The Yangzi River starts in the mountains of Tibet and empties into the ocean at Shanghai, a distance of 6380km that makes it the third longest river in the world. In fact, its Chinese name is simply Chang Jiang [長江] or Long River. (The name Yangzi really applies to a small section of the river close to Shanghai but Westerners mistakenly thought that the name applied to the whole river).
Our three-day cruise started in Chongqing and ended in Wuhan, the highlight, of course, being cruising through the Three Gorges, a natural marvel that had been praised by Chinese poets since ancient times.
The cruise ship also made stops in several port cities located around the river. The first stop was Fengdu, known as the City of Ghosts in the Chinese classic Journey to the West. The temple has a very strange collection of scultpures and waystations that the dead must cross on their way to their next life.
The Three Gorges are the Qutang Gorge, Wu Gorge, and the Xiling Gorge. Our timing for the cruise, unfortunately, was horrible. Every time that we were traveling through a gorge, it was raining. It did help the landscape look exactly like a Chinese ink painting though: it was all in shades of grey.
The color of river was always reddish brown due to silt caused by erosion of the mountains located along the river. This problem was exacerbated if not created by the wholesale cutting of trees during China's ill-fated attempt at a "Great Leap Forward". Our chance at seeing crystalline waters and green mountains was supposed to be in a Yangzi tributary known as the "Little Three Gorges". Unfortunately, due to the storm, the waters were muddy there as well and the small boats we were in had to turn back.
One evening the cruise ship stopped in the town of Zigui, where we were treated to a variety show performed by the locals. The show was amazingly good despite the simplicity of the venue..
We were also amazed by their resident finger calligrapher. This gentleman would compose a poem based on your name and write it on a scroll using just his index finger as the writing brush. There were no draft copies or long pauses. He simply dunk his finger in the inkwell and started writing.
Our last major stop was the city of Sandouping, the construction site of the controversial Three Gorges Dam, which will be the world's largest dam once completed. Supporters of the dam extol its substantial power generation potential, improved river navigation, and reduced flooding while opponents mourn the social cost of forced resettlement of 1.2 million people, permanent loss of thousands of unexcavated archaeological sites, and increased chances of erosion.
Our cruise ended in the city of Yichang, followed by a bus ride to Wuhan.