I found the cruise along the Yangtze River to be a very refreshing experience. The Yangtze River is also called Chang Jiang and the trip took me between Chongqing and Yichang. This trip only allowed me to experience a small portion of the longest river in Asia because in actuality the Yangtze River is 3,964 miles (380 km) long. The River transverses 11 provinces through different cites from the west to the east of China. For the cruise, I enjoyed panoramic views of the Three Gorges Dam that are made up of the Qutang Gorge, Wu Gorge and Xiling Gorge. During my trip there, I guess I was floating along the River that is thought to be the dividing line between North and South China.

The Chinese government’s gamble on making the largest hydroelectric power station in the world paid off, as the Yangtze River Delta generates nearly 20 percent of the country’s GDP today. But at what cost to the environment?

Yangtze River originates from Yangzi, the name of a village where there was a ferry crossing at one of the stretches along the River. I was told that a Chinese official back in the Song Dynasty wrote a poem called Yangzi Jiang, which translates as Yangzi River. Ever since then, Western missionaries picked up on this and have referred to the entire waterway as Yangtze River. Since the source of the River is the glacier at Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, I wondered why a Tibetan name did not catch on and become more common.

I boarded at Chongqing, the capital city of Sichuan. Throughout the trip, my eyes were hooked on the waters of Yangzte, the third largest river in the world after the Nile River and the Amazon River. I was endeavoring to pick up any signs that the waters was thought to have surprisingly turned red. But I found none. The signs of pollution have probably been long removed before I even embarked on my cruise.

It is good that local authorities care enough about the environment to take steps to clean up mistakes. However, some species of underwater creatures have borne the brunt of these ecological errors. I hoped for a glimpse of the endangered species known to live only in these waters, the Yangtze Sturgeon, but was disappointed. I heard that it is protected by the Chinese government and is given a national treasure status much like the Giant Panda.

When the ship arrived along the second gorge, the Wu Gorge, twelve peaks stood out. I inspected one of the peaks and realized that it looked like a lady standing on the northern bank. I learned that it is called the Goddess Peak or Shennu Peak and being the highest among the twelve, it is first to greet the sun at dawn and at dusk, somewhere it emits an afterglow during these timings.

I spotted a lone wooden fishing boat drifting along the quiet waters. The fisherman had turned off the diesel engine and was concentrating on the catch of the day. In the past, fishermen would have to rely on their oars and their physical strength to power the boat. He cast a net and the net settled down into the River due to the large stones attached as anchors.

At Yichang, I saw other tourists picking up mementoes. Some chose beautiful painted pottery; one popular choice is the Yiling Horses Series to put on display when they got back home. The local artisans use local yellow mud to created glazed artifacts. Others settled for a pot of bonsai or bamboo woven souvenirs. I picked an embroidered pouch with the Chinese character, Shou. It translates as longevity and is dexterously sewn on the lovely pouch. As the meaning the Chinese character suggests I secretly hoped that it can help me to live a long and healthy life.

The building of the Dam also changed the landscape of the surrounding areas around the River. People who lived for generations along the River had to move and change their livelihoods. Pig farmers and squatters had to relocate with huge impact on their lives and the lives of their children. I suspected that those who did not make it as artisans pandering to the tourist money wound up as service crew on the cruise ships.

I also noticed that among the crew were very young teenagers. Should they not still be in school? Or perhaps they benefit more by learning from the school of life by working on the ships? Their happy and friendly smiles do not let on of what is truly on their minds.

Finally, the cruise journey came to an end for me at Yichang but the Yangtze River extends all the way to Wuhan and will finally end at the Yangtze River Delta where it empties into the East China Sea at the city of Shanghai.

 

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