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The Three Gorges on the 10-yuan note
Latest Updated by 2006-09-11 11:56:51

The Three Gorges region is one of the most breathtaking stretches along the Yangtze River in Central China, with some of its antiquities doomed to be obliterated with the completion of the Three Gorges Dam in 2009.

With a total length of approximately 200 kilometers, it is a historical and cultural region with centuries-old places of interest. Although more than 300 sites of above-ground cultural antiquities and some 37 of the country's most famous archaeological and tourist sites -- including Qu Yuan Temple, Zhang Fei Temple and Longmen Gorge -- will be submerged after the Three Gorges Dam is completed, most of the Three Gorges' natural beauty will remain.

Stretching from White Emperor City in Fengjie, Chongqing Municipality, to Nanjin Pass in Yichang, Hubei Province, the three gorges are Qutang Gorge with a majestic view for 8 kilometers, the deep and quiet canyon Wu Gorge, extending 45 kilometers, and Xiling Gorge , with dangerous currents and shoals for 66 kilometers.

Even with a higher water level, the three gorges will remain dramatic.

Qutang Gorge is considered the most dramatic by many visitors. This is the gorge pictured on the 10-yuan bank note. The river winds through the gorge's sheer, steep cliffs where the Meng Liang staircase from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) can be seen.

Wu Gorge is home to the famous 12 peaks of the Wushan Mountains.

Banks along Xiling Gorge are covered with orange orchards. Along this gorge sit many archeological sites, including Huangling Temple, first built during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220).

Because of the special topography of the Three Gorges, the momentum of the water is pent up in the narrow valleys and released abruptly in the gorges. In those bottlenecks, water rushes down swiftly and wildly, like an angry beast. The best way to tour the gorges is on a three to five day cruise.

You get to see the grotesquely shaped rock formations and magnificent mountains along the river and the rolling water along with the poems of ancient scholars inscribed in giant characters on the rocks.

Numerous companies run boats on the Yangtze River. Agents by the score book tours, which vary not only in price and quality of service but itinerary. Yes, this is one river, but the options include far more than the Three Gorges. Find out the itinerary in advance and the level of comfort of the tour.

Most boats cruise from Chong-qing to Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, for the best scenery. Some tours continue all the way to Shanghai; but this is really only for Yangtze devotees. It's a full week cruise on mostly flat water with few dramatic views beyond Wuhan.

Actually, the scenery is unimpressive past the dam in Sandouping Township in Yichang, Hubei. Some boats end the trip in Yichang -- a shock to those with onward arrangements from Wuhan. Double-check where you go and where the trip ends. Those angling to see Little Three Gorges must make sure they're included.

Beware of hidden costs. Bargain boats, in particular, are notorious for levying hefty charges at stops where surprised passengers have no alternative but to pay.

Booking dockside (one to two days in advance) or via local agents often yields significant discounts.

Major cruises in Chongqing cost from 3,200 to 4,000 yuan (US$400 to 500) on the best boats, which include Regal, Victoria, President and the King/Queen lines.

High season runs from April through May then September through October, when boats are often full. In summer and winter, mist, rain and flood waters curtail cruising.

The newly built 185-meter-high Three Gorges Dam in Sandouping, Yichang, is another major attraction. Construction began in 1994. Once completed, the Three Gorges Dam will be the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. It is expected to house 26 generating units on both banks of the river. The project will generate 84.7 billion kilowatts of electricity annually.

The reservoir began filling in June 2003. About US$37.5 million has been earmarked for the rescue of archaeological sites threatened by the dam's construction, according to Chinese media's reports. Some of them will be removed or rebuilt, some will have to be duplicated and some will be placed in museums.

Xinhua news agency reported in May that some 100,000 tourists visited the Three Gorges during this year's week-long May Day golden week holiday.

Editor: Donald

By: Source: Szdaily web edition
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