Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Three days on the Yangtze River

The rugged terrain of the Three Gorges region of the Yangtze sheltered it from much of the development taking place in the rest of China in the 1980s and '90s. Roads and bridges were few. The river was the main highway that linked the huge metropolis of Chongqing to Shanghai on the coast, 1,500 miles away.
Our cruise was far upriver between Chongqing and
the Three Gorges Dam (map from

There is still much natural beauty, and a cruise is relaxing and beautiful. About 200 Chinese, German, French and American tourists were on the ship.

We visited a famous pagoda. We took a trip on the Shennong Stream in peapod boats manned by the local Tujai people, who used to survive on fishing and farming. Now they have added industrialized tourism as a source of income. They hawk books of local history and DVDs with folk songs in their dialect. (video below)

Our trip ended at the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric project. What we couldn't see on our cruise was how much has changed in the past decade. Much of the evidence was under water. Since 2002, the water backing up behind the dam has covered homes, factories, farmland, temples.

Today the river is about 300 feet deeper at the dam site than before the project. Above the limits of the water there are new towns to accommodate some of the 1.3 million people displaced by the project, and there are new bridges and highways connecting the gorges to the rest of China.

The Dam was highly controversial among the Chinese themselves because of the relocations and environmental issues. But in 1987, the government shut down debate on the project and it went forward. Scientific American did a review of the environmental issues in 2008.

At the Three Gorges Dam


Shennong Stream

China is opening up, slowly, by fits and starts

Guangxi: Terraced rice paddies, sugarloaf mountains
Video: Chinese calligraphy in Xi'an
The madding crowd in the Forbidden City
Why the Chinese will never drop their written language
Impressions of China
A little tour of Tsinghua University campus
Deciphering China, ideograms to menus


  1. Anonymous9:38 AM

    The song you chose is called "Dreaming East". I'm sure you knew that, but I found it a little humorous. Very, very east :)

    Love you,

  2. Thanks for a great blog. I was able to get the information to about Yangtze River that I had been looking for. Thanks once again!