The Three Gorges Dam was once the world's largest single construction project. As part of my Yangzi River cruise, I got taken on a bus tour of the dam where we crossed over on a bridge to the south bank and taken to another park area which features various bits of machinery such as a bulldozer and digger used in the construction of the dam.
I found this to be more far more interesting than the dam. The locks work in both directions meaning that ships coming from downstream can navigate through the series of five lock stages at the same time as ships navigating upstream. The whole process takes around 4 hours in total. The locks are designed to be 280m long, 35m wide, and 5m deep (918 x 114 x 16.4 ft).
Before the dam was constructed, the maximum freight capacity of the river at the Three Gorges site was 18.0 million tonnes per year. From 2004 to 2007, there was a total of 198 million tonnes of freight that passed through the Three Gorges Dam ship locks. The freight capacity of the river increased 6 times and the cost of shipping reduced by 25%, compared to the previous years. The total capacity of the ship locks is expected to reach 100 million tonnes.
The Three Gorges Dam is located in Sandouping, about 30km from Yichang. It is the largest hydroelectric power station in the world and once the world's largest single construction project. With a long history of planning, the dam body was finished in 2006. When finished, it contained 32 main generators, each with a capacity of 700 MW. All of the originally planned components of the project were completed on October 30, 2008, when the 26th generator was brought into commercial operation. Six additional generators in the underground power plant are being installed, not expected to become fully operational until around 2011. The total electric generating capacity of the dam will then reach 22,500 MW.
I visited the dam in April 2008 and wasn't overly impressed. Yes, it's big, but more in length than in height. For me, the Hoover Dam in the USA is far more impressive. Add this to the controversy of it and the environmental impact and you'll have to weigh up all the pros and cons of the dam when you visit.
This scale model of the Three Gorges Dam is located in the Visitors centre which is located on the north bank of the river beside the dam itself. However, another scale model of the dam inside the Three Gorges Museum in Chongqing is much better!
We stopped off at this temple which is located along the Xiling Gorge near Zigui. Originally built in 820 AD during the Tang Dynasty, the Qu Yuan Temple was built in remembrance of the great patriotic poet Qu Yuan who lived during the Warring States Period.
The temple was destroyed but restored during the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties.
The temple is in a courtyard style that is mainly composed of a gate, a main hall and a rear hall. The temple gate is a stele with four posts and 46 feet high. The main hall is in Ming and Qing architectural style and is grand. At the back of the main hall, there is the Qu Yuan Tomb. Although it is, only a cenotaph, the stone archway and some other things in front of the tomb are the relics of Qing Dynasty.
These are the small boats we transferred to in order to visit some of the Little Three Gorges. We took them along a narrow river that runs into the Daning River which, in turn, flows into the Yangzi River.
The Three Little Gorges refer to the three gorges of the lower reaches of Daning River (the largest branch of Yangzi River) in Wushan County. These are: Dragon Gate Gorge (Longmen Xia), Misty Gorge (Bawu Xia), and Emerald Gorge (Dicui Xia). Because of the beauty of Three Little Gorges, it has been said that although Wushan Three Little Gorges are not the Three Gorges of the Yangzi River, they are now better to see since the building of the Three Gorges Dam.
We reached the city of Wushan, on our cruise, at about noon and we transferred to a small modern looking boat in order to visit the Little Three Gorges. We could go outside and take pictures of the scenery as we passed by which features a high bridge being built, narrow high waterfalls and more rock cliffs. Make sure your Yangzi River cruise includes a visit to the Little Three Gorges as you won't be disappointed.
The Three Gorges region is located along the Yangzi River between the cities of Fengjie and Yichang. This is the main reason to come on a Three Gorges River Cruise which many operators offer. However, since the building of the controversial Three Gorges Dam, the dramatic scenery of the Three Gorges has been severely affected but they still offer spectacular vistas. Just image what the river and the gorges would have looked like before the dam was built. This region is also steeped in history with many archaeological sites bearing many wonderful finds plus ancient calligraphy rock sculptures, caves and pathways.
