Yangtze River and Three Gorges
Emanating from the wild windswept snowfields of its source on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the mighty Yangtze winds its way through 11 provinces and municipalities before emptying into the East Sea. Being referred as the Long River for many generations, it has always had symbolic and practical significance for the Chinese. Nearly 6300 km (about 4000 miles), the river is China 's main artery, supporting a third of our people; it also serves as the country's major commercial waterway.
The Yangtze River can be divided into three parts:
The Upper Reaches begins from the source of Qinghai Province to Yichang in Hubei Province ( 4500km ). It is the most attractive part of the river, with imposing mountain ranges, unbroken ravines, dangerous rapids and charming landscape. Along this 200 - kilometer-long (130 miles) stretch, the river passes through the Three Gorges. In the Qutang Gorge, the river is only 100 meters wide with some 60 meters (200 feet) hydraulic gradient. In the Wu Gorge, mountains rise to a height of 500 to 1,000 meters (1,600 to 3,300 feet). In Xiling Gorge, it was featured with turbulent waves and dangerous shoals. Now this has become a history after the completion of China's largest engineering project - the Yangtze Three Gorge Dam.
The Middle Reaches is from Yichang to Hukou at the mouth of Poyang Lake in Jiangxi Province, a distance of about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles). This region features countless twists and turns, flat lands with so many tributaries and lakes including two largest lakes in China: the Dongting and the Poyang. During rainy season, the waters play an important role in channeling the flood.
The Lower Reaches is from Hukou to the estuary ( 800km ). The landscape in the river's lower course is typified by a flat delta plain, crisscrossed by canals and waterways. The region has been known for centuries as the "Land of Fish and Rice". Because of a port named Yangzi in ancient times, this stretch has given rise to another name "Yangtze" with which missionaries and colonialists adopted and as a result, became established in Europe as the name of the whole river.
The dramatic scenery and rushing waters of the river have been inspirational to many of China's painters and poets. The most impressive section of the river is the three Yangtze River gorges: the Qutang Gorge, Wuxia Gorge and Xiling Gorge, collectively known as the Sanxia, or Three Gorges.
The Yangtze Three Gorges is a great valley with a most splendid landscape in the Yangtze (Changjiang) River and it is one of the ten most famous scenic sites of China. It extends from White Emperor City in Fengjie County , Chongqing Municipality to Nanjin Pass in Yichang , Hubei Province, consisting of Qutang Gorge, Wu Gorge and Xiling Gorge, which converges the essence of the scenery on the Yangtze River , with a full length of 193 km.
The Yangtze Gorges presents a scene of boundless variety with the magnificence of Qutang Gorge ( 8 km =5 miles), the elegance of Wu Gorge ( 42 km =25 miles), the perilousness of Xiling Gorge ( 76 km =41 miles) as well as the primitive simplicity and the mysteriousness of the Daning River, Xiangxi stream and Shennong Stream, which flow into the great valley. The whole landscape is so kaleidoscopic. It is picturesque everywhere, and what more, each scene is related to a wonderful fairy tale or a moving legend which will kindle your meditation on the remote past.
Qutang Gorge, the first of the three Yangtze Gorges, runs eight kilometers from Baidicheng (White Emperor City) in Fengjie County in the west to Daxizhen in Wushan County, Chongqing City. It is best known for its steep precipices that form an enormous gateway over the river. With only 8 kilometers (5 miles) long, Qutang Gorge is the shortest and narrowest but also the most spectacular of the Three Gorges. The widest point measures only 150 meters (500 feet) wide. The mountains on either side reach as high as 1200 meters (4000feet). This combination of narrow canyons among high mountains with several switchbacks in only 8 kilometers creates spectacular vistas, and the Qutang Gorge is often considered the most beautiful of all the Three Gorges.
When the river flows out of Qutang Gorge and passes the broad valley of the Daning River, it enters the scenic Wu Gorge. Wu Gorge is home to the famous 12 peaks of the Wushan Mountains. It¡¯s 45 kilometers long, extending west to east from the mouth of the Daning River in Wushan County to Guandukou in Badong County, Hubei Province. Noted for its deepness, serenity and elegance, Wuxia Gorge is full of zigzag, weird peaks, rising mists and beautiful sights. The famous Twelve Peaks on both banks of the river, in particular, are the most spectacular. Among them, the most fabulous is the Peak of Goddess. It pierces through the heaven, and towers over the Yangtze River.
As the longest among the Yangtze Gorges, Xiling Gorge stretches west to east for 76 kilometers from the mouth of the Xiangxi River at Zigui in Hubei Province to Nanjing Pass near the city of Yichang in Hubei. It is divided into the west section and the east section with each consists of several small unique gorges. Along Xiling gorge sit many archeological sites, including the Huangling Temple, first built during the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280). In addition, the Three Visitors' Cave and the Luyou Fountain all have their unique features.
Xiling Gorge is known for its hidden reefs, perilous cliffs and tumbling rapids, as well as the orange groves and tea plantations on its shores. At some points there are treacherous whirlpools and the waters are extraordinarily turbulent.