Follow the Yangtze River as it flows from Chongqing towards the Great Three Gorges Dam. River Cruises along the river has become a popular tourist activity. Visit some of the interesting sights long this gentle section of river from Chongqing to the Gate of the 3 Gorges.
The municipality of Chongqing has a population of over 30 million. It is an economic centre and transport hub for the region.
Chongqing is the starting point for downriver Yangtze tours.
From the cruise piers ( floating pontoons ) both International and Chinese cruises start on the two and a half day cruise down river to Yichan. It is possible to travel further by ferry beyond Wuhan or take shorter day trips up river of Chongqing.
The international cruise boats are on the right side (Yangtze or the East side) . The ferry terminal looks rather woebegone and may have seen better days. A bit of a tidy up and some paint would do wonders to it's look and appeal.
Chongqing City China’s fourth municipality, the well-known ‘mountain city’, and the port city at the upper portion of the Yangtze River, is popularly called Chongqing. It has been called so many names ever since it was founded three thousand years ago. Jiangzhou, Yuzhou, and Gongzhou were its names before. Though a modern city it is still rich in traditional Chinese culture. It is home for many indigenous people like the Han who is the most dominant, Yi, Tibetan, Qiang, Miao, Tujia, and You. However, it is most popular for cradling the Bayu culture. It is also where the Yangtze Cruise begins which makes it a hotspot for tourists. Just like in the past where Chongqing was the first to trade from outside China, it is still one of the most important economic centers in China today. If you want to enjoy a mixture of urban ambiance and traditional Chinese culture, Chongqing is the place for you. See for yourself the artistic carvings made way back in the ninth century dubbed as Dazu Rock Carvings. Pay a visit to the Gold Buddhist Mountain and Fishing Town then stop by Ci Qi Kou Village to buy some handicraft souvenirs. Lastly, never leave without experiencing some Sichuan cuisine.
The City at Night
After dark, when the river side tall buildings light up, the drabness of the place disappears behind the flashing coloured ribbons of lights.
By morning, the cruise boats will be about 170 km down river, probably berthed at Feng Du, the Ghost City of China.
Chongqing Cruises and Port The port of Chongqing which is called Chongqing Chaotianmen Dock is one of the most active ports in China. Yangtze is a very popular destination among tourists and Chongqing Chaotianmen Dock is the perfect place to start the cruise.
It is located at the convergence of the Yangtze River and the Jialing River. The most popular choice among tourists is the Chongqing to Wuhan Yichang. Tourists have four kinds of ships to choose from: the star-rated ship, the foreign tourist ship, the domestic tourist ship, and the passenger ship. The cruise passes by Fuling, Fengdu, Zhongxian, Xituo, Wanxian, Yunyang, Fengjie, Wushan, Badong, and Maoping. All in all, the cruise takes about one day and two nights.
Independent Traveller Tip 2014
It's quite easy to get from the airport to the cruise terminals in Chaotianmen, simply take the light railway from the airport , it's clearly marked. Buy a ticket for 7 yuan (April 2014) from the ticket machine, ( instructions are in English text). Make one change at Lianglukou to line 1. Each station is named both in Chinese and English and to make it easy all are numbered. The airport is station 39 while Lianglukou is station 18.
Currently the train terminates at Xiaoshizi, just one stop before the intended Chaotianmen stop. From here take a taxi to the ferry port otherwise it's a walk though busy and heavily populated streets.
High Speed train to Fengdu Fengdu Line was a new line operated by the Chengdu Railway Bureau. It was the first named tourist train. It began its operation at the Chongqing North Railway Station last May 7, 2014. Fengdu line travels along Chongqing and Lichuan City, Hubei Province. Four trips are provided for travellers every day. This train is dedicated to the promotion of Chongqing’s Fengdu County.
Fengdu - Ghost City
Fengdu or the Ghost City, is where the spirits ( and tourist come ). From the city the spirits pass into the next world.
Fengdu - Ghost City
Feng Du or Ghost City gets it's name not from the town submerged by the rising waters of the gorge, whose residents were located to the new bigger and taller city of Fengu Du in 2003, but from the Buddhist and Taoist temples on Ming Mountain, to which the departed arrive from all over China to enter the heavenly world.
The place of worship was established around 100 AD by two ministers, a Mr Yin and a Mr Wang,from the Han Dynasty who came to the mountain to practice Taoist teachings. Through a process of self glorification they became immortal. As their combined names Yin Wang sound like the Chinese for King of Hell, the mountain became known as Feng Du or Ghost City.
