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Chinese folklore

The myth of a sinking city

The myth of a sinking city, particularly in Chinese folklore, is often associated with the legendary city of Yingzhou, also known as the City of Immortals. Yingzhou is one of the mythical islands in Chinese mythology, believed to be located in the Eastern Sea. It is part of a larger set of tales related to the Isles of the Immortals, including Penglai, Fangzhang, and Yingzhou.

The Myth of Yingzhou

Origins and Description

Yingzhou is described in ancient Chinese texts, including the “Classic of Mountains and Seas” (Shan Hai Jing) and other Daoist scriptures. According to the myth, Yingzhou is a paradisiacal island where immortals reside. The island is abundant with palaces, beautiful landscapes, and extraordinary flora and fauna. It is said to be a place where the inhabitants live free from pain, suffering, and death, achieving eternal life.

The Sinking City

In some versions of the myth, Yingzhou is not just a distant island but also a mystical city that occasionally appears to the mortal world. There are tales of sailors and fishermen catching glimpses of its majestic towers and spires rising above the ocean waves, only to see them sink back beneath the surface. This gives the city an elusive and transient quality, symbolizing the fleeting nature of immortality and enlightenment that can be glimpsed but not easily attained.

Connection to Other Myths

Yingzhou’s myth can be compared to other global myths of lost or sunken cities, such as Atlantis in Greek mythology or the underwater city of Yonaguni in Japanese folklore. These myths often share themes of lost civilizations, the pursuit of utopia, and the awe-inspiring power of nature.

Detailed Story of Yingzhou

Discovery and Descriptions

According to ancient texts, Yingzhou was “discovered” by the great Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who was obsessed with finding the elixir of life. He sent expeditions into the Eastern Sea, led by the sorcerer Xu Fu with thousands of boys and girls in search of the mythical islands where immortals were said to live. Although the expeditions reportedly found other islands like Penglai, Yingzhou remained the most elusive.

Yingzhou is described as a paradisiacal place, adorned with gold and silver towers and bridges, covered in jewels, and filled with magical plants and animals. The Peach of Immortality, which grants eternal life to those who eat it, is said to grow there abundantly. The immortals living on Yingzhou were free from worldly cares and diseases, embodying the Daoist pursuit of harmony with nature and the cosmos.

The Phenomenon of Sinking

The sinking aspect of Yingzhou is particularly fascinating and symbolic. There are tales that the city, or the island itself, would appear floating on the horizon, visible to mortal eyes only under specific celestial alignments or to those of pure heart and spirit. Sailors and fishermen would sometimes see its spires and lush forests, but as they approached, the city would start to fade or sink back into the sea, obscured by mist or waves.