The first stop of the Yangzte Cruise down-river from Chongqing is the Ghost City in the County of Fengdu. It is said that the Ghost City is where people checked in after their death. Anyone who wants to experience an atmosphere that awakens thoughts about the prospect of life after death should not miss it, as they will not be disappointed.
The Ghost City is situated on the well-known Ming Mountain in the northeast of the Fengdu County. With an altitude of about 287 meters (942 feet) covering an area of 450 square meters (0.1 acre), the Ming Mountain was regarded as one of the Blessed Fields of the Taoism and it is endowed with more than 27 ancient temples.
A legend has it that two Taoists, Yin Changsheng and Wang Fangping, of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) developed themselves spiritually on the mountain and thus became celestial beings, which is why Taoists since have favored this site. When it came to the Tang Dynasty (618-970), the surnames of the two were added together as Yin Wang (King of Hades), which gradually changed to the Ghost City (Nether World). Consequently, a complete set of buildings, including temples, halls, bridges, platforms, as well as the gates of hell, were constructed reflecting the scenes that people had imagined. Trials are enacted in the well-equipped courtroom, and those who violated the law and committed crimes before their death are punished.
Various terraces and towers have been erected amongst the gloomy trees and plants. Many statues of ghosts and monsters bearing ferocious expressions and exaggerated poses are set in and around the buildings. Inscriptions of some celebrities such as Su Shi (a poet in the North Song Dynasty), Lu You (a poet in the South Song Dynasty) can also be found here. Whilst the whole experience reflects an aspect of Chinese culture visitors should bear in mind that the Ghost City represents much more than a simple superstition.
Each year the Temple Fair is held on 3rd March under the lunar calendar and is strikingly attractive. Processions highlighting the ghosts and shades are performed successively allowing visitors to enjoy 2,000 years of history. It is no wonder then that the county of Fengdu, blessed with such a distinct culture is now attracting increasing numbers of visitors every year.
Major Spots in the Fengdu Ghost Town
Nothing-To-Be-Done-Bridge: Built during the Ming Dynasty, the bridge connects the nether world with the real world and is a testing point for good and evil. According to legend, the Nothing-To-Be-Done-Bridge is composed on three identical stone arches. The middle arch is used for testing people. There are different protocols for crossing the bridge depending on your gender, age and marital status. Below the bridge are square-shaped pools of water. Virtuous people will pass over the bridge without obstacle; villainous people will fall into the pools below. The other two arches are called the golden and silver bridges respectively. When preparing to leave, visitors are encouraged to pass these two bridges because according to local superstition this will bring them good fortune.
Ghost Torturing Pass: It is the second test before entry into the nether world. It is said that this is the place where the dead report to the Yama, the King of Hell, for judgment. In front of the structure there are eighteen sculptures depicting ferocious demons. Each of these devils is quite lifelike creating a feeling of true eerieness.
Tianzi Palace: Having over three hundred years' history the palace covers an area of nearly 2,908 square yards. It is composed of a temple gate (paifang) and the palace itself. The gate is an archway made of wood and stone rising to height of nearly 33 feet. The palace is the nerve center of this scenic area and is the oldest and largest temple on Ming Mountain.
The third test to evade hell takes place at a large stone in front of the gate. The ghost must stand on the stone on one foot for three minutes. A good person will be able to do this while an evil one can not and will be sent to hell.
One other ghostly attraction in Fengdu worth mentioning is the Last-Glance at Home Tower. This structure was built in 1985 and commemorates the site where spirits consigned to hell could take one last look at their families.
Visitors coming here will marvel at the artisanship of ancient craftsman, the unique styles of architecture and the culture of the ghost. Whatever your beliefs, you are constantly reminded the "Good will be rewarded with good, and evil with evil." A major highlight here is the annual temple fair every March 3 - 5 featuring all kinds of folk activities and performances.