The first gorge, Qutang Gorge, is the shortest and most spectacular of China's Three Gorges. The Qutang Gorge is only 8km (5 miles) long, but it is also the narrowest of the Three Gorges. The widest point measures only 150 metres (500 ft) wide. The mountains on either side reach as high as 1,200 metres (4,000 ft). This combination of narrow canyons among high mountains with several switchbacks in only 8km creates spectacular vistas, and the Qutang Gorge is often considered the most beautiful of all the Three Gorges.
Wu Gorge is the second gorge and is famous for its elegant beauty winding over 45km (25 miles), it starts from the estuary of Daning River (east of Wushan) in the west and ends at Guandukou in Badong, Hubei Province. Along the Wu Gorge are twelve peaks on each bank. These are the most prominent aspects of the scenery of Wu Gorge and many legends relate to them.
The third gorge, Xiling Gorge, around half the length of the Three Gorges at 66km (42 miles), is actually a series of four different gorges: Precious Sword, Horse Lung & Ox Liver, Soundless Bell, and Shadow Play Gorges. It is known for being the most dangerous of the three gorges to travel through, with frightening whirlpools and strong rapids.
A few miles into Fenjie County, The statue of Liu Bei, the emperor of Shu Statety, is on the northern bank of the Yangtze River in Baidi City (White Emperor City), also called Baidi Temple. It is located on Baidi Mountain at the mouth of Qutang Gorge, one of the Three Gorges of the Yangzi River. It is said that in the late Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 24 AD), Gongsun Shu, a general, set up a separatist regime by force of arms in Sichuan. He claimed himself the King of Shu. Because he saw white fog rising from the well of the mountain which was like a white dragon, he called himself the White Emperor. And he made it the capital city and gave the city the name - White Emperor City.
Legend has it that Ghost Street is a bazaar for the dead. The street leads up to the Ghost Palace through the memorial archway, Yuanyang Pavilion, the 99 Immortal Stairs, the Temple for the God of Wealth and the Town God's Temple. For me all Ghost Street seemed to be was a tourist trap full of souvenir shops selling ghost masks and such like which was all a bit tacky.
This palace is part of the large temple complex on Mount Ming Shan opposite the city of Fengdu. It was previously called "The Temple of Immortals" and then renamed as the "Temple of Nobleness" during the Song dynasty. It was first constructed in the Jin dynasty (265-420 AD). The palace was renovated and expanded during the Sui and Tang dynasties. It's very dark and eerie inside which just adds to the whole ghost thing.
According to a legend a person went to the west but died and went to hell but his spirit wasn't dead. Therefore the king of hell issued a decree permitting the dead to mount this tower in order to have a look at their homes and cry their eyes out! Nice.
Legends say that Ming Mountain is one of the 72 graveyards for Taoism. Taoists believes that when people die their spirits will gather there (also called "spirit world"). All the temples on the hill were built during the Western Jin period (265-420 A.D.) and rebuilt in Ming and Qing Dynasties (1386-1911 A.D.). The inside of the temples are quite dark and eerie plus the statues are very gruesome which just adds to the whole "ghostliness" of the place.
We arrived at Fengdu early on our first morning of our Yangzi River cruise and it was a bit damp. Most of my fellow Chinese tourists from my boat headed to the Ghost Palace so I decided to take this chairlift up to a large temple complex on the top of Mount Mingshan.
Situated on the northern bank of the Yangzi River between Zhongxian and Fuling, the city of Fengdu was depicted as the 'City of Ghosts' in two ancient, classic Chinese works - "Monkey King" and "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio". The origin of the town's extraordinary reputation can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - 220 A.D.) when two officials, Yin and Wang, became Taoist recluses here and eventually Immortals. Later in the Tang Dynasty, their names were combined to mean "King of the Underworld". Thereafter, Mt. Mingshan gained its reputation as the 'City of Ghosts' where the king lived. This was our first stop on our 3-day Yangzi River cruise.