16 Three Gorges cruise
The lake created by the Three Gorges Dam stretches all the way to the
city of Congqing in the west and this is a good place to start a cruise
down the Yangtze.
Seventy years ago Chongqing was the headquarters of both Mao Zedong
and Chiang Kai-Shek. The two leaders stopped fighting one another and
formed a shaky alliance against the Japanese. The city is far away from the
coastal regions conquered by the Japanese and perpetually shrouded in mi st.
The Japanese bombers could rarely find Chongqing and the city was
relatively safe from attack.
The mist gives Chongqing a distinctive feeling. Another distinction is the
extraordinary building program launched to house people displaced by the
rising waters of the dam. I have never seen so many construction cranes.
Apartment blocks have sprouted up like mushrooms on land that was used for
farming only a few years ago. The massive project has led to discontent and
some people are not shy in expressing their anger to visitors.
Not much is left from the war years but, here and there, you will find the
odd reminder. The residence of Song Qing (Sun Yat-Sen's wife) still stands
and so does the residence of General Joseph (Vinegar Joe) Stilwell, who was
"lent" by the Americans to the Chinese to help them fight the Japanese.
A museum of the revolution retains the atmosphere of the Mao years.
Patriotic workers and peasants stand shoulder to shoulder with soldiers to
forge a new destiny for the nation and fight the oppressive forces of the
capitalist running dogs. It's the sort of thing that is getting increasingly hard to
find. While in Chongqing, I was told of an old soldier who expressed a desire
to be cremated in a Mao suit. The country was once awash with them. His
dutiful relatives hunted high and low and eventually hired a tailor to have one
There are some magnificent World Heritage rock temples at Dazu to the
west of the city. These date from the Tang Dynasty (7th to 10th Century)
which is widely regarded as the golden age of Chinese culture. The statues
and rock carvings are in a good state of preservation and mainly Buddhist.
The cruise boats take three or so days to make the journey down the
Yangtze to the dam, visiting places of interest on the way. I'm not an
enthusiast for cruises but I liked this one.
The boats usually call at Fengdu (photo, above), which has been renamed
"City of Ghosts" by the tourist board . It once stood at the edge of the
Yangtze. The lower part is now well below water level and protected by a
dam wall. There's a lot to be seen in the sunken area but the main attractions
are higher up. Ancient paths lead to temples. Some are Taoist and the