The Yueyang Tower standing on the west gate of the Yueyang city wall, looking down at the Dongting Lake, facing the Junshan Island in the distance, and linking the Yangtze River to the north and the Xiangjiang River to the south, is listed as one of the Three Great Towers in the south of Yangtze River, along with the Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan, and the Tengwang Pavilion in Nanchang. It has long enjoyed the reputation of being the “first tower under heaven”, as the Dongting Lake is known as the “first water under heaven”. It is said that Yueyang Tower was originally built for soldiers to rest on and watch out. In the Three Kingdoms Period, Lusu, General of Wu State, trained his soldiers here and then rebuilt it as a tower for troop inspection.
In the fourth year (718) of Kaiyuan of Tang Dynasty, General Zhangshuo was dispatched to defend at Yuezhou and he rebuilt it into a tower named South Tower. and then Yueyang Tower. After that, many famous poets such as Dufu, Hanyu, Liu Yuxi, Bai Juyi and Li Shangyin went there and leave many famous poems that made Yueyang Tower well known and a famous tower around China.
In the fourth year (1044) of Qingli of Song Dynasty, Teng Zijing was stationed at Baling Jun, the ancient name of Yueyang city. In the second year, he renovated the Yueyang Tower and invited his good friend Fan Zhongyan, a well-known writer, to compose an essay. In Fan’s essay, Remarks of Yueyang Tower, he not only described bear hardship, and the last to enjoy comforts, indicating his concerns for the country and people. His words were applauded and won the Tower greater fame, and have been deeply rooted in the Chinese people’s mind from generation to generation. After numerous renovations, the current structure was rebuilt in 1867 in the Qing Dynasty.
The Yueyang Tower has its special architectural features. Its main building has three stories and is 15 meters in height, with four huge Nanmu pillars supporting the whole building, twelve round log columns supporting the second floor, and another twelve catalpa pillars supporting the roof. Constructed of wood with interlocking brackets that require no nails, the main building is as steady as a monolith. Its roof looks like a general’s helmet, grand and unique, which together with the pure wooden construction reflects the unique style and great achievement of ancient Chinese architecture.
The display of the Tower has its own style with the couplets by famous poets or calligrapher through ages hung on the columns of each storey. Fan Zhongyan’s Remarks of Yueyang Tower is inscribed on the wooden screen on the first and second floor of the Tower. The remarks on the first floor is a copy from the 19th century. Housed on the second floor is a wooden screen written by famous calligrapher Zhang Zhao of the Qing Dynasty, whose handwriting is unique in style, varied in skill, and square in shape. Dufu’s On Yueyang Tower is inscribed on the screen of the third floor which is written by Chairman Mao, whose strong handwriting has added glitters to the Tower.