Three Gorges

Last updated
Three Gorges
Qutang Gorge on Changjiang.jpg
Qutang Gorge in 2009
Elevation 440 ft (134 m)
Traversed by Yangtze River
Location Hubei/Chongqing,
Range Wu Mountains
China Chongqing location map.svg
Red pog.svg
China Hubei location map.svg
Red pog.svg
China Northern Plain relief location map.png
Red pog.svg
China edcp relief location map.jpg
Red pog.svg
Xi Ling Xia .jpg
The Qutang Gorge in 1999, prior to the completion of the Three Gorges Dam
Wu Xia .jpg
Wu Gorge in 2019
Cruise boats on yangtze.jpg
Cruise boats along Xiling Gorge

Geological evolution

Due to the lithological conditions of its different regions, the valleys of the Three Gorges are narrow in some areas and broad in others. Most narrow valleys occur in regions where there is limestone, which is relatively hard and resists erosion. However, water can flow along deep vertical fractures, eroding underneath. As the limestone bed is gradually undercut, parts of it fall into the river along vertical fractures, forming precipitous cliffs. When the river flows through areas of softer sandstone and shale, which have less resistance to erosion, the erosive effect is increased, carving wide valleys.

There are different theories on how the Three Gorges were formed, but geographers and geologists have generally reached a consensus, believing mountain folding in the east of Sichuan Province and the west of Hubei Province, including the Wu Mountains (巫山), were the outcome of the Yanshanian movement (燕山運動) around 70 million years ago. The gorges run from southwest to northeast, then turn, and from west to east, with terrain lowering gradually from south to north. The western and eastern parts of the area, between the southern mountains and Bashan Mountain (巴山), in the north, are comparatively lower; and in the past, the river flowed to the east through the region. As the crust of the locality continued to rise, the river's erosion intensified, and the Three Gorges were carved.

Scenic grandeur

The natural beauty of the Three Gorges along the Yangtze River has been appreciated for hundreds of years. In the Northern Wei (北魏) dynasty, Li Daoyuan (酈道元) described them in his work, Commentary on the Water Classic (水經注).

There are seamless mountains on both sides of the Three Gorges stretching more than 200 miles. The overlapping rocks make up layers of barriers that shield against sky and sunshine so that the sun can only be seen at noon and the moon will merely show at midnight. In summers, water rises to lofty mountains, making all boats floating along or against the river get blocked. Suppose an empire has an urgent decree to issue from Baidi, it will reach Jiangling at sunset of the day. The distance between them is about 373 miles, and neither a galloping horse nor a flight can run faster than a boat.

Yuan Shansong (袁山松) of the Eastern Jin dynasty wrote a Record of Yichuan's Landscape, which depicts the Three Gorges' grandeur. He wrote,

People were always warned literally or orally of the Gorges' swift currents, saying they are horrific, and no one praised the local landscape [as] beautiful. It's [not] till I came to the site that I felt quite gleeful and started to understand seeing is believing. The overlapping cliffs, the elegant peaks and the grotesque structures, they all constitute the scenery far from expression. The lush, solemn woods stood erected in the cloudy air. I can raise up my head to appreciate what's above, and look down to see reflections, and the more acquainted I get with this place, the better I feel. I spent two nights there, forgetting to return. I had never seen such a scene, nor had I any similar experience. So I am cheerful to see such a wonder, I feel mountains and waters all had spirits, and I am thrilled to encounter this bosom friend after seeking so long.

In his poem Setting out from Baidicheng, Li Bai (李白) depicts this place, saying,

While monkeys keep howling at both sides of the river, the boat has swiftly passed thousands of mountains.

Between winter and spring, the shadows of rocks and woods are reflected in the green pool accompanied by white, swift currents. Cascades plunge and flow across cypresses increasing at extremely high peaks. Clean water, flourishing trees, lofty mountains and luxuriant grasses compose the landscape. When the sun starts to rise or frost falls in the morning, forests and streams are chilly and solemn, and one can often hear monkeys howling from peaks. Their cries sound sad and strange and last in the valleys for quite a while, because of that, local fishers think the Wu Gorge is the longest of the Three Gorges in the east of Sichuan province.

