Three Gorges, Yangtze River, China

Three Gorges Museum, Chongqing, China

The Three Gorges on the Yangtze River are world famous, and the Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest hydropower project and most renowned dam. Before you take the Three Gorges Cruise on the Yangtze River, I would like to suggest that you visit the Three Gorges Museum in Chongqing. It will help you understand what you will see on the cruise. Plus, it’s free.

The museum is located right across from the beautiful People’s Great Hall. In the museum, you will see the exhibits about the history of Chongqing and the Ba culture. You will see the exhibits introducing the amazing Three Gorges Dam Project. You will see the exhibits about the current economy of Chongqing. You will also see the introduction about the local products. You will enjoy a panoramic video of the Three Gorges. It is so astonishing that you feel you are physically there.  The museum has more than 40 exhibit halls. You may plan to have at least half a day there.

Three Gorges Cruise

The Yangtze River, which is also called Changjiang in Pinyin, is the largest river in China and the third largest in the world at about 4,000 miles long. The Three Gorges cruise on the Yangtze River is among the most popular tourist attractions in China. It starts at the Chaotianmen Pier in  Chongqing City and ends in Yichang. I went with my mom and sisters in 2008, and I went again with my husband in 2011. Each time I was so stunned by the natural beauty and historic cultural sites. The cruises from different companies stop at different sites along the way because there are so many. So, each time I got to see different things. But I did see the Three Gorges two times, and the second time I was as excited as the first time!

The Three Gorges are Qutang Gorge, Wu Gorge, and Xiling Gorge. Find a good spot on the deck and have your camera ready. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous! The first gorge is Qutang Gorge, the shortest one, about 5 miles. But it is the most beautiful one of the three. These are some sights you will see: the ancient Fengjie County, the White Emperor City (Baidi City), the Chalk Wall with carved inscriptions, the ancient hanging coffins and plank road.

The second gorge is the Wu Gorge, which is about 25 miles long. Wu Gorge is famous for its 12 peaks. Each peak has a legend associated with it. Some legends are so popular that I learned them when I was at elementary school. When I saw them, that memory just came back, and the peaks helped me understand the legends a lot better.  The most famous one is the Goddess Peak (Shennu Peak). It looks like a beautiful lady standing gracefully and waiting for somebody. That’s how it got the name Goddess Peak. The legend says that hundreds of years ago, there was a beautiful fairy named Yao Ji. When Mid-Autumn Festival (some people call it Mooncake Festival now) came, she would invite her sisters to visit her at Wu Gorge. There were floods there, and Dayu (Yu the Great) was trying to control it. But by himself, it was very difficult. Yao Ji and her sisters decided to help him. With their help, the floods were brought under control. They decided to stay to help the local people control the water so that they wouldn’t get flooded any more. Then they became the famous 12 peaks.  Wonderful messages!

The third and last gorge is Xiling Gorge. It is also the longest gorge, about 50 miles. It has 4 small gorges with renowned streams, springs, stones and karst caves. The four smaller gorges are Bingshu Baojian Xia (Military Books and Precious Sword Gorge), Niugan Mafei Xia (Ox Lover and Horse Lung Gorge), Deng Ying Xia (Lantern Shadow Gorge), and Kongling. Famous Chinese writers like Bai Juyi and Quyuan were fascinated by the unique scenery and wrote poems to praise the natural beauty. Historical sites there are Huangling Temple and Sanyou Dong (Three Traveler’s Cave).

The Ghost City

The Ghost City in Fengdu County is a historic city with the combination of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. To most Chinese, when they hear the word “ghost”, they get goose bumps. It is mysterious, but people still want to see it. How did it get the name?

It is said that that during the Eastern Han Dynasty, two officials came to where the Ghost city is to practice Taoism, and they became immortals. Later, a temple was built to depict life in hell. They taught people that you needed to be a good person because good people would be treated well after they die. Otherwise you would go to hell and get punishment.

Three Little Gorges

After you get to Wu Gorge, within Wushan County, there is the largest branch of the Yangtze River, Daning River. Tourists usually will change to smaller boats to go in Daning River to enjoy the Three Little Gorges: Longmen Xia (Dragon Gate Gorge), Bawu Xia (Misty Gorge) and Dicui Xia (Emerald Gorge).  To me, these little gorges are as beautiful as the Three Gorges on the Yangtze. Also, you are even closer to the scenery.

The Three Gorges Dam

The Three Gorges Dam is located in Xiling Gorge. It is the largest hydropower project in the world. It is the most efficient flood-controlled dam in the world. As a tourist, you will go to the Dam Scenic Area, the Tanzi Mountain. On the 185 Platform, you will get a panoramic view of the dam, and on the Dam Viewing Point, you are at the closet point to see the huge dam body. I got some clear pictures when I went in 2008. In 2011, it was very foggy that day, so my husband was a little disappointed by the unclear pictures.  In the souvenir store, you can get all kinds of souvenirs. I would suggest that you get a book introducing the dam and the Three Gorges in English. It would be something you can show your family and friends about your trip after you come home.

Shennong Stream

Shennong stream is between Wu Gorge and Xiling Gorge. Tourists will change to small boats to enjoy the primitive scenery and the mysterious Tujia (ethnic minority) culture. You will see four gorges: Chengnong (green and fountains), Mianzhu (narrow and deep), Yingwu (beautiful flowers and waterfall), and Longchang (hanging coffins and plank road).

To let you fully enjoy the Shennong Stream, you will change to very small sampans. The sampan can seat 8-10 people, and 4-6 boatmen will row the sampan and sing the local songs. They will also pull the sampan with ropes along the bank when the water is shallow. That is a unique feeling. I admired everything there, the Tujia culture, the local boatmen, the primitive natural scenery! Whoever saw our pictures was so carried away by the natural beauty. “Cool!” was the common response.


The Three Gorges cruise ends in Yichang. If the cruise is part of your travel package, somebody should be there to pick you up at the port. If you are on your own, Yichang has the airport called Sanxia (Three Gorges) Airport, which has airlines to the major cities in China.  Yichang also has railway stations and bus stations (long-distance), so you can go to your next stop by train or by bus.

If you need to, or choose to, stay in Yichang for a day or two, you may want to take a tour of it. Because of the Three Gorges Dam Project, Yichang is the largest hydroelectric resource center in China. The city is quite modern and has beautiful scenery. Yichang is also famous for their local products such as tea and fruits. Also it is a great place to get some souvenirs to take home for your family and friends. They are sold on the street, in open markets, and in stores.

Bargain For Souvenirs

Whenever you get off the boat and tour the attractions, you will see street vendors selling souvenirs. Some of them ask a very high price. That’s just the price they ask, and you don’t pay that price, or not even near that price. You need to bargain. Cut off one-third, or even one half, and then go from there.

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