Photo credit: Tan Wei Liang Byorn / Foter / CC BY

The Yangtze (“long river,” in Chinese) is China’s greatest river and a historic transportation route. It is over 6,000 km (nearly 4000 miles) long, about the same as the Mississippi and is the world’s fifth largest river by volume of water discharged, at over 30,000 cubic meters a second. Owing to the Yangtze’s ease of navigation and much less common floods, as well as millennia of invasion from northern nomads, the shores of the Yangtze became home to many major Chinese cities and numerous capitals.

The river extends far beyond Chongqing; its headwaters are deep in the Tibetan mountains. Few tourists on China tours doing the Yangtze route follow the river much beyond Chongqing. However, travelers on the Yunnan tourist trail see some of the upper reaches of the river near Lijiang. The Yangtze is also one of the three rivers in Three Parallel Rivers National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage region in Yunnan.

The Yangtze River boasts widespread natural scenery and rich cultural relics. Along the route, visitors on tour packages to China can find many well-known scenic sights such as Chongqing Jinyun Mountain, Fengdu Ghost City, Yunyang Zhangfei Temple, Jingzhou Ancient City, Red Cliff, Wuhan Yellow Crane Tower and Yueyang Tower.

Among the countless scenic sights, the Three Gorges is the most amazing landscape. It is one of the top ten scenic sights in China. Starting from Fengjie County in Chongqing City in the west and ending at Yichang City in Hubei Province in the east, it is composed of Qutang, Wuand Xiling Gorges from west to east, thus the name “Three Gorges”. The Three Gorges presents visitors with different views. Qutang Gorge is grand and magnificent. Wu Gorge is noted for beautiful scenery, and Xiling Gorge is struck by its abruptness and boldness.

Other scenic spots include:

Ci Qi Kou (Porcelain Village) – a protected cultural site whose history can be traced back for more than 1700 years. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911) it was famous for its production of porcelain. To date, over twenty old kiln sites have been discovered there.

Fuling Baiheliang (White Crane Ridge) – a natural giant stone ridge that is 1,750 yards long and 18 yards wide, the ridge with numerous inscriptions and carvings on it usually emerges above water level during the low-flow period. It is reputed as the only ancient well preserved hydrologic station in the world by UNESCO.

Fengdu Ghost City – with nearly two thousand years’ history, the Ghost City combines the cultures of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism with the mystique of ghosts.

Fengdu Snow Jade Cave – located about eight miles from the new county of Fengdu, the Snow Jade Cave is rated as China’s most beautiful by Chinese National Geography. Discovered in the mid-1990’s, the cave is over 1,022 miles long and at present is the youngest discovered in China. Because of its uniqueness and beauty, it has become a popular scenic spot along the Yangtze River as well as serving as a research site for the study of caves.

Shibaozhai (Precious Stone Fortress) – Built in the Ming Dynasty, Shibaozhai consists of a gate, a pavilion and a temple. The gate is caved with some vivid reliefs. Within the gate is the 184 feet high 12-storey wooden pavilion. It is the tallest specimen of ancient architecture with the most storeys in China and reputed as one of the eight fantastic examples of architecture in the world.

Zhang Fei Temple – is one of the few historic relics in Yunyang County along the southern bank of the Yangtze River. For thousand of years it has attracted a great number of visitors because of its unique architectural style and wood carvings, calligraphy and paintings. The Temple was built in remembrance of Zhang Fei, a renowned general of Shu and one of the three sworn brothers during the Three Kingdoms Period.

White Emperor City (Baidi City) – is located on Baidi Mountain at the mouth of Qutang Gorge, one of the Three Gorgers of the Yangtze River. It is said that in the late Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD), Gongsun Shu, a general, set up a separatist regime by force of arms in Sichuan. He claimed himself the King of Shu. Because he saw white fog rising from the well of the mountain which was like a white dragon, he called himself the White Emperor.

Qu Yuan Temple & Fragrant Stream – the Qu Yuan Temple was built in remembrance of the great patriotic poet Qu Yuan who lived during the Warring States Period. The temple was destroyed but restored during the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. The Fragrant Stream is at the northern bank of Xiling Gorge’s west mouth and is charming as its water is quite clear. According to legend, Wang Zhaojun once washed her face in the Xiangxi Stream. She dropped her necklace unconsciously into the stream. Since then the water in Xiangxi became clear and fragrant.

Shennong Stream – Taking its rise from the main peak of Shennong Jia (the first peak in the center of China) and flowing through Badong County, it ultimately flows into the Yangtze River via the Wu Gorge. Cruising along the stream by boat, visitors will become immersed in the wonders of zigzagging watercourses, the primitive environment, the canzonet by the boat tracker, and the mysterious culture along the banks.