Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Three Gorges.

The Yangtze River or Chang Jiang (長江), at about 6,385 km long, is the longest river in China and Asia and is the third-longest in the world, after the Nile and the Amazon.

My trip through China will take me from Shanghai to Nanjing to Wuhan. All three cities lie alongside the Yangtze River. Of course, I can't be that close to this famous river and somehow not travel it. So, a cruise up the Yangtze is on the itinerary. The Yangtze flows from west to east. I will be doing a 3 day cruise upriver beginning in Yichang.

By all accounts, the most beautiful stretch of the Yangtze River is the approximately 130 kilometer section known as the Three Gorges. That's the area indicated by the ellipse in the graphic image below.


The Three Gorges are Xiling, Wu and Qutang Gorges. Each is known for its unique scenic beauty.


Xiling Gorge

The longest among the Yangtze three Gorges, Xiling Gorge stretches west to east for 76 kilometers from the mouth of the Xiangxi River at Zigui in Hubei Province to Nanjing Pass near the city of Yichang in Hubei.

Xiling Gorge is mainly composed of smaller gorges and dangerous shoals. From west to east, there are four gorges - The Military Books and Precious Sword Gorge (Bingshu Baojian Xia), The Ox and Horse Lungs Gorge (Niugan Mafei Xia), Kongling Gorge, and Lantern Shadow Gorge (Dengying Xia). I love how the Chinese come up with the names of these gorges....or maybe something got lost in translation into English?

Beneath the waters in this part of the river also lie some dangerous shoals such as Qingtan, Xietan, Xintan and Konglingtan that apparently have sunken boats.

Besides the natural landscape, historic landmarks situated alongside Xiling Gorge include the Huangling Temple and Three Travelers' Cave (Sanyou Dong). I don't know if we'll have the opportunity to visit any of these sites.

And lastly, the rapid waters of Xiling Gorge also makes it the perfect site for the controversial Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric power station in the world. The dam spans the entire river so I don't think we'll be avoiding it on our cruise. I will leave discussion on the controversy surrounding the construction of the Three Gorges Dam to another forum.

Continuing upriver, at the eastern end of Xiling Gorge, the scenery of the dangerous cliffs and shoals will be left behind as the middle section of the Yangtze River begins.

Wu Gorge

Wu Gorge is the middle gorge of the Three Gorges of Yangtze River and winds for 45 kilometers between the estuary of Daning River (east of Wushan) in the west to Guandukou in Badong, Hubei Province in the east. Also called Da Xia (Large Gorge), Wu Gorge is comprised of Golden Helmet and Silver Armor Gorge (Jinkui Yinjia Xia) and Iron Coffin Gorge.

Wu Gorge is known for grotesque rock formations and long deep canyons. The long and deep canyons impede the dispersal of air borne moisture within the gorge and so the gorge is often covered in fog. Oh, I love fog!!

Twelve Peaks: Along the Wu Gorge, there are twelve famed (at least to the Chinese) peaks that lie on each side of the riverbank. The six peaks along the northern bank are Denglong (Climbing Dragon) Peak, Shengquan (Sage Spring) Peak, Zhaoyun (Facing Clouds) Peak, Shennu (Goddess) Peak, Songluan (Fir Tree Cone) Peak, and the Jixian (Congregated Immortals) Peak. The southern bank has Feifeng (Flying Phoenix) Peak, Cuiping (Misty Screen) Peak, Juhe (Assembled Cranes) Peak, Jingtan (Clean Altar) Peak, Qiyun (Rising Cloud) Peak, and Shangsheng (Rising) Peak. I hope someone points these out to me cause there will now way I will know which is which.

Also in the Wu Gorge Section, there is the historic relic - Kongming Stele, a white cliff on which six characters have been carved.

Qutang Gorge

Qutang Gorge runs eight kilometers from Baidicheng in Fengjie County in the west to Daxizhen in Wushan County, Chongqng City. It is suppose to be the the most spectacular of the Three Gorges.

The two banks of the Qutang Gorge contain numerous scenic spots. On the southern bank lies Kui Gate which is the name of a very deep canyon created by Mt. Baiyan and Mt. Chijia that lie on the northern and southern banks of the river. Chinese lore says that the two mountains resemble a gate that might have been created by Heaven and placed here on earth.

Further upstream is the ancient county of Fengjie where one can admire the Ba Zhen Tu (Eight Element Battle Formation), the Chalk Wall, on which numerous inscriptions are carved and Rhinoceros Looking at the Moon, a unique stone in the shape of a rhinoceros looking at the moon.

By the time I make it to the cruise, I will be in need of some serious downtime - I have crammed so much into the first part of my itinerary that I think a break will be much needed. I'm hoping to just chill on this boat ride.

As I put this posting together, I can't help but chuckle a bit though. I'm thinking I should have visited the Three Gorges when I was a lot younger....when my memory was much, much better because I can't remember any of the names of the natural landmarks that make up each gorge....even as I'm writing them down. So sad to get old :-(