The first historical references to Huangshan (“flower mountain”) are over 3,000 years old. Records from the Han Dynasty period state that Taoists have been going on pilgrimages to Huangshan for at least 2,200 years in order to meditate on the mountain with its five peaks, reminiscent of the petals of an open flower.
At the lower reaches of the Xin’an River, 12 kilometers (seven miles) from Huangshan City, Anhui Province, an unknown civilization, an unknown time ago, carved a huge, 7-square-kilometer (2.7-square-mile) subterranean complex out of the rock. Due to the construction of this complex, the “flower mountain” is almost hollow inside. Researchers have located 36 grottoes to date. They suspect that additional caves exist and believe they could all be connected to each other.
When discovered in 1999, the entire cave system was completely under water. Meanwhile, the entrance area of cave #24 is accessible by boat. Caves #2 and #35 were largely pumped out, cleared of debris and mud, and are now walkable. Although the Chinese were in the habit of diligently documenting all current events, there are no records of these caves. Nor have the locals produced any traditions or legends, as one would expect with such a gigantic construction project.
Theory 1: Our ancestors dug the caves into the rock in order to build houses with the stones they extracted. The stones were transported on the Xin’an by ship.
Objection 1: Stones for building houses would have been much easier to extract in open quarries.
Objection 2: Although some 200,000 cubic meters (seven million cubic feet) of rock were removed from the mountain (equivalent to about 5,500 open freight cars), not a single structure exists that could have been built from the unmistakably spotted rock of the “flower mountain.” Objection 3: At the time the stones were removed from the mountain, the water level must have been at least 30 meters (100 feet) lower than today. The Xin’an — no deep river even at today’s high water level — could at best have been a small stream at the time. The theory that the stones were hauled off on ships therefore doesn’t hold proverbial water.
Objection 4: The sometimes very small entrances and the countless finely-chiseled ornamental patterns on the ceilings, walls, and pillars of the grottoes are completely at odds with the quarry theory.
Theory 2: The caves were used as camps for military units. History tells us that around 1120 CE, a big peasant uprising took place in this area.
Objection 1: Based on the length of stalactites, scientists were able to calculate that the caves must have been dug before 300 CE.
Objection 2: The countless finely-chiseled ornamental patterns on the ceilings, walls, and columns of the grottoes are completely at odds with the camp theory.
Theory 3: The caves were used as temples for meditation by Buddhist monks.
Objection 1: The caves lack the typical representations of Buddhist deities. There are no wall paintings or carvings.
Objection 2: The dimensions of the complex are unparalleled and far too enormous for a temple.
Theory 4: The caves were built as imperial mausoleums. According to an old saying, “It is an honor to live in Suzhou, to die in Liuzhou, and to be buried in Huizhou [Huangshan].”
Objection: If imperial families were indeed responsible for this magnificent work, there would certainly be some historical records of it.
Theory 5: The caves were created by an early, perished civilization (possibly in vain) as a shelter from a cosmic catastrophe. This theory is supported by the fact that there are ancient underground facilities all over the world, of which nobody knows who built them when and why.
Objection: The ornamental patterns contradict a protective bunker theory.
Theory 6: According to the most credible of all the theories, the caves were not the project of one dynasty or one period. They were dug over hundreds or thousands of years and served a wide variety of purposes as time went on. This explains why up to 21 different types of chisel marks and ornaments can be found in one of the caves.
Objection: The different ornamental patterns are often located very close to each other, or even overlap, which suggests that the patterns were created at or around the same time. Example: There are rectangular pits (graves?) in which a maximum of two people could work unhindered. Nevertheless, the walls are decorated with different kinds of ornamentation.
Before the grotto could be explored, 20,000 cubic meters (700,000 cubic feet) of sludge and debris had to be removed, and over 18,000 metric tons (20,000 U.S. tons) of water had to be pumped out. Of all the caves surveyed to date (#2, #24, #33, #34, #35), this U-shaped unit is the largest. It comprises an area of 12,600 square meters (136,000 square feet). Its entrance is relatively small and leads through a tunnel 20 meters (65 feet) long. The lower parts of the cave are still about two meters (six feet) under water. The altitude difference within the cave is as much as 25 meters (82 feet). The ceilings are supported by pillars up to 4 by 9 meters (13 by 30 feet) thick and 18 meters (60 feet) high.
As soon as you enter this bizarre complex with its 36 chambers, rooms, and halls, you feel like you’re in another world. At times, it’s like walking through the set of a fantasy movie. Pillars, platforms, niches, bridges, pits, and paths feature enigmatic shapes, structures, and ornaments that are unlike anything else in the world. And then there are these stairs, with steps that seem to be made for giants, and those rectangular, ornamented pits, similar in size to the enormous sarcophagi in Saqqara, Abydos, and Giza.
Take, for instance, a certain wall. It has an angle of 45 degrees. It’s 30 meters (100 feet) high and 15 meters (50 feet) wide. Using infrared rays, researchers found out that the wall has exactly the same angle as the mountainside. The wall is just five meters (16 feet) away from the exterior of the mountain. If the digging direction had not been changed in time, the workers would inevitably have broken through the mountain.
Question 1: How did these builders in the Stone Age know exactly where they were inside the mountain?
Question 2: What tools did they have to calculate the exact angle of the wall relative to the mountainside?
Question 3: Neither traces of soot nor other signs of light produced by fire have been found in the cave. But how could this huge complex, situated in complete darkness, have been built without light?
My thoughts on this: Not only in China, but also around the globe, there exist buildings and artificial cave systems that are up to 35 meters (115 feet) deep under water. When they were built, the sea level must therefore have been this much lower. But when was that? The last ice age began about 110,000 years ago and ended about 12,000 years ago. During this period, there was a cooling of the climate all over the planet, along with with extensive glaciations and a drop in sea level. The next warm period, involving a renewed rise in sea level, thus began about 12,000 years ago.
This means: Structures that are now 20 to 30 meters (65 to 100 feet) under water must be around 10,000 years old, since they couldn’t have been built much later than that. According to this simple but compelling logic, the grottoes of Huangshan also date back to a time before the biblical flood — and thus join the unsolved mysteries of antiquity, which include the Egyptian pyramids.
Some Chinese researchers are so bold as to put forward the paleo-SETI theory. In their view, the grottoes were built in prehistoric times with the help of travelers from outer space. An info plaque by the entrance to the caves mentions this possibility.