Yangtze River

We sailed at night and the next morning stopped at a shrine called the Red Pagoda. There are 400+ steps to the top, inside they are more like ladders. The view from the top is spectacular. The Red Pagoda would be inundated by water when the Three Gorges Dam is finished except for plans to build a dyke around it and hope that will protect it from the rising water. The buildings nearby have already been abandoned in anticipation of the dam’s completion. Many former residents now live in the town above but the farmland will be lost forever.

During our trip down the river we watched a craftsman carve a chop. Chops contain the name of the person and are used on all official documents in China. We also observed an artisan painting inside a bottle using a brush with only one or two hairs. In addition there were numerous lectures in the lounge about the river and of course the Dam which will be finished in 2009 and provide both flood control and electricity for China.

Our ship stopped and we boarded a small launch for a trip up one of the branch gorges. We later transfered to sampans and proceeded farther up the narrow gorge through clear green waters. The mountains are very steep here and cliffs rise vertically from the water. At one place we saw coffins placed in caves in the rock by an ethnic group that lives here. Most of the lower coffins have been removed but some of the higher ones can be seen by those traveling up the river. The coffins are very heavy and must be lowered from above to the cave where they will rest.

After passing through an elaborate lock system we arrived at the construction site for the Three Gorges Dam. It is a huge undertaking and the Chinese are very proud that they can do this where it could not be done in the U. S. because it would displace so many people. In China all land is owned by the Chinese Government and if they want to move people they just move. A lot of land will be lost from agriculture when this dam is completed but in the recent past every flood on the Yangtze means the loss of thousands of lives. The last gorge lies past locks in the dam and after a stop to see the construction we proceeded on for another day. When we left the ship we had an unexpected overnight stop and then flew to Shanghai for the last segment of the trip.

Celia Bell 2012