A Mandarin-speaking spring

Society & Culture

No water comes out of Hanlai Spring until someone speaks to it in Mandarin — or so the locals say. If you say lai shui a, or “bring water,” in front of the spring, water starts to come out. The more fiercely you yell, the faster the water runs.

The mysterious water source is called Hanlai Spring, located outside Baimengtun in southwestern China’s Guangxi Province. Folklore says that there’s a white water buffalo living inside the cave, and that when it hears yelling, it rolls around and lets the water come out.

Obviously, neither Mandarin nor a cave-dwelling buffalo summons the water. Instead, the water appears to come out at regular intervals through a siphoning phenomenon.

While no scientific experiment has been done at Hanlai Spring, geologists specializing in karst, or eroded limestone, have examined a similar spring nearby. According to a villager at Baimengtun, the scientists inferred that a series of caves at different heights filled up with water, and then overflowed in a wave, which continued until all pools of water inside the cave system were at the same height again.

Hanlai Spring has quenched the thirst of generations of Baimengtun’s villagers, who enjoy a reputation for longevity. As more and more people are drawn to the village by Hanlai Spring, locals are planning to turn it into a sightseeing spot to boost tourism in Baimengtun.