Over the slopes of a canyon northwest of Zhangshanying Town, Yanqing District of the capital Beijing are carved a honeycomb structure of dwellings known as the Guyaju Caves.
The Guyaju site contains more than 100 stone chambers, which are split into three sections: the front, center, and back, and are suspended from a cliff wall that is about 24.7 acres in size. The stone chambers or portals are dispersed, some higher, some lower, some facing, and some sitting next to one another.
A system of vertical and horizontal corridors connected the upper chambers for residential purposes and the lower ones, which were used to house cattle and horse stables.
The structure contains rock-carved furniture such as a bed, lamp stands, storage compartments, stone tables, a stove, and a flue. Kang is also featured, a domestic heating system frequently found throughout China.
No one knows how long the honeycomb complex had been hidden from the eye until its discovery in 1984. At the time, the Yanqing County Cultural Relics Management Office encountered the caves while conducting a survey.
For years since then, no one has been able to determine the specific age of Guyaju Caves. There are no frescoes or carvings in the cave system, and archaeologists have not been able to find any surviving biological elements for accurate chronology.
Who created this historical site? Unfortunately, that is also another question that still puzzles experts and archaeologists. But there are theories.
According to Heritage Daily, some researchers suspected the structure could belong to the Kumo Xi, also known as the Tatabi, a Mongolic steppe tribe who lived more than 1,000 years ago during the Five Dynasties Period (907 – 960). Conflicts between the Kumo Xi and Khitan tribes and Chinese dynasties led to a string of disastrous defeats, hence, the fall of Kumo Xi land to the Khitan-led Liao dynasty of China.
Travel China says some believed the site was constructed during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), upon the impression that such a large-scale structure may require significant financial capability. This suggested the government at the time funded and ordered the creation of Guyaju Caves.
The earliest speculation pointed to a garrison potentially made during the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD). On the mountain’s summit, an archeological team discovered a remnant wall. The wall stretches 164 feet from east to west and 443 feet from north to south. It is thought that the 10-foot-high wall acted as a guard platform for a beacon tower.
Despite the theories, nothing about the site has ever been written about in historical literature, and history has forgotten the ancient people who excavated and lived there. Still, the distinctive and clever architectural forms they left behind and the enigma around them would continue to fascinate ancient aficionados.