Flowing east for 6300 kilometres, from its source in China’s Qinghai province through nine provinces to Shanghai where it meets the East China Sea, the Yangtse River has both shaped China’s geography and inspired artists and poets throughout the generations. The Yangtse is the world’s third longest river, and the longest river in a single country. The Chinese name Chang Jiang simply means ‘Long River’.
Over the years the river has carved a path through the landscape which now separates the north from the south. Boats are dwarfed by 900 metre cliffs covered in verdant forests which are often depicted in traditional Chinese paintings. Throughout history the river has been a major resource, providing irrigation for the rice terraces, fresh water for the villages dotted along the river banks, transport and sanitation.
The controversial hydroelectric dam on the Yangtse was the world’s biggest engineering project and whilst it has forever changed the landscape the views are still inspiring particularly travelling through the famous Three Gorges, Qutang, Wu and Xiling. The dam is itself an impressive sight: over five times the size of the Hoover Dam it is the largest in the world, with lock gates stretching more than 2300 metres across the river.
The most popular way to explore the Yangtse is to take a three day cruise either downstream from Chongqing or upstream from Yichang. Whilst the cruise boats can be large they are still dwarfed by the scenery you will pass along the way. It is possible to take smaller boats to shore at certain points and explore the villages that dot the edges of the river. It is worth taking a visit to Fengdu ‘Ghost Town’, home to a number of statues and monuments depicting the entrance to the afterlife, combining Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian beliefs.
The cruise boats operating on the river range from simple boats with comfortable cabins to five star luxury boats. Cabins located on the outside of the boats often have balconies allowing you to while away a day as you watch the spectacular scenery pass you by