Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston
We awoke the next morning to find ourselves already at our first port of call. The view from our balcony gave us a clue of what we’d be exploring today.
This is Shibaozhai, which means “precious stone fortress”. This multi-story pagoda is built against the side of a stone hill and at the top is a temple. But first, we had to reach the area.
The Three Gorges Dam, which we’d visit later, was a controversial project that was begun in 1994 and became fully operational in 2012. But the result of the dam was that for many miles upstream, land that was once beside the river now lay under it. Such was the case with Shibaozhai. But the government recognized the historic value of the pagoda and took measures to protect it by building retaining walls around it and essentially creating an artificial island. If you want to see a photo of the area before it was flooded, check out the photo on Wikipedia.
Since the temple was now on an island a bridge was built to reach it. We disembarked our ship and wandered through a souvenir area to reach the bridge.
One thing we noticed in every city was how many people were employed to keep the streets and sidewalks cleaned. And many of them had brooms like these. I suppose with the population as large as China’s that they must find a way to keep people productive and the streets were quite clean.
We knew we were on the right track as we passed decorative archways and a plaza before crossing the bridge.
Once on the island we had truly arrived.
I’m not sure if this wall’s purpose is to be decorative or functional but the detail in the carvings was beautiful.
At last we reached the point on the walkway where we got a full view of the pagoda and its ornate entrance.
Once inside we began climbing levels. Some levels had displays set up and others were empty rooms. The staircases were quite steep, almost ladder-like in some cases but we weren’t moving quickly so it was not a problem.
On one level we reached this display about Ba Manzi, a military general in the 4th century BC. He’s quite the legend in Chongqing folk culture.
On the 6th level there’s a Buddha’s head inscribed in the rock. It dates to the Ming dynasty (mid-14th through mid-17th centuries) while the pagoda was built during the 19th century. That means someone carved this figure halfway up the sheer rock well before there was any type of pavilion there to support such an effort.
We finally reached the top of the pagoda and were then able to step onto a plaza on top of the hill. The day was a bit overcast but the hillsides were a lovely dark green, a color we’d see a lot of as we moved through the gorges.
In the plaza there was a raised circular structure that at first looked like it might be a well but the sign indicated was something else. The hole in the rock was thought to lead down to the Yangtze but the people were not sure that it did. According to legend they took a small duck, made a mark on its leg and sent the duck down in the hole. A bit later the duck emerged in the river and thereafter it was known as the Duck Cave.
The oldest building on the little island is the Emperor Palace which was built in the late 16th to early 17th centuries during the Ming Dynasty though it was renovated many times during the Qing dynasty, which was the last dynasty.
The Palace consists of a gate and three smaller palaces: the front palace, central palace and rear palace. The doorways all have boards across the bottom to prevent evil spirits from entering.
One of the primary gods enshrined here is Guyanyu who was a real-life general in the early 3rd century AD and who played a large role the the collapse of the Han Dynasty. However, over time fictionalized stories from a 14th-century historical novel became portrayed as fact and now he revered in several religions.
There were other assorted gods in the temple as well
And then there was the Jade Emperor.
After leaving one temple we found ourselves in another courtyard where someone had a fun time carving up pieces of wood.
This is the Aihe Bridge. Legend has it that if a couple can stand side by side and walk over the bridge in no more than ten steps their wishes will come true.
In the next small palace we see the Queen of Heaven, who is the wife of the Jade Emperor.
The Jade Emperor and the Queen of Heaven had seven daughters.
Once we exited the palaces we had a nice view of the bridge back to the mainland.
We maneuvered our way through the souvenir tents and boarded our boat. The rest of the day we spent cruising our way down the Yangtze. After an extremely busy first week we were glad to have an afternoon to ourselves.