|Praise for Two of Jinhua’s Ancient Weirs|
The selection of the Thirty-Six Weirs of Baisha River among the 2020 World Heritage Irrigation Structures (WHIS) was a major event for the worldwide popularity of Jinhua’s Wucheng District and for the popularity of such a major water conservancy project dating back to ancient China. Last week, the historical value of two other ancient weirs in Jinhua were praised by Liu Xueying, expert on world heritage, expert on special government allowances from the State Council, and professor of Zhejiang University of Water Resources and Electric Power. He exclaimed, “They are both precious and extraordinary!”
The two ancient weirs are located on the outskirts of the city: one is the Hanxiang Weir of Xiangxi Creek in the town of Tangya, Jinyi New District, and the other is the Yujia Weir of Songxi Creek in the village of Loudian, Dongxiao Subdistrict. The two are located at a distance of about 8 km from each other and date back to about 300 years ago.
As a person involved in the process of getting the Thirty-Six Weirs of Baisha recognized as WHIS, Liu talked also about these two weirs in a phone interview. Hanxiang Weir is not stranger at all to Liu, who has looked into it many times during the review process for the application of the Thirty-Six Weirs. Already back then, he had the impression that Hanxiang Weir would be quite valuable. But he is currently looking into Yujia Weir for the first time, since he previously only knew about it from historical records. The Annals of Jinhua Countyrecords: “Yujia Weir was rebuilt in the 40th year of the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1775). Commonly considered to be a new weir, it regulates the water in the village of Loudian.”
“The weir of Yujia is the sister of the one of Hanxiang; the two are very similar in appearance and function. And both date back to about 300 years ago. It’s extraordinary that two weirs from several hundred years ago were successively discovered in Jinhua.”
Liu illustrated that both weirs are composed of a main body (dam), impound pool, sluice gate, outlet channel, and diversion berm. The weir is inclined to the downstream in the shape of a ladder, and each step is made of rectangular stones. “The sluice gate regulates the water level, while the ladder-shape barrage is designed to reduce the impact of the water,” explained Liu. These two weirs have special features and highlights. The design principles, the craftsmanship, the technologies, and the history behind them are worth exploring.
Liu’s profuse experience in cultural heritage is enough for him to claim that the historical weirs of Zhejiang are the most distinctive throughout China; within the province, the most characteristic ones are in Mid-Zhejiang, including Jinhua and Quzhou. Jinhua ranks at the forefront of the province for the number of historical weirs. The value of its weirs, including Hanxiang and Yujia, lies in them having the longest history, too.
Established in 1950, the International Commission on Irrigation & Drainage (ICID),is an international organization dedicated to irrigation, drainage, and flood control. Its members include 80 national and regional committees, covering more than 95% of the world’s irrigation areas. Launched in 2014, the World Heritage Irrigation Structures is a project aimed at the conservation of cultural heritage directed by the ICID. It aims to better protect and use ancient irrigation structures, discover and promote the history of irrigation projects and their impact on world civilization, learn about sustainable irrigation from the experience of our ancestors, and protect valuable pieces of historical and cultural heritage.
The Thirty-Six Weirs of Baisha River is the first irrigation project in Jinhua and the sixth one in Zhejiang to successfully enter the WHIS list. “The total water level drop of the Thirty-Six Weirs is 168 meters, which is 55 meters higher than the water-level drop of the world-famous Three Gorges Dam,” claimed Liu. He thinks that this is the most peculiar feature of the Thirty-Six Weirs. He went on, saying that the successful selection of the Thirty-Six Weirs filled him with confidence to see further historical weirs receive such valuable recognition. (Translated by Marco Lovisetto, edited by Kendra Fiddler)