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Xiling Gorge - Three Gorges

Xiling Gorge, Yangtze River Cruise

Xiling Gorge starts at Xiangxi and zigzags for 76 kilometers (47 miles) down to the Nanjing Pass and then sharply checked by Gezhou Dam in Yichang. It is the longest and historically the most dangerous of the Yangtze gorges. Before the passage was made safe in the 1950s, "the whole surface of the water was a swirling mass of whirlpools sucking the froth they created into their centers." Xiling comprises seven small gorges and two of the fiercest rapids in the stretch of the Yangtze between Chongqing and Yichang.

When the three gorges dam is concluded in the middle of the Xiling Gorge and the reservoir is impounded in 2009, the Three Gorges will take on a new look. Chairman Mao once blueprinted it in his poem "if Goddess still be there, she is sure to marvel at the great changes ever taken place".

The Gezhouba Dam project was completed in 1989. The dam has several sluice-gates. Some sluice-gates are used for accumulating water for irrigation during draught seasons; some function for generating electricity. But what is most interesting is how boats are lowered or raised by making use of locks. When a boat from the lower level enters a sluice-gate, the gate is closed and the boat is "locked in" between two gates. Then the water level rises gradually until it reaches a higher level. When the other gate opens, the boat has already climbed up to a higher level. Likewise, boats from a higher level could also easily get to the lower level. This scene has now become an added attraction for visitors.

Nanjin Pass, considered the dividing point of the middle reaches and the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, is located at the Xialao Stream on the northern bank of the entrance to the Xiling Gorge. It is the east gate of the Three Gorges, just like Kuimen is at the west end. Roaring water rushes out of this bottle-neck and flows into the 2,200-metre-wide part of the river. The landscape is now very different. A new statue of Zhang Fei beating a drum has been erected at Nanjin Pass. It is said that Zhang Fei was appointed governor of Yidu after Liu Bei's and Sun Quan's armies had defeated Cao Cao's troops at the famous battle of Chibi. He was posted there in order to stop invaders from Sichuan to make sure that Liu Bei could smoothly take Yizhou. Here in Nanjin Pass, a drum tower was built, and during a battle, the drum was beaten to encourage to troops to go forward. It was also used for daily drills.

One of the important historical sights, Huangling Temple, formerly known as Yellow Ox Temple, sits on a piece of flat land on the southern bank of the Yellow Ox Gorge within the Xiling Gorge. Legend has it that Yu the Great, when harnessing the raging waters in the Three Gorges, got help from a yellow ox, the incarnation of God of the Earth. People offered sacrifices to the yellow ox in thanks and, to memorialize this event, built a temple called Yellow Ox Temple. The main structure in this temple is the Hall of Yu the Great.

Going further down the Yangtze past the Yellow Ox Gorge, you come to the Bright Moon Gorge, also known as Lantern Shadow Gorge, still within the Xiling Gorge. There are many beautiful scenes along this gorge. The best-known is the Heavenly Pillar Peak, just opposite of Maya Mountain.

Legend has it that one day the Monkey King arrived here. Knowing that he would soon become a god, he threw his golden cudgel into the river which grew into a peak, hence the name Heavenly Pillar Peak. The cliff of this mountain is so steep that it seems to have been cut by a knife. Only a few trees grow on the edge of the mountain top.

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