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Ruins of Youli City

Last updated by meimeili at 2016/4/22

Ruins of Youli City are located about 4 kilometers north of Tangyin County, which cover an area of 10,918 square meters. The ruins of Youli City are 106 meters long from south to north and 103 meters wide from east to west, with the height of 5 meters. Youli City used to be the cradle of the Book of Changes (about the balance of yin and yang) written by King Wen who had been imprisoned here for 7 years about 3,000 years ago. Youli City ranks as the first national prison after the appearance of literary inscription in history. As early as the Neolithic Age, there were human footprints in Youli City. 

Youli City, or what remains of it, can be found about 2 kilometers from the modern city of An'yang, between the You and Tang Rivers. It is said to be the place where Xibo Marquis Ji Chang, better known as King Wen of Zhou (the state, not the dynasty), founder of the Zhou Dynasty (1027-221 BC), was imprisoned for a number of years. It is typically said that he was there for 7 years. King Wen was put there by King Zhou of the Shang Dynasty (1700-1027 BC) who was jealous of his power and popularity. He was eventually released, partially on popular demand and partially in exchange for a number of handsome gifts including fine horses and women. King Wen's second son went on to become King Wu of Zhou (still the state), before toppling the Shang Dynasty and becoming the first king, King Zhou Wuwang, of the Zhou Dynasty, who ruled from 1046-1043 BC.

At present, there are well-preserved cultural relics of Longshan as well as the Shang and Zhou dynasties with the thickness of 7 meters. The main architecture is Temple of King Wen (Zhouyi Museum) that was built in memory of King Wen. Besides, there are ruins of ancient palaces, audience halls, worshipping halls and stone and tablet inscriptions, which are of important value to the research of Zhouyi (balance of yin and yang), history and calligraphy.

Historical Legend

According to historical records, at the terminal stage of the Shang Dynasty, the ruler King Zhou at that time was debauched and tyrannical, and the masses lived in dire poverty. Meanwhile, the people in the vassal states of the west lived and worked in peace and contentment in the governance of Jichang (the King Wen afterwards) that had more power increasingly, which caused the doubt and dissatisfaction of King Zhou. Then, due to an intentional incident, Jichang was put in prison in Youli City. During the seven years in prison, Jichang devoted himself to the studies of the Eight Diagrams and put forward the new and dialectic point of view. The Book of Changes was created by him and it tops the list of China’s Five Classics at present.

It should be noted that King Wen is sometimes referred to as Emperor Wen just as many rulers of the early "dynasties" are often referred with the same title. However, strictly speaking, the definition of an emperor is that he rules over a unified empire, which China was not at that point. Therefore, though known as an emperor, King Wen was merely the ruler of a large state, not all of what we know today as the country of China.
While held in captivity in Youli City by King Zhou, King Wen wrote the book, the Gua Ci ("Explanation of Hexagrams"), as an explanatory text to I Ching. I Ching ("Classic of Changes"), full of coded "hexagrams", was first fully understood only when a second explanatory text, Yao Ci ("Explanation of Horizontal Lines"), appeared. Some say that Yao Ci was written by none other than the second son of King Wen, the newly crowned King Wuwang of the new Zhou Dynasty. In any case, the measurements of King Wen's house arrest site were 106 meters from north to south and 103 meters from east to west, and occupied some 11,000 square meters. The buildings that remain today include, among others: Wen Emperor Temple, Yanyifang Memorial Arch and Yanyitai, or Yanyi Platform, the 2-story stone-and-brick structure where King Wen spent most of his time during captivity. Each of Yanyi Platform’s stories consists of 3 rooms.
At the southern edge of the former city stands Yanyifang Memorial Arch in blue stone, upon which are engraved 3 large Chinese characters, "Yan Yi Fang." On the western edge is a stele, or stone tablet, on which is engraved, by later generations, "Wen Emperor of the Zhou Dynasty, Youli City." On the opposite edge, the eastern edge, is a stone tablet with the following words: "Yu Bei." There are a number of other steles on the grounds, one of which is dedicated to King Wen's book and entitled "Yijing by Wenwang," the latter being a familiar name under which King Wen was known.

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Solo Adventure Tips:


about 4 kilometers north of Tangyin County

How to Get There?

bus No. 10

Ticket Price:

50 yuan per person

Opening Hours:

 8:00 to 17:00

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