People have different beliefs about the afterlife and China has their own as well. Here in Fengdu, travellers would be spooked and be amazed by the eccentric architecture and art depicting what happens in the afterlife as far as the Chinese culture is concerned. According to Chinese legends this is where the dead pass to the next life. That is where the witticism about how everyone would someday be a resident of Fengdu came from.
Visiting Fengdu would definitely be a one of a kind experience. It is a collection of two thousand years’ worth of history and belief system. It was named as such dating back from the Tang dynasty after the two officials who chose to settle in Minshan. Their names were Yin and Wang which sounds like King of Hell in Chinese.
Ghost City Punishments
Fengdu - Ghost City
In Taoist beliefs Hell is the place where earthly souls enter the under world and eventually after receiving punishment for their sins they cross over to heaven. On top of the hill, some of the punishments meted out are on display, such as liars having tongue cut out or bureaucrats having their skin peeled off.
The place names on the mountain have interesting names such as River of Blood, No Way Out Bridge, Torturing Pass. Before the spirit receives his punishment, he is allowed, on the 7th day after death, to climb the Last Look to Home Tower, from which he can see his family members and say a last good bye. Depictions of how bad people would be treated in hell also surround the area as if to remind everyone of the consequences of their wrongdoings. For people who love the enigmatic and unusual places, this is the perfect place for them. The Ghost City is found in the northern bank of the Yangtze River. Some of the popular attractions in the city are the Nothing-To-Be-Done Bridge, Torturing Pass, and the Tianzi Son of Heaven Palace which are all linked to their belief about the afterlife. There is also the Erxian Tower, the 18 Levels of Hell, the Hell Street, and so much more.
Fengdu Punishments ( in detail ) Fengdu is filled with statues and sculptures of demons and ghosts which shows how life in hell would look like. Every corner of Fengdu tries to tell this story. One of the emerging themes is that of punishment. The punishments are really unnerving and resemble the bureaucracy here on earth. The court system is divided into several courts each having its own sections and governing deity. The first court is ruled by Qin-Guang-Wang and is dubbed as the Mirror of Retribution. The second one is the Pool of Filth and the Hell of Ice which is ruled bu Qu-Jiang-Wang. Third is the Black Rope Hell and the Upside-Down Prison governed by Song-Di-Wang where the guilty would be sent to be skinned and have their eyes plucked out. Fourth is the Lake of Blood and the Terrible Bee Torture ruled by Wu-Guan-Wang where the guilty have to climb a mountain of knives.
Fifth is the Sixteen Departments of Heart Gouging governed by Yen-Lo-Wang where the hearts of the guilty would be taken. The sixth court is the Screaming Torture and Administrative Errors ruled by Bian-Cheng-Wang where the tongue of the guilty would be cut out. Next is the Torture by Mincing Machine governed by Tai-Shan-Wang where the guilty would either be boiled by oil or disembowelled, followed by Hot Suffocation Hell ruled by Du-Shi-Wang where the guilty would either be torn apart or crushed. The ninth court is the Iron Web and Office of Fair Trading ruled by Ping-Deng-Wang where the guilty would be tortured by fire poles. Lastly, the tenth court is called the Wheel of Rebirth ruled by Zhuang-Lun-Wang. In the last court the fate of the sufferer would be decided depending on how much he/she had repented. The ten horrifying courts are not the only feature of the Chinese Hell. The hell also has eighteen levels in which the eighteenth level is the place for the worst kind of sinners to whom reincarnation would no longer be granted.
Fengdu - Ghost City
The Fengdu region supports around 750,000 living in the countryside, though many of the traditional river activities such as fishing, boating, terrace farming have come to an end. The new town lies on the south bank across the river from the old town and Ming Mountain. The new town has a population of over 100,000.
