Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Gorges

 ShiBaoZhai or "The Red Pagoda" hugs one side of the "Jade Seal Hill" rock island.  We could barely see it through the mist, but it has a temple at the top built in the 1700s, and the monks used to climb up to it on a chain.  A 9-story wooden pavilion was added in 1819, and 3 more stories in 1956.  They had to build a tiny dam around it to keep the rising Yangtze River from encroaching on it.
Another Rose Pose

 We docked at Fengjie, an ancient town existing for at least 2300 years.  This town is at the Kui Gate "entrance" to the first of the three gorges. 

These fish are for sale on the dock....if you want some!

Part of the Ming Dynasty ancient city wall has been relocated above the waterline.  It's been relocated six times! 
The water level rises and falls because they have to drain a lot of water in order to make room for the spring run-off.  This amazing escalator system built in sections makes it possible to put the stairways down to the water level.

Notice the section off to the right than can be "slid" over to add to the ones already there!  Clever!

Fengjie on the Yangtze

This beautiful site is the entrance to the Qutang Gorge.  It is pictured on the back of the 10 RMB note.  We were so excited that the sun was shining.  Our guides told us that usually you have to buy postcards if you want to see it because it's so often misted over or rainy.

This fort protected the gorge entrance and as recently as the Qing Dynasty, heavy iron chains were strung across it.  Inscriptions on the walls include one that exhorts the Chinese people to resist the Japanese invaders during World War II.  Now the monkeys are manning the fort--look closely on the cannons and you'll see them sitting there.

Qutang Gorge
A Russian-built hydrofoil.

If you look in the center, a bit to the right, you can see one of the famous "hanging coffins".  The Bo minority felt that the closer to heaven a person was buried, the better, so they put them up in these fissures of the cliffs.  This has been going on for 2300 years!
 This rock formation is a rhinoceros looking back--takes some imagination!

Local fishing boat.
 Some animal life--goats in the middle and a water fowl at the bottom.

 It is quite a hike to get down to the river as you can see by the switchback path here.

Pagoda on the hill.

Qutang Gorge is only 5 miles and didn't take more than half an hour to go through.  Later we entered Wu Gorge, the second in the series.

 It started raining, so we didn't have the clear views we had enjoyed in the morning.  But the mist is also beautiful in itself and looks like so many of the lovely Chinese paintings.

 The geography is so interesting.  Look at the slope to these hills.  The farmers have nice homes and terraced fields.  What a lovely location!

 This mountain "shelf" is even more dramatic as it slopes down into the water.

 You can see a tiny "finger" of rock jutting up in the valley between the 2 sharp peaks on the left and the round peak on the right.  This formation is known as the Goddess Peak.  The story is that a young maiden from heaven, Yao Ji, stood watch over the fishing boats and stayed so long that she turned to stone.
Mao Zedong wrote a famous poem about her.

More amazing geography.

 Beautiful misty mountains.

We took this trip during the Chinese Qingming Festival, or Tomb Sweeping Days.  There were tombs along the river route, including large, elaborate ones like above, and smaller ones that had been decorated with red flags, ribbons and other decor for this holiday.   This is also a time to send offerings to the departed.

"Trackers" is the name for the men who used bamboo ropes to pull the ships upriver through the tumultuous gorge in former days.  It was back-breaking, grueling work and the ropes wore ruts into the rock faces from the friction.  This monument remembers them and their hard work.  (Yes, they're nude--they jumped in and out of the water so often that clothes were a nuisance.)

Gorge(ous) Views

Cultivated hillsides.

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