Qutang Gorge runs eight kilometers from Baidicheng in Fengjie County in the west to Daxizhen in Wushan County, Chongqng City. The shortest among the Three Gorges, it is the most spectacular. As soon as the roaring Yangtze River rushes into the gorge, it meets head-on with the imposing Kuimen Gate. Rocky mountains rise perpendicularly like walls on both sides of the river squeezing the broad river into a narrow ribbon threading its way in the gorge. Here the width of the river is reduced to 100-200 meters and the narrowest places are no more than a few dozen meters while the principal peaks on the banks are as high as 1,000-1,500 meters. The turbulent waters flowing in the deep gorge along a continuous line of peaks make a most magnificent picture.
There are many historical sites in Qutang Gorge. On a hilltop on the north bank are the town of Baidicheng, boasting many rare historical relics. On the south bank are the Whitewashed Wall covered with carved inscriptions, the legendary Meng Liang's Ladder, the Upside Down Monk, Armour Cave and the sweet-tasting Phoenix-Drinking Fountain in a deep cave. Also on the south bank, not far downstream, is a very strange-looking peak standing by the river; it is called the Rhinoceros Watching the Moon because it looks like a rhinoceros.
Scenery Spots along Qutang Gorge
Baidicheng was an ancient city on the northern shore of the Yangtze River. Baidicheng was also where Liu Bei, first emperor of the Kingdom of Shu during the Three Kingdoms era, died. There is a Liu Bei Memorial Temple and a Zhuge Liang Memorial Temple in Baidicheng. Baidicheng is a major tourist attraction of Yangtse cruise
The Chalk Wall is a white cliff face on the southern bank of the Yangtze River at the entrance to the Qutang Gorge (Kuimen Gate). The Chalk Wall can be easily recognized by the numerous characters carved into the rock, many of which were done by famous Chinese calligraphers. Nearly 1,000 characters in all are carved into the rock wall, with the oldest dating to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The wall has characters carved in many different styles of calligraphy and in various sizes. The largest characters are approximately 1.7 metres (6 ft) wide.
The Meng Liang Stairway: On the south side the river (Baiyan Mountain) there are a series of rectangular shaped holes carved into the cliff face. The holes are almost exactly 1 metre apart and 1 metre deep. The holes zig-zag up part of the cliff face in a Z-shape. These holes are known as the Meng Liang Stairway.
Legend has it that the holes were built by a Song Dynasty soldier named Meng Liang. Meng Liang served for a general named Yang Jiye who was buried at the top of the cliff. Meng Liang wanted to find the remains of General Yang and give him a proper burial back in his home town. During the night Meng Liang constructed the stairway. A monk at the top of the mountain saw him coming and crowed like a rooster. Meng Liang, thinking the morning had arrived, quickly abandoned his plan to avoid being caught.
Holes such as these are used as a walk-way several places in the Three Gorges region. Poles were inserted into the holes and then either a walkway could be constructed or a person could walk from pole to pole. Historians do not know why these particular holes were constructed, nor do they know why they only reach part of the way up the cliff face. Remains of city walls have been located at the top of the cliff, and some historians have theorized that the pathway might have been intended to enable a person to access the city from the river.
Another famous set of similar holes can be found near Wushan in the Little Three Gorges of the Daning River. The local tourism agency in Wushan has placed poles in some of these holes so that tourists can see how they were used in ancient times.
Hanging Monk Rock: On the cliff face near Meng Liang's Staircase there is a rock shaped like an upside down person. This is the Hanging Monk Rock. According to legend, when Meng Liang discovered that the monk had feigned a rooster call (see above), and frightened him off the mountain, he was so angry that he found the monk and hung him upside down from the cliff face.
Drinking Phoenix Spring: Along the cliff face near the Chalk Wall and Meng Liang's Stairway there are a number of caves. Dripping water from natural springs within the caves have created many stalactites. One particular stalactite is approximately 10 metres (33 ft) high, and it is shaped like a Phoenix displaying its tail feathers. Moss and bamboo growing next to the formation look like feathers on a bird. Water still drips from the head of the stalactite bird, and hence the Chinese have dubbed it the Drinking Phoenix Spring. The formation is extremely difficult to see from the river, but there is a pathway that allows direct access to the caves.
The Ancient Pathway: These narrow footpaths were built starting in Western Han Dynasty (206 BC ¨C 220 AD) and continued to be maintained and improved up until the middle of the 20th century. The original purpose was to provide a foot path for human haulers to pull boats upstream. Thus they were always alongside cliffs next to the river. Since the earliest days, boats going downstream used oars just to get steerage way. Going upstream, human powered oars were no match to the rapid current. Thus gangs of humans, harnessed to a tow rope, hauled the boats upstream. These haulers needed a path along the steep cliffs to walk on. Thus The Ancient Pathways were built. . Over the years, these paths were expanded and improved. In addition to paths for haulers, paths were built for hauling goods up mountains. These higher paths would survive the flooding after the Three Gorges Dam is complete.