Travel in China.net
The mighty Yangtze stretches from the Tibetan plateau in the west right through the heart of China to Shanghai and the East China Sea. It is a truly majestic river which have fed 1/3 of the chinese people for centuries.
At the middle section of Yangtze river there is a serie of canyons, or gorges, which has been celebrated as one of the most beautiful scenic spots called the Three Gorges.
Today the dam is going to change the scenery and archeologists are fighting time to uncover several sites which were inhabited by ancient cultures. June 2003 the 3 Gorges Dam will flood most of these ancient villages and in the year of 2009 more than 42 historical sites and sights will disappear under water. In return China can produce electricity 87.4 billion kwh/year to cover about 10 percent of the country's annual consumption.
The size of the 3 Gorges Dam Project is unbelievable and impressing. When finished it will be the world biggest dam with a hight of 185 meters and a lenght of more than 2000 meters. The reservoir will stretch all the way from the dam to the city of Chongqing - 600 kilometers away.
The beautiful nature will be changed forever, and more than 1,3 million residents along Yangtze has to move to other locations. Some move up the mountain to new cities, some move to other provinces and some choose to take rmb 10.000 from the government and then look around for a future life. In the ancient city of Shibaizhai residents are moving to the new town, but before that they must demolish their old home first.
But with a total lenght of 6.350 kilometers Yangtze is much more than the Dam project. The scenery is breathtaking (but certainly less breathtaking in the Three Gorges after 2003 and 2009), and eventhough the area is densily populated some wildlife is still present. Sometimes in the early morning it is possible to see birds of prey looking for fish and in the Lesser Three Gorges plenty of monkeys still live. They used to be present in the 3 Gorges itself, but due to the increased human presence they now prefer to life in the mountains and along Yangtze's contributory rivers.
If you sail from Wuhan to Chongqing then you'll meet the first gorge right after the Geshouba dam, which was the first on dam on the Yangtze river. After entering the first and least spectacular gorge, which is named Xiling, the site of the mighty Three Gorges Dam Project is reached within one hour. As already mentioned the dam will be finished in the year of 2009, but in 2003 the river will be blocked of and the river is directed through huge turbines which produces electricity, and the water level rises to 130 m above sealevel, about 70 higher than present waterlevel. In 2009, when the dam is completed the water rises to 170 m.
Hard working people inhabit the banks of Yangtze, but now most people have to leave.
The second gorge is called Wuxia and is perhaps the most beautiful of the Three Gorges.
Is is 45 km long and it takes about 2,5 hours to sail through it. This Gorge is famous for its many peaks. Among them 12 are outstanding. The highlight is the Goddess peak. A natural rock formation looking like a young woman gazing at the river. Most peaks are at least 800 meter above the river and the Goddess is 900 meters above. After the dam water will rise about 70 meters in this gorge. Some people argued for the government that this gorge will still be impressive. But of course rock formations close to the surface and the famous boattrekkers path will be submerged.
The entrance to the last gorge
The Qutang gorge is the shortest and most narrow. It is only 8 km long and it takes less than 15 minutes to pass it.
Although this is the shortest of the Three Gorges it is by many believed to be the most spectacular with its vertical walls, narrow and deep water. This gorge gather many historic sights. Carved characters written by famous chinese poets, politicians and generals through many dynasties. These characters are currently beeing moved to museums instead of beeing flooded by the dam reservoirs water in 2003.
During a Yangtze cruise starting from Wuhan, Sashi or Yichang in west and ending in Chongqing the cruiseboat will make several stop at interesting places along the way.
Jingzhou which is together with Sashi is interesting in itself because of the ancient citywall. During different times in the hisory Jingzhou was a important city and capital to many chinese kings. Thus we have the citywall, but also many tombs in which have been found many well preserved corpses (soft body). F.ex. the body of the nobelman mr. Sui who lived nearby Jingzhou some 2000 years ago. He died in his early sixties and was laid in a double wood coffin and placed in an underground little wooden house. In the house were also laid personal effects, such as laquerware, and a special and plentyful mix of herbs. Specialists mean that these herbs created an atmosphere in the tomb which again preserved mr. Sui so well. When the tomb was excavated in 1976 scientists first believed that he recently passed away, but ortopsy and the findings indicated that he died from illness some 2000 years ago. He was flexible and even the membrane in his ear was intact. Today hr. Sui is exhibited in the Jingzhou museum together with findings from the tomb. The interesting museum also has an excellent collection of silk cloth and laquerware found in other 2000 year old tombs in the area. The city itself is like many smaller towns in China: dirty, messy and without any architectural pearls except the citywall and what remains of the old city.
Most boats also make a stop and a shore excursion to the Three Gorges Dam building site - the largest building site in the world. About 25.000 people work here 24 hours. A mountain has been cut away in order to create a five step ship lock which all ships has to pass through after June 2003.