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The Cave With A Thousand Coffins

Updated: Feb 3, 2022

Hundreds of thousands of wooden coffins are left to slowly rot away in dank Chinese caves in the belief it will let the souls of the departed ascend into heaven.

The curious tradition, which sees the caskets stacked in caves on the steep cliffs of Anshun, in southwest China's Guizhou Province, is believed to have been practised since ancient times.

In one of cave alone there are more than 500 coffins stacked, layer upon layer in various stages of decay. It's been the ‘coffin cave’ for residents surnamed Liu from the neighbouring five villages since ancient times.

According to local folk stories, the people who live in the area moved from the plains in central China to mountainous Guizhou Province many centuries ago to avoid war.

One legend maintains that because they hoped to one day move back to their homeland they didn’t bury their dead but instead stacked their coffins in the caves.

According to other stories the tradition started because the area is often subject to floods and the coffins were stored in caves to prevent them from being affected.

Being in caves also means that the coffins are closer to the sky and therefore closer to heaven.

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