Monday, January 30, 2006

Three Gorges

Last night I caught a program on Discovery about the Three Gorge Dam project in China.


Dig these stats:

Removing 102.59 million cubic meters of stone and earth and filling with 29.33 million cubic meters of stone and earthwork;

Mixing and pouring 27.15 million cubic meters of cement;

Erecting 281,000 tons of metal structures;-- Making and erecting 354,000 tons of reinforcing bars;-- Building 231,000 square meters of leak-proof concrete walls;-- Installing power generators with a combined capacity of 18.2 million kilowatts

The Three Gorges Reservoir will inundate 632 sq. km., the world's largest inundated area by a single project

The normal water level of 175 meters will be achieved in the year 2003, with the reservoir covering 1,045 and stretching some 663 km, an area capable of controlling floods expected to occur twice in one decade. The resettlement effort and the area to be inundated are unprecedented in Chinese history, with inundation affecting 365 townships in 21 counties, cities or districts in Sichuan and Hubei provinces. Some 844,000 people are scheduled for resettlement, with unforeseen factors most likely raising the figure to 1.2 million people.

The Three Gorges Reservoir will inundated 31,000 hectares of farmland, and will require the relocation of 1,599 industrial and mining enterprises, as well as power transmission and telecommunications facilities, harbors, small and medium-sized hydro-electric power plants, roads and pumping stations.

Wah hoo, right? Keep reading:

The dam has been built over a seismic fault.

Archaeological teams have found over 1,208 historical sites along the river where the flooding will inundate the items found of some 30,000 to 50,000 years old dating back to the Han and Ming dynasties. As stated by Arthur Zich, editor of National Geographic’s article "Before the Flood", "Archaeologists estimate that some 8,000 unexcavated sites will be lost forever in a tomb of water and sediment."

(read lots more here: )

But I've become fascinated with one of the many temples that is in danger. The town has already been demolished, Fengdu. The temple at Fengdu is home to Ghost City. Check this:

(Check out for more pics of this amazing place.)

Fengdu got its reputation as the "Ghost City" in the Eastern Han Dynasty. Two officials from the imperial court: Wang Fangping and Yin Changsheng, got bored with the political life in the court and came to Mt. Minshan outside Fengdu City to practice Taoist teachings. Both of them later became immortals by carrying out self-cultivation. This story widely spread and Mt. Minshan became famous. When combined together, their surnames Yin and Wang, sound very much like "King of Hell" in Chinese. Hence the people began to call Fengdu the "Ghost City".

To Chinese, the social structure in the hell is exactly like that in this world. In hell, a sprit would go through a whole and complete bureaucracy to get the final sentence. The pure spirits would be rewarded and the sinful ones would be severely tortures. Different tortures would be given to different sins. The Temple built on Mt. Minshan display instruments of torture and wide demon images, which vividly depict the Chinese people's imagination of Hell. Landmarks on the hill bear horrible name - Ghost Torturing Pass, Last-Glance at Home Tower, nothing-to-be-done Bridge and the River of Blood.

I don't have any idea WHY I'm so fascinated with this place. When the dam is completed in 2009, the water will reach to right under the face on the mountain.

It's amazing to me that so much will be lost. For a culture that treasures it's past, China certainly isn't doing a very good job of protecting it for the future. The government is touting the whole "The dam will do wonders for tourism" and "it's for our future" This is true, but the costs being paid, both in human numbers and the environmental aspects (which I didn't even get into) are staggering. Most of the people that are being displaced don't have much of anything anyway, and they're being taken from their land and shoved into these awful housing projects. Man. Ugly, ugly, ugly.

For more info:

Also, Discovery is rerunning "Three Gorges: The Biggest Dam in the World", on February 1 at 12:00 pm and again on February 26 at 5:00 PM. TIVO it or tape it, but whatever you do, check it out. It's a very interesting show. I'm an engineering geek at heart, and I found that part really pretty neat, but the part of me that cares about history and the human creature was broken hearted.

I'm checking to see if it's available thru Netflix, since after the show they had their little spiel about purchasing the DVD.

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