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Home : China Guide : Hubei : Little Three Gorges

The Minor Three Gorges are between the Qutang Gorge and Qu Gorge,most boat trips along the route stop for a few hours to transfer passengers to smaller boat to see the "Mini Three Gorges"along the Daning river.

Little Three GorgesThe Daning is one of the biggest tributaries leading into the Yangtze near Wushan county town, 25 km west of Qutang Gorge. Three miniature gorges are situated along this route, namely Longmen Gorge, Bawu Gorge and Dicui Gorge. This river enjoys the same geographic situation as the Yangtze, as similarly beautiful sight.Many travellers actually find this spot more impressive than the Yangtze Three Gorges themselves, and the river is certainly less polluted and more colorful than the muddy Yangtze. The Daning river is narrower than its father river and the cliff on both sides are even steeper and higher than those along the major Three Gorges.

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To take a day trip up the crystal-clear Daning River through its magnificent Three Little Gorges (Xiao San Xia) --- whose total length is only 33 kilometers (20 miles) --- is to experience the excitement and awe of bygone days of river travel in China.

The excursion is undertaken in air-conditioned boats, whose stong experienced boatmen pole with all their might when the river is too shallow for the engine to be used, heaving their bodies forward as they thrust long iron-tipped bamboo poles into the riverbed and following through until they are almost lying on their backs in their struggle against the current. Some of the local boats encountered are not moterized and the boatmen must tow the boats --- laden with local merchanise and tracking in harness, along the water's edge or along cut pathways in the rock face. Negotiating a rapid may take several exhasting attempts before the boat is finally hauled over. Unfortunately, while the splendour of the scenery will remain, by 2003, the waters having risen about 50 meters (164 feet), the trackers' paths will have disappered, and this description will be a souvenir of times gone by.

About 40 minutes from the mouth of the river, at its confluence with the Yangtze River, the entrance to the first of the gorges is reached. This is the Dragon Gate Gorge (Longmen Xia), 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) long. On the cliff face to the right is the 1981 flood mark, over 40 meters (130 feet) above river level. The mouth of the gorges is like a massive gateway through with the river rushes like a green dragon, hence its name. The gateway appears to shut once one has passed through. On the east side is the Dragon Gate Spring (Longmen Quan) and above it Lingzhi Peak, topped by the Nine-Dragon Pillar. On this peak, it's said, grow stange plants and the fungus of longevity (lingzhi), guarded by nine dragons. On the western bank, two rows of 15-centimeter (2-inch) sauqre holes, continuing the entire length of the small gorges and numbering over 6,000 are all that remain of an astonishing plank walkway, which was first constructed in the Han Dynasty and recorded in the Annals of Wushan County in 246 BC. Wooden stakes inserted into these hand-hewn holes supported planks and large bamboo pipes, which stretched for 100 kilometers (62 miles) along the river. This pipeline conveyed brine, while the planks provided an access for maintenance. In the 17th century the pathway, used by the peasant leader Li Zicheng in his uprising against the Ming Dynasty government, was destroyed by the imperial army.

After leaving the gorge the boat passes the Nest of Silver Rapid (Yinwo Tan). In the past, rich merchants trading in the hinterland often came to grief here, perhaps there are caches of silver under the bubbling surface still! In 1958 work began on clearing major obstacles from the river. The Daning then meanders through terraced hillsides before entering the ten-kilometer Misty Gorge (Bawu Xia), with its dramatic scenery of rocks, peaks and caves, including Fairy Maiden Cave, Fairy Throwing a Silk Ball, and Guanyin Seated on the Lotus Platform. A long, layered formation, like a scaly dragon, can be seen on the eastern cliff. Suspended upon the precipice is a relic of the ancient inhabitants of eastern Sichuan 2000 years ago, an "iron" coffin (which is actually made of wood that has turned black with age). This gorge is accordingly also known as Iron Coffin Gorge.

The village of Twin Dragons or "Shuang Long", above Bawu Gorge, is the halfway point. Lunch can be provided at the reception center, which also has some rooms for overnight accomodation.

Emerald Green Gorge (Dicui Xia), 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) long, is inhabited by wild ducks and covered with luxuriant bamboo groves from which rises a deafening cacophony of bird-song. There are also many types of monkey still to be seen if you are lucky. Once their shrill cries resounded throughout the Yangtze gorges, but today they can be heard only in Dicui Gorge. River stones of an extraordinary variety and color can be gathered.

At the end of this gorge the tourist boat turns around and rushes downstream, arriving at Wushan in half the time it took to get here, aided by the skilful used of the long yulo, which is weighted by a stone to steady the boat. Groups may hire a boat for this trip at the mouth of the Daning River. Cheap local ferries also do this trip but it takes much longer and requires an overnight stop at Dachang (a town with fine farmhouse architecture and the remains of a Qing Dynasty city gate). (Source:

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Little Three Gorges, mini Three Gorges, Wuhan to Chongqing, Wu Gorge, Qutang Gorge, Xiling Gorge, To take a day trip up the crystal-clear Daning River through its magnificent Three Little Gorges (Xiao San Xia)

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