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Three Gorges Ancient Plank Road

Three Gorges Ancient Plank Road

Brief Introduction of Three Groges Ancient Plank Road

Visitors can see ancient plank road on steep cliff everywhere while cruising in the canyons of Three Gorges. It is called Three Gorges Ancient Plank Road because it is located in Three Gorges.

Three Gorges Ancient Plank Road extends over 50 kilometers. There are three sections of the ancient plank road. First section starts from the east bank of Caotang river mouth in Fengjie County to Zhuangyuan Dui Mountain in Wushan County. The second one is from the opposing bank of Wushan County to Qinglian Stream. The third one spreads in Xiling Gorge. The ancient plank road includes road, stone bridge, iron chains and stone railings.

History of Three Groges Ancient Plank Road

Plank road had a long history in China. They were built as early as the Warring States Period about 300 BC. "Records of Qin" in the Records of the Warring States says, "There was a plank path of a thousand li, which linked Shu with Han." It was said that the Southern Path built by the state of Qin for its expedition against the State of Shu, also known as the Golden Ox Path, was the earliest one that had been built. Later, plank roads were constructed all over Sichuan, Shaanxi, Gansu and Yunnan provinces.

Three Gorges ancient plamk roads were different from the very early ones. For the most part, the road was protruded from the cliff with the planks supported by piles driven into the cliff. Bridges were built to span the gullies. There were very few flat slopes. It was a tremendously difficult piece of engineering work. Such ancient plank roads are mostly existing in Qutang Gorge, Lesser Three Gorges and Shennong Stream. Meng Liang Ladder is the remains of such kind. Nowadays, almost all the piles and plank are gone, just holes on the cliffs running along the rivers.

Three Gorges ancient plank road had a total length of from fifty to sixty kilometers. The section in Qutang Gorge began from the eastern bank of the Thatched Cottage River in Fengjie County and ended at Zhuangyuandui opposite Daxi in Wushan County, a distance of ten kilometers. The section in Wuxia Gorge linked the bank opposite Wushan County seat with Qinglianxi on the border of Chongqing City and Hubei Province, a distance of about thirty kilometers.

The other sections were to be found in Xiling Gorge. The "road" was about 2 to 3 meters wide protected by stone and iron chain railing because the path was several dozen meters above the river. According to local annals, at the time when the ancient plank road was in use, boat trackers and sedan-chair carriers could walk abreast along the road. The iron chain is gone and many of the stone balustrades are broken in the surviving sections of the plank road today. Walking on the Three Gorges ancient plank road and looking down the river is as scaring as peering into abyss.The ancient plank road that facilitated travelers on foot in the past has become a historical attraction in the gorges. At low water season in autumn and winter, visitors today can wade across the Thatched Cottage River and climb onto the ancient plank road. But during flood season, a special boat is needed to take visitors to the plank road. On the plank road here visitors can see two inscriptions carved on the cliff. One reads, "Cutting the path is a miracle," and the other says, "A ladder leading to the skies." Looking at the innumerable holes drilled into the rock, one can well imagine the difficulty and danger experienced by the stone masons who blazed the path.

Two Types of Three Gorges Ancient Plank Road

There were two kinds of such roads: one, a wooden plank road, built by digging in the cliff, and ramming thick wooden pegs and paving with wooden boards on the pegs; the other a stone road, which was actually a road cut out of rock. This kind of road was typical for ancient people living in mountainous areas: in today's Shaanxi , Sichuan , Hubei provinces and Chongqing Municipality . The road was level and solid, and horses could gallop on it.

Since the 1980s, highways have been built along the Yangtze River and navigation conditions have naturally improved. The wind eroded the ancient plank roads, therefore, they are now deserted, except for the odd hiker who sometimes travels across the area. A well-preserved section of the road has also become a remnant of the river recently.

The road, known as the "ancient plank road" that started from Fengjie and ended in Wushan, extended for about 10 km. It used to be a famous scenic spot. On a cliff dozens of meters above the river water, a plank road could be clearly seen, which featured a road created by cutting away part of the stone cliff; a groove road made by chiseling; a stone-piled road and flat bridge to connect the valleys.

There were no records about the construction of the road before the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). After two projects, in the Daoguang and Guangxu reigns of the Qing Dynasty, the road became extremely broad. Boat trackers and sedan carriers could walk on it, shoulder to shoulder. One cannot help sighing to think of how the magic road was developed, with just hammers and chisels. Qin Jianming, who is responsible for the archaeological investigation of the road, pointed out that the most difficult task was to chisel the rock on the cliff in making the groove road. This kind of road is the most typical and best-preserved Three Gorges ancient plank road. The longest section in the Qutang Gorge is 200 meters. What's more, many engineering methods employed in building the road are still in use today, for example: blasting a road with dynamite, digging tunnels and considering flood water levels in deciding the height of a road surface. Qin thinks that the opening of the road was significant. On the one hand, it started the direct link between Wushan and Fengjie, on the other, it created fine boat tracker roads for the Qutang Gorge, and promoted the development of the shipping industry. Amazing river road network.