High-powered drones were unleashed by the government to take a peek around the Henan Province of China where there were rumored to be people dwelling in caves. What was found was much more sophisticated, so China felt the need to respond. Here's what you need to know about the underground civilization:
This mysterious underground town was found near Sanmenxia City in the Henan Province of China. No footage or images of it existed before a drone captured these back in January of 2011.
The drone footage revealed 10,000 underground homes (some connected by tunnels) and a city that was still very much alive.
Of the 10,000 caves found, 3,000 are still occupied. Researchers found that the walls are extremely well insulated. During the winter, temperatures inside the "yaodongs," or "house caves" never drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and in the summer, never peak above 68 degrees.
Without any use of modern technology, this "mole town" has perfected living.
Deep family history of these cave dwellers can be traced back six generations, but history tells us more. During the Bronze Age (roughly 2,000 years BC ) it was common for people to live in caves, and it continued to be so until the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1912.
Scientists found the innovation of these yaodongs astounding. They are soundproof, fully earthquake-resistant and highly energy efficient. The people even built walls right next to their homes to channel water around them so they'd never flood.
Most of these cave dwellings were built on sloped land so vegetables and plants could be grown for food and for self-care. Since there's no electricity or technology, it costs next to nothing to live in them.
A one-bedroom dwelling is $30 a month. A dwelling with three bedrooms is about $4,500 to buy. When the community was thriving, there were central bathing centers, but now, there are baths inside the home.
Why? Well, the government got a little handsy.
With a discovery like this comes the temptation to capitalize on the findings.
At first, it was just tours through the ancient grounds. Though that did affect the lives of those still living there, it didn't force them out. There was an appreciation for some of the government's renovations.
Some of the cave dwellings, as mentioned before, were carved out of the hillside where vegetation can be grown, while others were dug deep--vertically down--and connected by tunnels that lead up to a centralized gathering place.
No other ancient underground city exists with this infrastructure, making it highly profitable for the Chinese government.
Mostly all of the homes (except those that are being used as historical displays for tourists to walk-through) have been modernized.
Electricity, utilities, souvenir shops and restaurants have been added. The updated homes are for sale, but only a few of the previous residents have decided to stay. What happened to them you might ask? Well, they were given this choice.
The government claimed it needed to "protect the land," so the Chinese authorities declared it a sacred site back in 2011. Meaning, they could do whatever they wish to preserve it. This meant asking families who had been there for hundreds of years to let go of their customs, their heritage and life as they know it.
China Daily reported that most of the old residents "have moved into new apartments thanks to economic and tourism development." The amount of money the government paid them for their land is unknown, and most of the details concerning the transfer of land have been withheld.
Chinese news reported the story as if the government had done the cave-dwellers a favor by advancing them into a greater society, but those who used to inhabit Mole City mourn over what they lost.
This underground city in the Henan Providence is now a national intangible cultural heritage.
These caves, the courtyard in Beijing, the Hakka earth buildings in East China's Fujian province, and the cave buildings in Northwest China's Shaanxi province, have been updated the "four spectacles" in Chinese history.
How the habitants of Mole City truly feel about China's "discovery," we'll never know.