Wednesday, July 30, 2008

YANGTZE....History's Silent Witness !

It was right after lunch on board our Cruise ship which was sailing through the Wu Gorge. We were heading towards Baidi City about 3-4 hours away in the afternoon. The Wu Gorge, about 25 miles long, is one of the most scenic of all the Gorges, with many interesting mountain peaks whose shapes resembled either an animal, bird, human or a deity. Special names were given to these peaks. The most famous is of course the highest one, Goddess Peak towering over the others. It resembles the image of a young, exqusite girl seemingly eyeing and watching over the river below. Legend has

it that the Goddess was actually the daughter of the Queen of Heaven named Yao-ji who descended to this region and fell in love with the world around here. She got her 11 other fairy sisters to come with her. And they made themselves useful by helping the people here and guiding travellers on land or water... especially helping Da Yu to control the floods. Day in and day out they did that until finally, all turned into 12 mountain peaks. These 12 peaks are spread out on both sides of the canyon, forming a beautiful vista of mountains and river. These strange looking peaks and grotesque rock formations are made even more mysterious by the ever present fogs and clouds that envelope the gorge and its valleys. If you have seen typical Chinese paintings of these scenes...they always seem to be enveloped by a misty, magical film of cloud cover. There's an explanation for this.
The Wu Gorge, as well as the others, is a long, and narrow gorge that is filled with deep canyons. With high mountains on both sides, the daily amount of sunlight that passes through is very short and minimal. This impedes the dispersal of air-borne moisture within the gorge resulting in clouds and fogs and in a variety of fantastic shapes and patterns!

As the heat was quite oppressive in our rooms, most of us went up to the open sun deck to enjoy the scenery and the breeze. It was up there on the top deck that I saw this Australian family and a few others, mainly caucasians, looking a little bored and "lost". Yet, here I was in the heart of the Three Kingdom story and trying to connect places and sites to the history I once read about. So...I approached them and asked them if they knew the significance and a little history of the area we are in. Their reply," NOPE ! No idea whatsoever ! " I was quite shocked. Perhaps, they thought they were just seeing the New Dam and a little of the scenery. They wouldn''t have known that out of the 120 chapters in the book on the 3 Kingdoms...72 actually took place here in Hubei Province.
I asked Shirley, our Wuhan guide, to tell them about the history of this place during the Three Kingdom period. She started, they listened and D2 added interesting bits here and there. Then the History teacher in me could not resist and I began to tell them relevant stories from the 3 Kingdom chronicles which took place right where we were! "Here....there....and earlier where we passed through and later we'll be seeing Liu Bei's temple...". They were truly engrossed by the stories of Zhuge Liang, Kuan Yu and Zhang Fei....and more importantly why they meant so much to not only me but to millions around the world as well, over the last 1700 years or so. Why indeed?
It wasn't only about the 3 blood brothers. I mentioned the other warlords too Liu Bei, Cao Cao and Sun Quan and their military advisers and generals. The clever tricks and strategy employed by Zhuge Liang, the Battle of Red Cliff, etc..etc..
At the end of my "Live History lesson" they asked where they could find or read more information about such interesting stories. D2 took a paper and wrote down the title for them..." The Romance of the Three Kingdoms"
After that, I could see that they were looking at everything with a new zest and viguour.
I guessed we had done our job well as the family kept close to us after that!
Top pic: " No,no these are not fictional characters...they are even worshipped in homes around the world....." me as History guide.
Center pic: Illustration of Liu Bei, Kuan Yu and Zhang Fei making that famous blood brother oath in the Peach Garden at Zhang Fei's home.

"And you know how Zhuge Liang solved that tricky problem? Today, his strategies on the art of war and on governing a state and its people ...are compulsory study material for war colleges, think-tanks, military commanders ...."

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