Fengdu Temples - a brief summary Fengdu as mentioned, is a place filled with the stories of the afterlife so there is no surprise that Fengdu is also filled with several temples where people could pay homage to their Gods and to their ancestors. These temples may be Taoist, Buddhist or Confucian. These are just some of the famous temples in Fengdu. Liaoyang Temple This temple was built way back in the Ming dynasty during the rule of Emperor Yongle. It was used by the royal family to pay homage to their ancestors. Liaoyang was reconstructed in the Qing dynasty to be used for another purpose, as a Buddhist temple. Many Buddhist symbols could be found here. A sitting Buddha and a reclining Buddha can be found in the front hall. The three Buddha’s symbolizing the three lives of Sakyamuni as well as the eighteen disciples of Buddha and the Buddhist guardian Weituo also reside here. Baoen Temple It was built during the fifteenth century by a local chieftain named Wang Xi in the Ming dynasty. Its structure is like the typical Chinese Buddhist Temples. A fasting hall, meditation hall, and a storage hall complete the temple. A golden statue of Guanyin, the goddess of mercy which was carved out of a nanmu tree is found at the Dabei Hall of Baoen Temple. It is a towering nine meters tall characterized by one thousand four clusters of hands and eyes while a revolving sutra cabinet resides at the center of Huayan Hall.
Temple of Gods of Wealth Here people could pay homage to the gods of wealth. It is a simple temple in Fengdu which houses the different statues of the gods of wealth. Ask some fortune or just plainly stop for some silence. This temple may not be one of the most astonishing but it may still surprise you. Nevertheless, it still cradles the wonder of Chinese culture.
Hengha Temple This temple is still young as it was built during the Republic of China. Door Gods could be found on either side of the temple whose purpose is to protect Hengha. One was named Zhenglun and the other Chen Qi. These were believed to be generals of the Zhou dynasty (11th century B.C.). Interesting statues and architecture could also be seen here but above anything else it is a place where people could tap into their spirituality. Fengdu Ghost City Temple on the Ming Mountain In the period of the Tang dynasty an astonishing temple was built on top of the Ming Mountain. This temple tries to illustrate what life in hell would look like. It is quite unsettling for a temple with the abundance of torture devices and figures of demons in it. Chinese demons parade different colors and peculiar characteristics. This is said to be dedicated to Tianzi the Chinese King of the Dead. Travellers could choose between a cable car ride or a fifteen minute hike in going to this temple.
Downstream of the Ghost City
Fengdu - Ghost City
After the Ghost City the river continues on its long journey, passing numerous large new cities but there is little local water activity such as fishing or boating to help while away the time.
The red pagoda and temple on the ShiBaoZhai Hill, may look un interesting from the river as one cruises past, particularly, when the water levels are lower in late spring, and more and more of the white concrete wall is exposed, but behind the wall, is a place very much worth visiting.
Access to the pagoda is via a wobbly bridge, suspended between the islet and mainland. The bridge though safe is often called the drunken walk, as you may momentarily loose balance when placing a foot in the centre of the short suspended planks. After crossing the bridge, you walk along the top of the dyke, on your left is the Yangtse, on the right, well below the top of the wall is the pagoda and temple garden. The temple at the top was built in the later part of the 18th century, during Emperor Qianlong's period. Access to the hill top was via an iron chain, attached to the rock face. The anchor points can still be seen. Climbing the chain was difficult and not for the faint hearted.
In 1820 a 9 storey wooden pagoda, in which a stairway was built made ascending the hill much easier, even if the number of steps makes it challenging for some. The pagoda was built from wood and no nails were used in its construction. Much later in 1956, 3 additional floors, dedicated to the loyal generals of the Three Kingdom Period were added.
Shibaozhai or stone treasure fortress Legend Shibaozhai literally means stone treasure fortress. This rectangular rock characterized by sheer cliffs is found at the north bank of the Yangtze River in the Zhong County. According to a legend, the rock was left by Nu Va when she fixed the sky. It was later used as a fortress by an insurgent army back in the Ming dynasty. That is where it got its name. It is 164 ft. high and in the shape of an imperial seal. Built against the wall is an astonishing red pagoda where one can gain access to a breath-taking view of the Yangtze River along with the neighbouring villages beside it. It is recommended that travellers visit Shibaozhai in the period of March to November when the fog is not that thick.
Rich in culture and history, the Shibaozhai temple is found at the topmost section of the pagoda. It is dubbed as Lanruo Temple. Inside the temple, a mural depicting the legend of Nu Va resides which is where the name “stone precious fortress” originated.
A statue of a general from the ancient Ba kingdom called Man Zi is also found in the main hall while stone steles and inscriptions are displayed at the wing-rooms.
A number of stories are associated with the temple which keep tourists enthralled, such as the duck hole story, where a duck dropped down a hole was later seen floating on the river. Today the hole is stuffed with Yuan. Similarily the Rice Hole story, where a grain of rice appeared everyday from the hole to help feed the monks. When a monk became greedy and tried to enlarge the hole to get more rice, the hole stopped serving up it's daily ration of rice.