The Three Gorges have renowned scenic spots, such as the Kuimen (夔門), located at the western entrance to the Three Gorges. The cliffs on both sides appear to some as having been cut by knives or axes. Among the Wu Mountains that are located at the northern and southern beaches of the Wu Gorge, one of the twelve peaks is known as Fairy Peak. According to folk tradition, it symbolizes a fairy who assisted Yu the Great in controlling the waters and guiding boatmen. The Xiling Gorge comprises a series of famous gorges, including Military Book and Sword Gorge, Yellow Cow Gorge, and Lantern's Shadow Gorge.

Hydroelectric projects at the Three Gorges

Travel poster for the Three Gorges Region (circa 1930). Beauty and grandeur, the Yangtze gorges, travel poster, ca. 1930.jpg
Travel poster for the Three Gorges Region (circa 1930).

In 1919, after Sun Yat-sen had put forward the concept in the Plan for Industrial Development of his Founding Strategy  [ zh ] (建国方略), experts investigated damming the Three Gorges, but it was not until 1994 that the Three Gorges project officially started.

In 1944, the Nationalist government recruited John L. Savage, the Chief Engineer of the United States Bureau of Reclamation, who came to China and made a 10-day investigation of the Three Gorges. Afterwards, he wrote an enthusiastic report on the prospects of a dam. Construction was started on the first of the dams at Upper Tsing Yuan Tung, but was halted on August 15, 1947, because of the Chinese Civil War. [3]

In February 1958, as the expanded meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee was held at Nanning (南宁), the Three Gorges Project (三峡工程) was discussed for the first time, and fierce disputes broke out. In the end, this project was delayed. Over the following three decades, people continued to discuss it. In the early 1980s, people mentioned it once again, but after repeated discussions and investigations, it was again postponed. On March 6, 1992, a feasibility report was presented at the 5th Session of the 7th National People's Congress (NPC) for discussion and resolution. On April 3 of that year, the NPC voted on a resolution for the dam, and it was passed with an unusually low approval rate for the NPC with only 1767 of the 2633 members (

Three Gorges Dam

The Three Gorges Dam was constructed at Sandouping (三斗坪), Yichang (宜昌) in Hubei Province (湖北), in the middle of Xiling Gorge. On May 20, 2006, the reservoir dam was completed, and the water level quickly reached the initial level of 110 meters (360 ft) above the downstream river. The project was completed by the end of 2008, with a ship lift completed in 2015.[ citation needed ]

Both the dam and the Three Gorges Reservoir has had a massive impact on the region's ecology and people, involving the mass relocation of towns and villages. [5] [6] The higher water level has changed the scenery of the Three Gorges so that the river is wider and the mountains appear lower. However, the mountains still tower above the river, and the gorges continue to offer views of the surrounding cliffs.

The riverboat companies operating on the Three Gorges are experiencing an increase in demand for river cruises.[ citation needed ] The increased width and depth of the river permits larger ships through the gorges, and there has been a significant increase in river traffic of all kinds, including bulk cargo and container barges.

Threatened cultural sites

After the construction of the Three Gorges Dam was approved, archaeologists were allowed time and resources to carry out rescue work. However, after the dam was built and used to store water, a large number of cultural relics, including hanging coffins and stone inscriptions that cannot be protected, were covered by the reservoir.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yangtze</span> Longest river in Asia

The Yangtze, Yangzi or Changjiang is the longest river in Eurasia, the third-longest in the world, and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in the Tanggula Mountains of the Tibetan Plateau and flows 6,300 km (3,915 mi) in a generally easterly direction to the East China Sea. It is the fifth-largest primary river by discharge volume in the world. Its drainage basin comprises one-fifth of the land area of China, and is home to nearly one-third of the country's population.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Three Gorges Dam</span> Dam in Sandouping, Yiling District, Hubei, China

