We woke up bright an early so that we could join the Taichi morning exercise group on the upper deck. Then we stood amazed at the view of the first gorge, the Xiling Gorge. The scenery was breathtaking and we took a million photos of the mist-shrouded mountains.
After breakfast we jaunted off to the world’s largest engineering project, the Three Gorges Dam. We learned all about the planning and building of the structure and were amazed at its immensity. The dam is over 600 feet high and extends more than 1 mile across. The purpose of the dam was to prevent the river from flooding, which usually happens every decade, and eventually provide about 10% of China’s electricity. Right now, China uses coal for about 90% of its fuel, so the dam will reduce the need for fossil fuels and save them from building one thousand nuclear power plants. The project was started in 1994 and completed in the fall of 2008, which was about a year ahead of schedule. Our local guide, Cherry, explained to us that her dad worked on the project for many years, all the while being separated from his family. About 1.3 million people were relocated in order to create the 400 mile-long reservoir (what a logistical nightmare!). Once the dam was completed, the Yangtze River rose over 500 feet, submerging many historical sites and endangering many species of wildlife such as the Yangtze dolphin, alligator, giant salamander, and sturgeon. Pros and cons, folks. Our boat traveled through the five level lock system in order to get over the dam, which was pretty cool to watch.
After our afternoon nap, we attended a very interesting lecture about the Yangtze River and the dam project. Mr. Johnson would have loved it! We learned all about the environmental issues surrounding the dam project as well as other issues related to the Yangtze. It is the third largest river in the world, as well as the most polluted. Hundreds of towns and cities rely on the river for drinking water, which is a little bit alarming considering the junk we’ve seen floating by in the brown water.
We talked to the silk embroidery artist on-board artist and were amazed at her work. She enrolled in silk embroidery school at age six, and was trained in painting on silk for six years. At age 12 she began learning to embroider her own paintings and continued her education in the same school until she was 20. The most beautiful pieces were done on sheer silk and were double-sided. Each side was slightly different. For instance, one piece showed two tigers on one side, but on the reverse she had turned them into leopards. Val bought a beautiful double-sided piece that showed a picture of a community during the Tang dynasty.
We had a welcome banquet for dinner starring our ship’s captain, Captain Hu. We were excited to have our picture taken with him enjoyed the super yummy dinner provided. After dinner we watched the crew perform some lovely dances and skits, some of which were quite hilarious.