The town is popular for the architecture and the scenery. Residents of the Shibaozhai town originally depended on subsistence farming. However, the Three Gorges Dam changed that. Now, the area is covered with water.
A suspension bridge was made to connect the new village to where Shibaozhai is located which is now an island. The residents of the town were relocated to the new village where they now depend on selling souvenirs instead. to some, the village still looks pleasant but the vibrancy is missing. They say that signs of some of the displaced villagers who already left for the city are evident in the place.
From the River Cruises the tours pass through a modern part of the town, a large part of which is still vacant. Shop fronts are shuttered and the homes look dorminant. According to the guides, the homes will be occupied next year.
The boats particularly cruise boats stop some distance away from the Shibaozhai Temple at the raft like pier.
Visitors are taken from the pier on a short walk through the town and over the bridge to the temple.
White Emperor City - Baidicheng
Baidicheng is a temple complex close to the Gateway to the Three Gorges and about 8 km downstream of Fengjie.
Three Gorges Gateway
White Emperor City - Baidicheng
Gateway to Gorge (Kui Gate)
Popularly known as the Kui Gate, it is also dubbed as the “Symbol of the three Gorges” and “Gateway to the Three Gorges”. It is a fifty meter wide gateway with the forceful water of the Yangtze passing through it.
Kui gate has always been referred to as beautiful and majestic since the ancient times. It has been a subject to many ancient Chinese writers. Kui Gate is formed by the hillsides of Baiyan and Chijia Mountains.
Kui Gate is the perfect teaser to the Three Gorges, foreshadowing the beauty that is waiting to be witnessed.
White Emperor City
White Emperor City - Baidicheng
White Emperor City (Baidi City)
The city is located on the Baidi Mountain at the entrance of Qutang Gorge. This city on the north of Yangtze is rich in temples and gates. Mountains and water also surround the area which altogether creates an extremely picturesque view. Mingliang temple was built in 1533 and houses statues of Liubei, Zhu Geliang, Guanyu and Zhangfei who were significant personalities in the period of the Three Kingdoms. Then there is Wuhou Temples where people pay homage to three generations of the Zhu Geliang family.
Tablets from every dynasty are also displayed on the sides of the two temples. The city also offers a display of relics since the Neolithic period Plentiful paintings and poetry are also found in the area. Some of the most popular artefacts are the willow-leaf-shaped bronze sword from the Bashu period, hanging coffins from the Han and Jin dynasties, seventy-three inscriptions of poems and paintings from the Sui and Tang dynasties, and roughly one hundred samples of calligraphy done by the masters. Without a doubt, this city has so much to offer travellers of different interests, from the prestigious panorama to the vestiges of history and culture.
Independent Traveller Tip 2014 If the islet on which this "city" wasn't facing the Gate Way to the Gorges and it's iconic view, seen on many postcards and the 10 Yuan note, then a visit to the temple area in itself would hardly be of interest. But the view is stunning and sets expectations as to what can be seen further down stream.
Three Gorges Coffins
White Emperor City - Baidicheng
The small coffin museum on the hill, which contains some coffins and remains is interesting. In the past the people buried their dead and years later ( perhaps when both husband and wife had died ) dug up their bones and placed them in coffins and hung them from the cliffs in the gorge.
Many of these coffin sites in the gorge have been lost with the rising water , though the tour guides will try and point out the last existing coffins perched in the cliffs. The coffins are commonly carved using a whole piece of wood shaped into a house or a boat. The dead is wrapped using cambric and is placed in the coffin together with his/her belongings. This practice has been in place till the end of Ming dynasty.
People used to believe that the higher the coffins are the closer the departed would be to heaven. There were many set of coffins that were found in the different parts of the Three Gorges but the coffin that was preserved in the museum in White Emperor City is what they call the Armor Cave Coffin.
The remainder of the White Emperor city, it's stories and history maybe of interest to those with a keen interest in local stories.
Emperor City Pier
White Emperor City - Baidicheng
The Cruise Boats dock upstream of the Emperor City. Visitors are first taken through a market area, where sellers try and encourage them to buy all kinds of things from maps of China to hair combs and wooden toys.
After the market area a bus takes the visitors to the Emperor causeway, where a few professional photographers are strategically situated.
The return trip, down from the temple is passed some very enthusiastic sellers, back across the causeway, and onto the bus to the market place.