The Three Gorges Dam is a hydroelectric gravity dam that spans the Yangtze River near Sandouping in Yiling District, Yichang, Hubei province, central China, downstream of the Three Gorges. The world's largest power station in terms of installed capacity (22,500 MW), the Three Gorges Dam generates 95±20 TWh of electricity per year on average, depending on the amount of precipitation in the river basin. After the extensive monsoon rainfalls of 2020, the dam's annual production reached nearly 112 TWh, breaking the previous world record of ~103 TWh set by Itaipu Dam in 2016.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hubei</span> Province of China

Hubei is a landlocked province of the People's Republic of China, and is part of the Central China region. The name of the province means "north of the lake", referring to its position north of Dongting Lake. The provincial capital, Wuhan, serves as a major transportation hub and the political, cultural, and economic hub of central China.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wanzhou, Chongqing</span> District in Chongqing, Peoples Republic of China

Wanzhou District is Chongqing's second most populated urban core area on the upper reaches of the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River in China. It is currently governed as a district of Chongqing Municipality, bordering Sichuan to the northwest and Hubei to the southeast. It was formerly known as Wanxian or Wan County. Prior to Chongqing's formation as a direct-controlled municipality, Wanzhou was part of Sichuan province. The urban core of Wanzhou is 228 km (142 mi) away from Chongqing's city proper.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yichang</span> Prefecture-level city in Hubei, Peoples Republic of China

Yichang, alternatively romanized as Ichang, is a prefecture-level city located in western Hubei province, China. It is the third largest city in the province after the capital, Wuhan and the prefecture-level city Xiangyang, by urban population. The Three Gorges Dam is located within its administrative area, in Yiling District.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Qing River</span> River in Hubei, China

The Qing River is a right (southern) tributary of the Yangtze River in Hubei province of south-central China.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Xiling Yangtze River Bridge</span> Bridge in Hubei, China

The Xiling Yangtze River Bridge, is a suspension bridge over the Yangtze River, just a few kilometers downstream from the Three Gorges Dam. The bridge is located within Yiling District of the prefecture-level city of Yichang, connecting the towns of Taipingxi and Letianxi with Sandouping.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Xiling Gorge</span> Gorge on the Yangtze River in Hubei, China

Xiling Gorge is a gorge on the Yangtze River in Hubei province, China. It is the easternmost and largest of the Three Gorges.

Three Gorges Reservoir Region, including 25 county-level divisions of Chongqing municipality and Hubei province, is the region directly or indirectly involved in the submersion of the water storage of the reservoir region of the Three Gorges Dam.

Xiling may refer to:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wu Gorge</span> Gorge on the Yangtze River, China

Wu Gorge, sometimes called Great Gorge, is the second gorge of the Three Gorges system on the Yangtze River, People's Republic of China. Formed by the Wu River, it stretches 45 km (28 mi) from Wushan to Guandukou, and is located downstream of Qutang Gorge and upstream of Xiling Gorge. The gorge straddles the boundary between Wushan County of Chongqing Municipality and Badong County, Hubei Province.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wu River (Yangtze tributary)</span> River in Guizhou, China

The Wu River is the largest southern tributary of the Yangtze River. Nearly its entire length of 1,150 kilometres (710 mi) runs within the isolated, mountainous and ethnically diverse province of Guizhou. The river takes drainage from a 80,300-square-kilometre (31,000 sq mi) watershed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sandouping</span> Town in Hubei, China

Sandouping is a town in Yiling District of Yichang prefecture-level city in the Chinese province of Hubei. It is located on the right (southern) bank of the Yangtze River, next to Yiling District's border with Zigui County to the west. Sandouping is best known as the location of the Three Gorges Dam, which is the world's largest electricity-generating plant of any kind.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bridges and tunnels across the Yangtze River</span>

