腾龙洞

Tenglong Dong - Teng Long Dong - Soaring Dragon Cave


Useful Information

Location: Near Lichuan, Hubei Province.
(30.336486, 108.980379)
Open: All year daily 8:30-17:30.
[2021]
Fee: Adults CNY .
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System LightColoured Light LightSon et Lumière
Dimension: L=52,800 m, T=14-18 °C.
Portal: H=74 m, W=64 m.
Guided tours: D=3 h.
V=200,000/a [2000]
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography: J. Masschelein, Zhang Shouyue, editors (1990): Teng Long Dong, the Longest cave of China, report on the First Belgian-Chinese Speleological Expedition in 1988, Belgian-Chinese Karst and Caves Association, 46p. (14 fig. et plans, photos couleur) English pdf
Address: Tenglong Dong, 070 Country Rd, Lichuan Shi, Enshi Tujiazumiaozuzizhizhou, Tel: +86-718-726-6755.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

~1700 first written mention of the cave by Cheng Shikai, the Lord of Lichuan,
1884 10 guano miners explore the cave equipped with torches.
1938 fossil gallery of the cave explored by Li and Xiao.
1950s end of guano mining.
JUN-1985 surveying trip by Zhang Guofang and Li Shaoyu.
JAN-1986 opened as a show cave.
OCT-1986 exploration of the resurgence by Zhang Guofang and Liu Zhishang.
1987 survey by Academia Sinica.
1988 explored by a Belgian-Chinese Speleological Expedition.
OCT-2004 first part of development completed.
2005 awarded by the China National Geographic magazine "the most beautiful place in China".
2006 explored by the international Lichuan 2006 expedition.
2007 completion of the project.
NOV-2020 declared a national 5A-level scenic area.

Description

腾龙洞 (Tenglong Dong, Soaring Dragon Cave) is one of the world's largest caves. However, there are a lot of wrong numbers published on the internet. The was surveyed in 1988 and was about 32 kilometers long, which was the longest cave in China at that time. Currently, it is listed as the 70th longest cave of the world and the 3rd longest in China with a length of 52,800 m [2021] The cave offers extraordinary big passages and one of the tallest cave entrances on earth, 74 m high and 64 m wide.

The cave is entered at one point by a huge river, called Quingjiang River (Clear River), a tributary of the Changjiang (Big River), commonly known as Yangtse. This river first drops an almost 10 m high waterfall, right before it enters the cave. Here a path was built about 20 m above the water along the cave wall, entering the river cave. The concrete path has a good view down to the cave river. The water deepens and calms down, while it is narrowed by the cave walls. However, this path goes into the cave only for a short distance, the path is always lighted from outside. At the first narrow point of the underground gorge a concrete bridge crosses the river, goes back out of the cave on the opposite side and leaves the cave again.

The path continues along the limestone cliff outside and reaches a second, fossil aka dry entrance to the cave. The portal is almost rectangular, 50 m wide and 60 m high. The floor was leveled and grassed, probably as part of the development works. It seems the water once entered the cave here. There is a small office and picnic tables.

The cave itself is an enormous passage, only slightly smaller than the entrance. The cave is toured on electric open-top vehicles, which travel on a concrete path at speeds of some 50 km/h. Despite the comfortable temperature of the cave we recommend a sweater for this ride. After 2.2 km a sort of theatre is reached, where the visitors sit on wooden benches. The huge passage is filled with artificial fog, which is used for a 20-minute laser show, which was created by the Seiss company Laserworld.

On the way back a second stage is passed. On this stage once a day at 15:30 a one-hour special show is performed. Dancers perform a sort of Chinese opera, the story is displayed for foreign visitors on electronic signboards beside the stage. The performance includes light show, music, multimedia projections, water jets and gas flames.

This cave was known for a long time, but more or less unexplored. Its existence was obvious, as the river vanishes underground for 10 km as the crow flies. Nevertheless, the entrance area and several dry parts were utilized by the locals. They were used as shelter for man and animals, as a source of water, and for mining bat guano as fertilizer. The first written mention of the cave is from the Quing dynasty, during the reign of emperor Kangxi (1662 to 1722). Cheng Shikai, the Lord of Lichuan, reported about his homeland, and described the disappearing river and the cave entrance as "the gaping mouth of a sleeping dragon". A poem about the cave was written by Zhang Chushuang during the reign of emperor Qian Long (1736 to 1745). At the beginning of the 19th century a small temple was constructed at the entrance. At the end of the 19th century the nitrate mining boomed, for the production of gunpowder. It occupied up to 100 workers and ended finally around 1950. In 1884 a party of 10 guano miners explored the cave equipped with torches. They returned after having traversed many kilometers of cave. As rumours go, they returned rather frightened.

During the Japanese invasion the Hubei provincial government was temporarily relocated to Lichuan. Several caves in the area became the seat of administrative departments. Others were used as air raid shelters by the army. And one cave close to the town became known as Bank Cave, obviously it was used to store valuables of the bank.

In 1938, during the Japanese occupation, the fossil gallery of the cave was explored by Li and Xiao. They wrote a report and provided details about the location. They also suggested touristic use and possible use as a military base. Fortunately this did not happen, and it seems the cave was forgotten until the 1980s. At this time domestic tourism started in China, and numerous caves were developed as show caves. The development of Tenglong Dong was decided in April 1985 and in June an expedition with 30 participants was organized by Yin Liangyin which explored four kilometers. The surveying trip by Zhang Guofang and Li Shaoyu took only a week. But with 42 members the team surveyed the known cave with military equipment. In September a touristic development agency was created and the construction of paths started. Tenglong was opened as a show cave in JAN-1986 and was visited by 30,000 people in the first year.

For the first time after the area was closed for foreign visitors for decades, Prof. Zhang Shouyue from the Karst and Groundwater Research Group of the Institute of Geology in Bejing invited a Belgian caver team to explore the caves. In 1986 a two-man reconnaissance team visited Lichuan county, which was officially opened for visitors in 1989. In 1988 an expedition with 15 cavers from Belgium and 10 Chinese cavers, which was supported by different Belgian government institutions and the National Geographic Society. The cave has been a show cave for many years, but it was completely renovated in the early 2000s. Free True Group from Hong Kong and two companies from China were investing CNY 150 million (USD 18 million) to develop the cave. The works were completed in 2007.

The cave was originally named Dong Po or Shui Dong which means Water Cave, probably in the meaning river cave. It was renamed with the more unique name Tenglong Dong (Cave of the Flying Dragon), after a Chinese evergreen about flying dragons.