A Guide to River Yangzte Cruises in China
RIVER YANGZTE CRUISES IN CHINA.
From it's source of melted snow in the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve in Qinghai beside the foothills of the Dangla Mountain Range, to it's broad delta beside the vast city of shanghai, where it meets with the South China Sea, The mighty River Yangzte sculpts the Chinese landscape for 6,300 km, making it both the-peoples-republic-of-china's and Asia's longest river and the world's third longest river.
In Chinese the river is aptly named Chang Jiang - Long River - and this long river runs south west from it's first delta town of Fengdu, past the vast metropolis of shanghai and on through some of china's most beautiful countryside, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Three Parallel Rivers region in the Hengduan Mountains in Yunnan Province, one of the most diverse temperate regions on earth, through China's lush, agricultural plains and vast industrial areas and on to the roof of the world at Qinghai on the Tibetan Plateau, having flowed through 31 of China's largest cities, including China's former ancient, walled capital of Nanjing.
Nanjing grew up during the Ming dynasty from 1368 - 1644 and it was during this period that the city's walls were constructed, the longest, and possibly the oldest, city walls in the world.
Today the city is a haven of the old and an advocate of the new, with it's ancient, Oriental splendours and it's modern architectural masterpieces all living side by side.
The city is surrounded by the lush plains of the river delta, pine topped mountains and large natural lakes.
The city is also famous in china for being one of the country's most climatically diverse, due to it's searing hot summers and frigid cold winters, which give the city an ever changing landscape, making it one of the few places in the world that can still boast atypical seasonal weather variants.
Landmarks in and around Nanjing.
From Nanjing, the river flows past Mount Huang, an eerilly shaped, always mist shrouded mountain that is home to 1,000 year old, oddly shaped Knotty Pine trees, a mysterious and ethereal place that has been the inspiration to countless Chinese artists through the ages.
The River then passes through the large industrial City of Wuhan with it's purple topped Witch Mountains, and onto the city of Yichang home of the Gezhouba Dam, before entering into the area of the vast canyons of the Three Gorges.
Part of the Three Gorges landscape.
The Three Gorges region has been a topic of global interest since the construction of a resevoir and a 2,335 m long dam.
The construction has led to the relocation of thousands of village people from the surrounding area after the land had to be flooded in order to build this massive 185 metre high dam, which is the world's largest hydro - electric plant.
Subsequently the water level is now considerably higher and the river much wider, completely changing the local scenery, and causing the destruction of hundreds of small villages and the habitat of local wildlife.
The beautiful scenery has not been changed too much as the gorges were already several thousand metres high, and the wider river can now accommodate much larger river craft, which will help the local economy of the cities that are built along the banks of the Yanzte.
The area consists of the 8 km long Qutang Gorge, the 45 km long Wu Gorge and the 66 km long Xiling Gorge, a once treacherous part of the river, but now tamed by the dam,which is located in this area.
The whole area hosts the most dramatic scenery due to these massive gorges that have been cut into the landscape by the immense power of this mighty, fast flowing river.
Up stream from the Three Gorges, the landscape is sculpted by heavilly forested mountains dotted with ancient, rural mountain villages as the river makes it's way towards the city of Chongqing.
The Three Gorges Dam.
Chongqing is located along the banks of both the Yangzte and the 1,000 km long Jialing River, a city that is both steeped in history and a busy, modern transportation hub.
The Yangzte makes it's way around the curves of this vibrant city before entering into the environs of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, famous for it's exclusive provincial Chinese cuisine and it's natural habitat of bamboo forests, where the home of the Chinese Giant Panda reserve is located.
The reserve is a quiet haven for the-peoples-republic-of-china's national emblem, where they are reared in their preferred solitary bamboo enclaves, kept safe and secure from the ravages of poachers employed by Chinese medicine merchants.
The animals were nearly brought to extinction twenty years ago by way of poachers, but thanks to this safe retreat which is overlooked by the mist shrouded Holy mountain of Mount Emei, the pandas are now thriving, and their numbers increasing, slow but sure.
Giant Pandas at Chengdu nature Reserve.
The area here is known as the Sichuan Basin, and is a natural border between north and south china. It is here that the river makes it's way along the Tibetan Plateau at Qinling, an area of outstanding natural bio - diversity and home to some of China's largest national parks and reserves, including the area known as the Three Rivers Source, home of not only the source of the Yangzte River, but also the Yellow River and the River Mekong.
This area is rewarded with a warm temperate climate, owing to the shelter from the Himalayas, which is replenished by the mighty Yangzte, turning this area into a vast, lush,warm plain that is home to some of china's most prolific wildlife, including the Quinling Panda, the Golden Pheasant, leopards, Ibis and monkeys.
The area is also home to many of china's indigenous species of flora and fauna and several natural lakes.
The area is also home to many ethnic Tibetans who live in villages built in the typical Tibetan manner, and whose religious and cultural differencies completely change the overall look of the surrounding area, to something quite unlike anywhere else along the course of the Yangzte.
Landmarks in and around Chongqing.
The River Yangzte is 6,300 km long, and passes through 7 of China's provinces and 31 of China's major cities. It has 700 tributaries including the Rivers Min, Han, Gan, Yuan, Yalong and Jialing. The river is home to 3 dams, with another three under construction, 1 hydro - electric plant, 25 bridges and is the natural habitat of the rare Chinese Alligator, one of only two locations on earth of alligator species, and the Chinese Paddlefish and Finless Porpoise.
The Leshan stone carved Buddha, the largest religious rock sculpture in China, situated near Chengdu.
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© D.B.Bellamy. April 2010.
All images courtesy of wikimedia images.