Xinghua Duotian Irrigation and Drainage System
2022-10-24 10:52


Xinghua Duotian Irrigation and Drainage System is located in the hinterland of the Lixiahe Plain on the eastern coast of Jiangsu Province, China, a region with a dense network of rivers and abundant water resources. More than 7,000 years ago, during the Neolithic period, the Lixiahe plain was a gulf between the Yangtze River and the Huaihe River. As the coastline moved eastward, this area formed into an enclosed lagoon and then gradually into a plain.

From 1194 to 1855, the Yellow River encroached on the lower reaches of the Huaihe River to enter the sea, bringing frequent flooding and large amounts of sediment to the Lixiahe area and silting up the local lakes and swamps. During this period, in response to the frequent flooding, local people dug canals in shallow water and mounded the earth into elevated platforms. After years of hard work, these raised fields were gradually transformed into arable land, called Duotian by the locals.

Duotian is irrigated using bailing buckets. When the water level is high, people stand on boats and irrigate the fields with water directly bailed from the canals. When the water level is low, people water the fields by forming a water-bailing cascade. For the highest field, the cascade would have 4 to 5 stages. Duotian’s water level is high in summer and autumn and low in winter and spring. When the water level is low, people raise the height of the fields with the silt scooped out from the canals to prepare for the possible flooding.


After harvests in summer and autumn, people throw the rest of the crops into the canal to produce wet compost. In winter and spring, this natural and organic fertilizer is applied to crops.The abundance of water combined with the high fertility of the soil has enabled the raised fields to produce high-quality fruits and vegetables since ancient times. Vegetable production has become one of the main sources of income for local farmers.

The unique water landscape, sound ecological environment as well as varied folk customs and culture are all valuable resources for the local tourism industry. Famous scenic spots such as the rapeseed Duotian, the forest on water, the wetland park and the fishing eco-park serve as a key driver for the local economy. In October 2022, it was added to the World Irrigation Project Heritage List.