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Stone Bell Hill
After taking a small vehicular ferry across the mouth of Poyang Lake to Hukou, one may climb the small, 50-metre (165-foot) high Stone Bell Hill, to which visitors have been coming for centuries. The hill overlooks the lake and the Yangtze River, and the meeting of the waters is clearly defined by an abrupt color change. Mystery surrounds the strange bell-like sound that can be heard at Stone Bell Hill. There are three theories: that the hill is shaped like a bell and is hollow inside; that the rock, when struck, rings like a bell; or that the water, lapping into the nooks and crannies around the base, causes a bell-like sound. Su Dongpo made three special trips to try to solve the mystery, and having eventually settled on the last explanation, write an essay on the subject.
The present buildings date from the mid-19th century when the Taiping rebel commander Shi Dakai, choosing the mouth of the lake as a defensive position, built a stronghold on the hill, occupying is between 1853 and 1857. The Qing armies, miscalculating their enemy¡¯s strength, entered the lake in their war-junks, where upon the Taipings stretched ropes across the lake mouth, dividing the Qing navy into two and routing them. The Qing general, Zeng Guofan, utterly humiliated, attempted to drown himself but was rescued by his retinue. The remains of the Taiping army stronghold can still be seen, and a pavilion on the hillside contains a stone tablet dedicated by Zeng Guofan to those who lost their lives in that battle).
Peng Yulin, also a Qing general, later built a wonderful villa here with winding balconies, small ponds, carved pavilions and exquisite gardens. The lovely two-storied Plum Flower Hall (Meihua Ting) was erected in memory of the cultivated young woman he loved but could not marry. She died of a broken heart and he painted 11,000 pictures of plum flowers with her in mind.
This hill is also called the Lower Stone Bell Hill to distinguish it from the Upper Stone Bell Hill nearby. There is a delightful legend about the formation of these two small hills. The supreme Daoist (Taoist) deity, the Jade Emperor, instructed one of his officials to find two bells suitable for his place. The official searched everywhere until he finally found two stone hills shaped like bells. He was delivering them to the palace when his carrying pole broke at the mouth of Poyang Lake; the stone hills fell to the ground and have remained there ever since.


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