China’s Atlantis – Lion City

The city of Atlantis is something that has been making the folklore rounds for years now. While the sunken city appears repeatedly in mythology, it has never been found and for the moment, it remains simply a strange tale. Somewhere else in the world, however, a real sunken city has made an appearance. Nestled at the bottom of a man-made lake in China, Lion City is one of the world’s only sunken empires, hearkening back to a time in which life moved at a different pace.

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Ruling as an empire between the years 25 and 200 AD, the city of Shicheng was one of the most powerful places in what is now China. The city stood the test of time, remaining in the country even centuries later as a cultural monument. Shicheng’s future wasn’t in the cards, however, and in 1959, the Chinese government created the Xin’an River Dam Project, choosing the city site as the location. The valley in which the city had so proudly stood for centuries was flooded with water, submerged beneath the depths.

Lion City, lost underwater Shi Cheng, dubbed China's Atlantis rediscovered

Thanks to the new project, the ancient metropolis was all but forgotten for a number of decades, lying in wait beneath the water. In 2001, however, a local tourist office took to the bottom of the lake in order to uncover what the Chinese government had so suddenly hidden years before. Launching their own investigation, the Qiu Feng office arranged for an underwater excursion, sending a team 130 feet beneath the lake.

Intricate carvings engraved on buildings as seen when a group of Chinese archaeologists rediscovered the the underwater Shi cheng City

The crew stumbled across the sunken city, which they quickly likened to the mythological city of Atlantis. Over the years, the metropolis had been preserved into an eery, watery space, complete with ancient buildings, walkways and statues. In fact, it was partly because of the space’s intricate lion statues that it got its named, dubbed “Lion City” from that point onwards.

Lost Lion city, China's Atlantis, as was seen in February 2012

Now, the city is a high point on the diving scene and while preparations are being made for tourist groups, only experienced divers are allowed in at this point. Complete in 16th century architecture and decked out in sculpture, Lion City is a window into the past that we aren’t often afforded. The man-made Atlantis, it is a jewel in China’s architectural crown.

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