The Mysterious Hanging Coffins Of Luobiao

April 18, 2016 China 2 Comments 2,784 Views

The Mysterious Hanging Coffins Of Luobiao In China.

We love cemeteries. Most would find this morbid or strange, but we find cemeteries calming and peaceful. Nice vegetation and a bench to sit down is all you need for a few minutes of recreation and cemeteries offer exactly that. They can be very deserted but even in megacities, they’ll always be a place of solitude.

The cemeteries we’re used to are all (more or less) the same: tombstones either next or atop of each other (like for example the Jewish Cemetery in Prague), walkways through the various paths, smaller and larger mausoleums as well as flowers decoration one or the other grave. So when we first heard about hanging coffins high up on cliffs, it sounded quite strange, but our world is huge and packed with different customs and rituals.

From One Bus To The Next: The Normal Way Of Travelling In China.

Our last summer journey brought us to China again. We flew into Chongqing, a city that’s an experience itself not only due to it’s enormous size. We only had 10 days to explore the city and the hanging coffins southeast of Chongqing. Sounds enough, but when travelling through China, you can never be sure where to end up due to the language barrier so a time buffer is strongly advised.

From Chongqing we had to travel to Yibin. A lady at the airports tourism facility booth helped us in securing a seat on a bus the next day. Busses depart straight from the airport to many destinations near or far from Chongqing. The ticket booth and the bus station are located right next to the domestic airport (the international airport is approx. 500 meters away and it’s easy to walk there, even with luggage). There are also other bus stations in the city near the Northern and Southern train stations, but since we don’t speak Mandarine and locals outside of Beijing don’t really understand English, this was our best bet to arrive where we actually anticipated to.

Next Destination: Luobiao.

Once we got to Yibin, we had to transfer again. This meant a local trip through Yibin to get to the right bus station. You can take a taxi if you want to skip all these mini adventures, but it was fun and we got a look at Yibin at the same time. Some of our fellow passengers immediately had an idea where we were headed and directed us to the right bus. After we got to the southern outskirts of Yibin, we hopped onto our transport to Luobiao.

After approximately three hours, leaving the Yangtze River behind us, we arrived in Luobiao, in the area of Xuanguan (which means hanging coffin in Chinese). We didn’t bother with accommodation, and went with what we came across. Right next to the bus station was a hotel that had a nice room with great view and free Wi-Fi. We rested a little while and started exploring.

Some Practicalities:
  • You’ll come across a hotel near the bus station for about 80 RMB per night. It’s nothing too fancy, but good enough for what one needs.
  • A local market in the morning gives you all the necessary food options.
  • The bus back to Yibin leaves early in the morning. And at around 9.00 am, a bus leaves to Gongxian. From here you can take another bus to Bamboo Sea another attraction in the area, but with hordes of local tourists.

In Persuit Of Ghosts: Hanging Coffings Of Luobiao.

As it was already evening, we didn’t venture far out, but the town looked promising, with the strange feeling of being in persuit of ghosts. So early next morning we were on our way to check out these mysterious hanging coffins. The lush valleys and cool mists of southwestern Sichuan province is truly astonishing: beautiful rice paddies, small farm houses, the most friendly people working their crops and only now and then you hear a truck passing by. We didn’t come across any western tourists and even Chinese tourists are a rare sight. This part of the world does not only seem far away from civilisation, but it actually is.

The hanging coffins of the Bo people, a Chinese ethnic minority, have puzzled historians for generations. Nailed into the cliffs high above the farmland, hundreds of wooden coffins keep silent watch over the valleys below. Over the years, several coffins have fallen down, but you get a good impression on how many must have once hung there by counting all the holes carved into the mountains. The Bo tribe was exterminated in the days of the Ming Dynasty and these coffins are the only relict. It seems obvious that little now is known of them, who they were, or how they lived.

The hanging coffins are really interesting, but what fascinated us even more was the atmosphere and feeling we had when wandering through the rice paddies, as well as the hospitality of the local people. We definitely left Luobiao with a big smile.

We started wandering along the path to the first set of hanging coffins and then further up into a huge cave with ruined structures inside it. The view from up here was breathtaking!
We started wandering along the path to the first set of hanging coffins and then further up into a huge cave with ruined structures inside it. The view from up here was breathtaking!
The handing coffins were a unique burial custom of the Bo people was carried out to prevent the dead bodies from being eaten by wild animals and was also believed to be a way for the soul of the deceased to gain an eternal blessing.
The handing coffins were a unique burial custom of the Bo people was carried out to prevent the dead bodies from being eaten by wild animals and was also believed to be a way for the soul of the deceased to gain an eternal blessing.
If you enjoy peace and quite, then the area of Luobiao is the right sport for you. Here you can truly disconnect from the outer world and experience nature at its best.
If you enjoy peace and quite, then the area of Luobiao is the right sport for you. Here you can truly disconnect from the outer world and experience nature at its best.
The hanging coffins are interesting no doubt, but the experiences we had with the local people, as well as the atmosphere and nature of the Luobiao area deserves just as much attention!
The hanging coffins are interesting no doubt, but the experiences we had with the local people, as well as the atmosphere and nature of the Luobiao area deserves just as much attention!
The hanging coffin was a widespread form of burial in ancient southwest China, but the practice ended with the mysterious disappearance of the Bo People.
The hanging coffin was a widespread form of burial in ancient southwest China, but the practice ended with the mysterious disappearance of the Bo People.
Luobiao is located in a small river valley with some of the most impressive vegetation we've come across.
Luobiao is located in a small river valley with some of the most impressive vegetation we’ve come across.
Some believe the hanging coffins of the Bo people must have been lowered down with ropes from the top of the mountain. Some think the coffins had been put in place using wooden stakes inserted into the cliff face to be used as artificial climbing aids. Others believe that scaling ladders or timber scaffolds were used. However, investigators have failed to find even a single stake hole.
Some believe the hanging coffins of the Bo people must have been lowered down with ropes from the top of the mountain. Some think the coffins had been put in place using wooden stakes inserted into the cliff face to be used as artificial climbing aids. Others believe that scaling ladders or timber scaffolds were used. However, investigators have failed to find even a single stake hole.
The market in Luobiao offers everything you expect from a market in China: live animals, fresh fruits and vegetables and lots of street vendors.
The market in Luobiao offers everything you expect from a market in China: live animals, fresh fruits and vegetables and lots of street vendors.
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“The Mysterious Hanging Coffins Of Luobiao In China.”

  1. I’m totally with you on cemeteries – fascinating places. Such wonderful photos too – you’ve made me want to visit.

  2. Nisa

    Hey Helen!
    Thanks so much for your lovely words. It’s definitely an amazing place to visit. Let me know when you do :)
    Best, Nisa

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