ChinaOnYourMind: Yellow River/ Yangtze River/ Three Gorges

Yellow River

The Yellow River runs tirelessly day and night. It has nurtured The Chinese nation and bred the Chinese civilization. Chinese people call it the Mother River.

From its place of origin passes Qinghai and Gansu, the mighty Yellow River turns north at Ningxia's Shizuisha to Inner Mongolia. Then it becomes mild and quiet. Its flow has brought the Mongolian grasslands lushness and richness. The Yellow River is as important to this piece of land as Niles is to Egypt.

Inner Mongolia is a wild and fascinating place with legendary stories of Ginghis Khan and the mighty Mogolian army. In pleasantly cool summer and autumn days, the vast grasslands beyond the Great Wall of China are more graceful and enchanting. The beautiful place nurtured a beautiful and strong people. Mongolian people are born singers and dancers. Horse racing, wrestling and archery are regarded as "the three skill of men".

Leaving the grasslands, the Yellow River heads south and pours down to the Loess Plateau. The fierce water of the Yellow River cuts the plateau into two pieces. The deep gorge it made becomes the natural demarcation between Shanxi Province and Shaanxi Province. This is the Jin-Shaan Gorge as it is usually called.

At the valley between Ji County of Shanxi and Yichuan County of Shaanxi, the Yellow River created the Hukou Waterfall, the second largest waterfall in China. The pouring water of the Yellow River falls 70 meters onto the stone valley which is only 40 meters in width, splashing high spray with thundering noises.

On the Shanxi side of the Jin-Shaan Gorge, the landscape is splendid and beautiful. The long history has left Shanxi abundant cultural heritages and wonder tourist sites.

In the Jin-Shaan Gorge, the Yellow River is blocked by the Qin Mountains and turns to the western Henan. Its rapid tidal waves cut off the solid rocks at Shaan County and created the precipitous Sanmenxia Gorge.

At Mengjin County the Yellow River enters the grand plains created by itself and then winds its way eastward. The huge amount of silt the Yellow River brought from the Loess Plateau was deposited in the plains and made the riverbed higher and higher and becomes the world-famous "suspension river".

The ancient Chinese people lived for generations on this piece land made by the Yellow River. They left us abundant cultural heritages and relics. The ancient walls, tombs, architectures, carved stones are scattered over the Central Plains. They are like pearls inlaid on the Central Plains reflecting the glory of the ancient Chinese civilization.

The Central Plains is a museum of the history of the Chinese people. The culture relics unearthed from this part of China span over 5,000 years, tracing back to the primative man age.

The Central Plains, the center of the land, was a place contested by military forces during every dynasty. Many cities of this area had been the capitals of various dynasties through out history.

The numerous famous cultural cities and historic sites in the Central Plains form a colorful humane scenery, attracting visitors from China and all over the world.

Leaving the Central Plains behind, The Yellow River arrives at Shandong, a beautiful land famous for its own style of cuisine and intellectuals, including Confucius.

In the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, the east part of Shandong was the Qi State and the west part the Lu State. This is why Shandong is called "the land of Qi and Lu."

At last, after traveling for 5,464 kilometers, the mighty torrent of the Yellow River joins in the blue sea at the point between Kenli County and Lijin County of Shandong. Although not the largest or the most beautiful river in the world, the Yellow River does bear special meanings to the Chinese people. Its power and relentlessness have always been the inspiration for generations of Chinese revolutionaries to forge forward.

Yangtze River and Three Gorges

Sanxia2.jpg - 28082 Bytes Together with the Yellow River, the Yangtze River is considered as the Chinese people's lifeline. It can offer travelers many kinds of expeditions. The river can be traveled by scheduled steamers or luxury cruise ships for the 2,500 km between Chongqing and Shanghai. The travelers can also make overland expeditions to trace the remote upper reaches of the river - northern Yunnan, Tibet, and even as far as the river's source in Qinghai.

For centuries, this great river also has been a great source of catastrophic flooding in China. Chinese government is planning a monstrous project to build a dam across the Three Gorges. The dam is supposed to control the river's flooding problem and generate electricity. However, this project also involves relocating a million people and scores of historical sites. Therefore, it has not been a controversy-free topic.

- History of the River

Before Emperor Qin Shihuang united China, the Kingdom of Chu dominated the river from about 770 BC until 221 BC. It produced one of the most admired patriot-poet-statesman, Quyuan, in Chinese history. It was his death that inspired the first dragon boat races.

The Three Kingdom's period started about 220 AD and ended in 265 AD. The battles fought among the three contending kingdoms were depicted vividly in the Chinese classic, The Tale of Three Kingdoms. There are still many sites along the Yangtze River that are associated with many famous battles fought then. Ask about the famous Battle of the Red Cliffs west of Wuhan.

- The River Journey

The journey downstream starts with the city of Chongqing. There are many interesting sites to see in the small towns nearby: Fengdu was known for a temple dedicated to the King of the Underworld; Fuling was the site of the royal tombs of the fourth-century state of Ba. Also look for Shiabozhai, a temple built on a 100-foot-high rock that juts into the sky.

Continue going downstream, Wanxian is the overnight stop for the scheduled steamers before they negotiate the Three Gorges by morning light. Go check out the Taibai Rock, where the famous romantic poet, Li Bai of Tang Dynasty is said to have stayed.

The next stop, Yunyang is also famous in stories from the Three Kingdoms period (220-265).

- The Three Gorges

Baidicheng is the last city before you reach the first gorge, the Qutang. It offers splendid views into the mouth of Qutang, and has a temple which was originally dedicated to the mythical White Emperor.

Qutang Gorge was known to foreigners in the last century as 'The Windbox' because of the light mist hanging between towering cliffs.

The next gorge is Wu Gorge with twelve peaks. The most renowned peak is Goddess Peak (Shennu Feng), which is said to resemble the figure of a maiden kneeling in front of a pillar.

Xiling Gorge, the longest of the three gorges, runs for 75 km through slopes planted with orange groves. The shoals and rapids within Xiling were the most treacherous of all obstacles in the Three Gorges. Until the 1950s, boasts were hauled over them by trackers, whose backbreaking job would guarantee them an exceedingly short life span.

Yichang marks the end of the upper reaches of the Yangtze. Dongting Lake, China's second largest freshwater lake, is not too far from it.

- The Lower River

Hankou, Hanyang and Wuchang are located close to each other along lower Yangtze. Hankou was the city with the foreign concessions, and to this day has remained the commercial center of Wuhan.

Wuchang is linked to an important event in Chinese revolutionary history. It was here that the military uprising started and ultimately toppled the Qing Dynasty.

Hanyang has two famous sights of its own, the Lute Pavilion and the Buddhist Guiyuan Monastery. The monastery is an important center for Zen Buddhism. It contains 500 carved and gilded luohans (Buddhist disciples), which are considered works of great craftsmanship.

The next port is Jiujiang, which is the stop-over point during visits to the mountain of Lushan mountain. Lushan Mountain offers a cool retreat from the baking temperatures of the Yangtze plain.

The end of the Yangtze River is Yangzhou and Shanghai. See the city sections for details on these two cities.
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