About the Yangtze River
and a very special experience of our tour through China was a two
and a half day cruise on the longest river
of Asia, the Yangtze. It is the lifeline of China with
a length of 6.380 km and, after the Nile and the Amazon, it is the
third longest river in the world. Between
Shanghai there is regular passenger traffic, covering a distance
of 2500 km. Beyond that the Yangtze and the Yellow River are connected
by the Grand Canal of China, also known as the Beijing-Hangzhou
Grand Canal, which is the longest ancient canal or artificial river
in the world.
Cruise Ship “Yangtze Pearl”
We boarded our cruise ship “Yangtze
Pearl” at Chonqing, a city of 32 million people.
The ship offered the comfort of an upper middle class standard which
included internet access, and had a surprisingly pleasant ambience
which came from a mixture of European generosity and Asian design.
were spacious and the large windows provided a lovely view of the
passing scenery. On board we could admire and purchase choice
handicraft and watch a Chinese silk embroiderer working on elaborate
designs. The chef and his team spoiled us with delicious European
and Asian dishes and exceeded all expectations by providing a grand
Ghost City Fengdu
first stage was the Ghost City Fengdu.
We found the formerly 50,000 souls counting city already deserted
and by now it is deep beneath the waters of the three Gorges reservoir.
According to Daoist philosophy Fengdu is considered the
the kingdom of Hades which is a 1600 year old temple complex
that stretches to the summit of the Minshan Hill. Thanks to
its higher location, this famous pilgrimage site has survived.
In 2005 we had to climb 620 steps to reach the God of the underworld,
a somewhat exhausting experience but worth it. However there
is also a lift on the other side. In the Kingdom of
hell, on the summit of the Minshan Hill, mythological figures and
scenes are displayed and one can find temples and a pagoda that
are worth seeing, but before visitors are welcomes by the 6 meter
tall figure of the king of hell, they must pass diverse
are meaningful for the well-being and woe in their further and next
The Three Gorges
The highlight of each Yangtze cruise is
The Three Gorges, renowned for their
magnificent scenery. However our attention was again and again drawn to the controversial
and much discussed construction of the
Three Gorges Dam which
would dam up the water of the Yangtze through all three gorges up
to the city of Chonqing. By this time the project was already in
full swing and the planned water level was marked at the mountain
slopes along our route.
The first of the Three Gorges is the
Qutang Gorge. This is a narrow,
rocky gorge of max 150 metres width where mountains of 1300 metres
high loom up majestically on both sides. With a length of
8 km it is the shortest of the three gorges, but very impressive.
It is followed by the 45 km long Wu gorge
(Wu Xia ) or Witches gorge, where the Yangtze winds through the
Wushan mountains with their famous twelve summits. Bizarre
shaped rock formations, which rise sharply up to 1000 metres on
both sides of the river offer fascinating views.
Sail on the Shennong river / Lesser Three Gorges
For the next morning a sail was arranged on the 60 km long
Shennong river, which flows into the
Yangtze at Badong. This led us through narrow canyons,
flanced by towering mountains, which are known as the Lesser Three Gorges, up to a settlement
of the Tujia people, a Chinese minority. There we boarded
their traditional fast rowing boats, similar to sampans, for an
excursion in almost untouched nature. In shallow river water
Tujia people hauled our boats with ropes as
they have done for generations. During the sail a
young Tujia woman
entertained us with Tujia folk songs – an unforgettable and
romantic experience, but our high spirits were spoilt by the thought
that these settlements would soon vanish in the rising waters of
the Yangtze, which would change the entire lives of these people.
Back on our cruise ship we passed the 66 km long
Xiling Gorge which leads
directly to the Three Gorges Dam. It is wider than the
other gorges and also lined by steep massifs but there are also
some plantations With its numerous shoals it is known to be
a very dangerous section.
||Three Gorges Dam
The last stage of our cruise was the
Three Gorges Dam. It
was still under construction, but already offered a grand
view. The original plan of the project was completed
in October 2008 when the 26th generator was activated. It
is the largest hydroelectric power station in the world
but 6 more generators will be installed before 2011.
More than 18000 people were involved in the construction.
Better flood control and navigability, generation of energy
and supply of water for the north are the benefits of this
grandiose building, but only time can tell the full extent
of this incredible environmental