, but left on an island.
In front of Ganyu Palace at the top of the Jade Seal Hill is the Duck Hole. It is said that as spring turns to summer, if you take a live duck and drop it through the hole, it will quickly reappear swimming in the Yangtze. In the past the monks apparently drew their drinking water from this hole by using a pipe made of bamboo.
The spirit wall in the temple’s main hall is constructed of excavated Han-dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) bricks. The hall behind is dedicated on the right to General Zhang Fei and Yan Yan of the Three Kingdoms, and on the left to General Qin Liangyu (1576-1648) who fought bravely against the Manchu forces. A mural shows the goddess Nuwo repairing the sky.
In the rear hall are the remains of the Rice Flowering Hole. Legend has it that long ago just enough husked rice would flow up from the small hole each day for the needs of the monks and their guests. One day a greedy monk, thinking he could become rich, chiseled a bigger hole, and the rice flow ceased forever.
In 2009 the water level of the Three Gorges Dam Reservoir will reach the base of the yellow entrance gate of Shibaozhai.
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