A Yangtze River cruise in China has many highlights--beautiful scenery, fascinating history, interesting culture, and features like the Shibaozhai Temple, which are different from any other river cruise in the world.
One of the things that makes the Shibaozhai Temple different is the effort put into saving the Temple from the rising waters of the Yangtze after the building of the Three Gorges Dam. The Yangtze River effort to save the Temple took place from 2005 and 2008, at a cost of about $12 million, and the restoration of the Shibaozhai Temple is reminiscent of the world coming together to save one of the great monuments of Egypt, Abu Simbel, from the rising waters of the Nile River after the Aswan Dam was built.
The Shibaozhai Temple is a 12-story, 18th century temple built on the tall northern bank of the Yangtze River of China. It's located about 180 miles downstream from Chongqing, where most Yangtze River cruises either embark or disembark.
Shibaozhai (Stone Treasure Stronghold) was erected by Emperor Qianlong in 1750 on a large rock rising almost 700 feet out of the river. The Shibaozhai Temple is an architectural delight, having been built without nails. This site celebrates an ancient legend concerning a small hole in the temple wall where rice trickled out to feed the monks. Unfortunately, when the legendary monks got greedy and enlarged the hole to make the rice flow quicker, the rice dried up altogether.
Before the completion of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, visitors walked through a long narrow outdoor shopping mall to the Temple, which was on a giant rock 164 feet high. When the Yangtze River rose to its full pool in 2009, the water reached the base of Shibahozhai, so the Chinese government built a dike-like wall (cofferdam) around the Shibaozhai Temple pavilion and added a long swinging bridge to connect the new island where the Temple now sat with the town.
The shopping area moved so that guests still walk the gauntlet to reach the Temple.
River cruise ships sailing the Yangtze River like the Viking Emerald often stopover at Shibaozhai so that the passengers can walk through the city, cross the bridge, and climb to the top of the pagoda. Legends say that the higher one climbs in the temple, the more likely your wish or dreams will come true.
This may be easier said than done, since each floor of the Shibaozhai Temple is reached via a creaky, unstable ladder. I guess the climb wasn't too bad, because we all made it to the top on my two visits to Shibaozhai!