The bridges and tunnels across the Yangtze River carry rail and road traffic across China's longest and largest river and form a vital part of the country's transportation infrastructure. The river bisects China proper from west to east, and every major north–south bound highway and railway must cross the Yangtze. Large urban centers along the river such as Chongqing, Wuhan, and Nanjing also have urban mass transit rail lines crossing the Yangtze.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yichang–Wanzhou railway</span> Railway line in China

The Yichang–Wanzhou railway, or the Yiwan railway connects the cities of Yichang and Wanzhou via Lichuan, Hubei. It was completed in 2010 and forms part of the Shanghai–Wuhan–Chengdu passenger railway. Out of the line's total 377 km (234 mi) length, 288 km (179 mi) runs on bridges or in tunnels. According to the chief engineer, Zhang Mei, the line was the most difficult ever constructed in China. Operation started on 22 December 2010.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">G42 Shanghai–Chengdu Expressway</span> Expressway of China

The Shanghai–Chengdu Expressway, designated as G42 and commonly referred to as the Hurong Expressway is an east–west bound expressway that connects the eastern metropolis of Shanghai to Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan. The expressway passes through six provinces and serves major cities such as Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou, Nanjing, Hefei, Wuhan, and Yichang. The eastern terminus of G42 is at the Wuning Road Interchange of Shanghai Middle Ring Road. At its western terminus, the expressway intersects the East 3rd Ring Road and connects East Erxianqiao Road in Chenghua District, Chengdu. The expressway spans 1,960 km (1,220 mi) in length.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Taipingxi</span> Town in Hubei, Peoples Republic of China

Taipingxi Town is a town in Yiling District of Yichang Prefecture-level city of China's Hubei Province. It is located on the left (northern) side of the Yangtze River, near the northern end of the Three Gorges Dam.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Three Gorges Museum</span> Museum in Chongqing, China

The Three Gorges Museum is a museum in the Yuzhong District of Chongqing, about the Three Gorges and Chongqing. It is one of the largest museums in the country.

Twelve Views of Bayu are popular scenic views in and around the city of Chongqing, China. Ba and Yu are old names of Chongqing in Imperial times. Influenced by Eight Views of Xiaoxiang in Hunan Province, people in Chongqing listed their own most beloved views during the reign of the Tianshun Emperor of the Ming dynasty. Scenic views in the list changed throughout the history. Some scenic views appeared in earlier lists no longer exist in modern days due to the change of physical geography, landscapes and land-uses.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yangtze River cruise</span>

Yangtze River cruise is a river cruise on the Yangtze, the longest river in China and in Asia. It has historically been called the Three Gorges cruise because of the cruise in the Three Gorges, the most exciting part of the river.


  1. "Three Gorges Region Becomes China's Largest Geological Park". China Internet Information Center . Xinhua News Agency. March 8, 2004. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  2. "Saving the Cultural Relics of the Three Gorges". China Internet Information Center . Translated by Shao, Da. 2003. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  3. "October The National Archives in the regions…a monthly calendar of events open to the public" (PDF). U.S. National Archives. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
  4. Chang, Chun Yin Anson; Zhangyang, Gao; Kaminsky, Amanda; Reams, Tony G. (14 November 2018). "Michigan Sustainability Case: Revisiting the Three Gorges Dam: Should China Continue To Build Dams on the Yangtze River?". Sustainability: The Journal of Record. 11 (5): 204–215. doi: 10.1089/sus.2018.29141.cyac .
  5. "Three Gorges dam may force relocation of a further 300,000 people". the Guardian. 2010-01-22. Retrieved 2021-06-12.
  6. "Relocated Three Gorges Residents Face Challenges". Retrieved 2021-06-12.
  7. Hvistendahl, Mara (March 25, 2008). "China's Three Gorges Dam: An Environmental Catastrophe?". Scientific American. Retrieved May 4, 2018.
Three Gorges
Simplified Chinese 三峡
Traditional Chinese 三峽

31°01′04″N110°13′43″E / 31.01778°N 110.22861°E / 31.01778; 110.22861