If you’re in Wuhan, an absolute must-see is the Yellow Crane Tower. One of the Four Great Towers of China, it stands on the banks of the Yangtze River at the top of Snake Hill, and is incredibly beautiful. It goes without saying that it is one of Hubei’s most popular tourist attractions.
Throughout history, poets, writers and artists have travelled to the tower for inspiration, including Cui Hao, Li Bai, Bai Juyi, Yang Shen and Zhang Juzheng. Cui Hao’s famous poem about the tower is said to be one of the greatest works in the Chinese poetic canon.
The tower that stands today is not the original building. The first one was only three storeys high with a two meter copper top. The tower that stands today has five storeys and is over 50 meters high, with a 5-meter-high gourd-shaped top. The old tower was 15 meters wide at its base while the new one is double that.
Around the main tower there are many other buildings, including the Shengxiang Pagoda and the temple gate. Each storey is decorated with traditional upturned eaves, but each one has a different style. The ground floor is a tall, wide hall. The midmost caisson ceiling stands over 10 meters high. On the front wall is a huge ceramic mural painting of a white cloud and a yellow crane. A pair of 7-meter-long inscribed tablets hang on the posts on both sides. The front wall of the second floor holds a marble inscription of Tang Dynasty poet Yan Baojin’s ‘Note on the Yellow Crane Tower’. On each side of it are mural paintings. One is ‘The Town that Sun Quan Built’. It describes the history of the Yellow Crane Tower and Wuchang town. The other is ‘Zhou Yu Made a Feast’, which tells the story of the Three Kingdoms celebrity’s visit to the tower.
When the Wuchang section of the Changjiang River Bridge was built in 1957, it took the place of the old Yellow Crane Tower. Nowadays, the rebuilt tower is located at the top of Snake Hill, about a kilometer away from the original site.
The Legend of the Tower
The Yellow Crane Tower was built on the site of the Yellow Crane Deck on Snake Hill in Wuchang. Legend has it that a wine shop originally stood on the site, run by a young man named Xin. One day a Taoist priest came to the shop and asked for wine. Xin served him for free. In order to express his thanks, the priest painted a crane on the wall before leaving the shop. He told Xin that it would dance whenever people clapped. The townsfolk were amazed by this magic crane, and flocked to the wine shop. Xin’s business boomed as a result. Ten years later, the Taoist priest went back to the shop and rode the crane off into the sky. In memory of the priest who helped him become rich, Xin built a tower and named it in honor of the yellow crane.