The Yangtze River originates from the Dangla Mountain of the Tibetan Plateau. Water from the glacier and the melting snow of the mountain flows into a river called Tuotuo, the source of the Yangtze River. From there, it flows eastward for 6300 km across 11 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities i.e. Qinghai, Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan, Chongqing, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Anhui, Jiangsu, and Shanghai, before finally emptying into the East China Sea. It is the longest river in China, and the third longest on Earth.
The five rivers, including Qumar River, flow into another called “Tongtian,” which is called “Jinsha” when it flows past Yushu County in Qinghai. The section starting from Yibin in Sichuan is called “Yangtze” or “Chang.” The Yangtze River, along its entire length, absorbs about 700 rivers of different lengths and widths, among which the Minjiang River, Jialing River, Wujiang River, Yuanjiang River, Xiangjiang River, Hanjiang River and the Ganjiang River are very famous. Covering an area of 1.8 million square kilometers that takes up 1/5 of the country’s total area, the river has an annual total flux of 1,000 billion cubic meters into the ocean.
The river is a landscape painting that portrays China, and the most beautiful part of this painting is the Three Gorges. From Poti (Baidicheng) of Sichuan on the west, to Nanjin Pass of Yichang County in Hubei, the total length of the gorges is 193 kilometers. As one of the ten most breath-taking gorges of China, this site is also one of the country’s top ten tourist destinations. The gorges are Qutang Gorge, Wu Gorge, and Xiling Gorge.
Qutang Gorge is 8 km long. Famous for its majesty and the steep cliffs that run down both its sides, it is less than 100 m wide at its narrowest part and no more than 150 m wide at its widest part. Wu Gorge is 45 km long and famous for its tranquil sceneries. Xiling Gorge is 76 km long and famous for its complex geography, twisting rivers, and torrential waters.
The Three Gorges also nurture a rich local history and culture. The ape man of “Wu Mountain” left traces here millions of years ago, and the mountain gave birth to the ancient Ba culture. Over thousands of years, the area developed a unique culture. Its rich cultural content includes historical sites and relics, folk culture and local folk customs, myths and histories, and ancient poems. Its historical sites include Fengdu Ghost Town, also known as “the birthplace of Chinese divine tunes;” Fengjie Poti (Baidicheng), which has inspired countless Chinese poets; Zigui Qu Yuan Temple, the former house of Qu Yuan (one of the world’s four greatest cultural figures); and cliff coffins.
Folklore is popular in the Three Gorges area, particularly the tales about the Three Kingdoms. Well-known characters such as Zhuge Liang, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Liu Bei, and Sun Quan are all mentioned in local narratives. Moreover, poets and other literary figures such as Qu Yuan, Li Bai, and Su Shi, all contributed ever-lasting lyrics for the gorges.
In the past, the Yangtze River fed the nation’s economy and it continues to be the country’s economic engine. Economically, the Yangtze River region is China’s most developed region. No other place in the country attracts this much business inside and outside it. Its gross industrial and agricultural output value takes up almost 50% of the nation’s whole, making it the most promising and prosperous economic zone in the 21st century.
The Three Gorges site has an extraordinary reserve of water power. The dam located there is by far the world’s biggest hydro-electric power station. Its 17-year long construction started on Feb. 4th 1994 was completed in 2009. Its installed gross capacity is 17.68 million kilowatt and has an annual electricity generation of 84 billion kilowatt-hour, ranking it No.1 in the world.
Moreover, the river has a “golden waterway” that stretches for 80,000 km (branches included), making Yangtze a critical artery of the country’s water transportation. Its traffic volume takes up 80% of the total of China’s inland rivers.
Myth of the Wu Mountain Goddess Shen Nv
The Wu Gorge of the Three Gorges is named after Wu Mountain, which has a well-known peak called the Goddess Peak (Shen Nv Peak), in relation to whom there is an ancient myth.
A long time ago, there lived Xi Wang Mu, Mother of the West, in the Heaven Palace. She had a daughter Yao Ji, whose elegance and kind heart won ardent love from her parents. But her mother had forbidden her to leave her home in Yao Lake.
With nothing to counter the boredom that came with the limitation her mother had imposed, Yao Ji resorted to enjoying stories told by her sisters about how beautiful man’s world was. It fascinated her and she dreamt of visiting the world below.
One day, Yao Ji and some of her sisters secretly left Yao Lake. They flew out of the South Heaven Gate, took the propitious cloud to the East China Sea and watched the blue ocean and the burning sunrise. Yao Ji fell in love with the world of man, with its wonderful sceneries and peaceful life.
After viewing the sea, they went on along the Yangtze River to the Three Gorges. Suddenly the sky began to roar, and dark clouds gathered: an evil dragon had appeared, bringing a storm to the Three Gorges. The narrow passage of the gorge was not capable of bearing such heavy rain. A disaster seemed imminent.
Seeing the dragon, Yao Ji fought against the beast with her magic powers. The dragon was injured and fled, never to come back again.
Yao Ji, worried about the narrow passage of Wu Gorge and fearing that the water might harm people, found herself unable to leave the Gorges and decided to stay there forever. She stayed at the top of Wu Mountain day and night, showing directions to the passing ships. And as time went by, her body turned into the Goddess Peak.
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