China Travel Guide

Yangzi Cruise

Yangtze Cruise Route

Before the 20th century, rugged mountains would have virtually isolated Sichuan from eastern China if it hadn't been for the 400 mile (650 km) stretch of the Yangzi linking Chongqing with Yichang in Hubei Province. The journey was a perilous one, the river tearing through the sheer-sided Three Gorges. Today, with the shoals cleared, the journey makes a popular cruise through spectacular scenery, with regular stops at famous sights. The landscape has been irrevocably changed by the Three Gorges Dam, behind which the waters will rapidly rise until 2009, making the cruise even more leisurely and extending the cruising season.

Yangtze Cruise

Tourist Information

Cruising the Yangzi
Now complete, the Three Gorges Dam will raise water levels upstream by up to 575 feet (175 m) by 2009; even now the water is rising, making each cruise unique. Millions of people have been relocated, several towns have been rebuilt above the new waterline, and some archeological sites have been drowned. Some buildings have been relocated; where this isn’t feasible, protective dikes are under construction. The drama of the landscape will undoubtedly be lessened, but the new reservoir is so large that the impression of being on a river will remain, as will the key elements of history and scenery.

The Three Gorges
The Three Gorges

The Three Gorges
Though the river is no longer the vicious torrent described by countless travelers, the steep walls and tight channels of Qutang Xia, Wu Xia, and Xiling Xia still present an awesome spectacle.

The City Of Ghosts
Ming Shan, a mountain dedicated to the afterworld and its ruler, Tianzi, is scattered with temples, shrines, and waxworks depicting the gorier sides of bell, including various tortures awaiting sinners.

Mini Three Gorges
The Mini Three Gorges feature the cliffs of Longmen Xia and troupes of wild monkeys.

Qutang Xia
The first and shortest of the stunning Three Gorges, the once violent waters of Qutang Gorge were described by the Tang poet Li Bai as "a thousand seas poured into a single cup."

Three Gorges Dam
Defore reaching Yichang, there's a chance to witness one of the world's largest contstruction projects. Please click here to read more information about Yangtze River.

Shennong Xi
One of the highlights of the whole Yangzi cruise is detouring up the ever-narrowing waters of Shennong Stream. The cliffs are pocked with post-holes marking the route of a Han-dynasty plank road, built for military access. There are also at least three hanging coffins here, which the now-vanished Bai people mortised into the gorge walls over a thousand years ago. Burial goods and cliffside paintings link the Bai with both Sichuan’s earliest known civilization, the Ba, and also the local Tujia nationality.

If the waters are too low to navigate this stream, most cruises will ensure a trip up Daning He is included instead.

Towing a barge on Shennong Xi, a tributary of the Yangtze River
Towing a barge on Shennong Xi,
a tributary of the Yangtze River

Before the rapids were cleared in the 1950s, boats could only make it upstream with the help of trackers, teams of barely-paid men who were harnessed together to literally pull the boat, inch by inch, through the Three Gorges’ torrents. Paths cut into the bank to make their work easier and slightly less hazardous – or copies of them above the new maximum waterline – can be seen in several places through the gorges.

Zhang Fei Miao
Zhang Fei (AD 168–221) was a sworn brother and general of Liu Bei, leader of the State of Shu during the Three Kingdoms era. Violent, tactless, courageous, and prone to drink, he once famously defended a strategically-placed bridge single-handed, roaring out a challenge to the advancing enemy horde with such blood-curdling ferocity that one of their leaders dropped dead on the spot. After his brother Guan Yu was killed, Zhang Fei became morose and overworked his troops, who eventually assassinated him in his sleep. This temple – due to be relocated as water levels rise – is full of colorful statues recounting scenes of his life.

Shibao Zhai
The most striking aspect of Shibao Zhai (meaning Precious Stone Fortress) is the beautiful 12-story Lanruo Dian, whose curly eaves are said to resemble an orchid, built in 1750 and rising 184 feet (56 m) up the rock wall above the small temple. The "Precious Stone" of the name relates to a legend about a rock in the monastery with a hole, through which every day trickled just enough rice to feed all the monks. But when one of them greedily enlarged the hole, hoping to sell the surplus, the rice stopped flowing. Shibao Zhai will be protected from rising waters by a large dike, but sadly, the medieval village at its base has been drowned.

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