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Himalaya

Day 76: Shigu to the Tiger Leaping Gorge

Michael Palin - HimalayaSuch is the fame of the Great Bend at Shigu that I expect to see a battleground of the elements, some evidence of a cataclysmic confrontation between rock and water; but the Yangtze goes meekly, and Cloud Mountain, which blocks its way, is little more than a large hill. Sandbanks rise from the river and Shigu itself is a warm, sleepy little backwater.

Maybe it's worn out by its history. Shigu means 'Stone Drum', which refers to a marble tablet commemorating the epic defeat of Tibetan invaders that took place here in 1548. It describes 'heads heaped like grave mounds', 'blood like rain' and 'dykes choked with armour'. Another memorial reminds us that Mao's famous Long Marchers, pursued by the Nationalist army, crossed the Yangtze at Shigu in 1936. It took four days and nights to get all 18,000 of them across.

Popular legend believes that the limestone buttress of Cloud Mountain that turned the Yangtze north was put there by the Emperor Da Yu, with precisely that intention, some 4000 years ago.

There's a huge tourist car park by the river with restaurant attached. Early on this Monday morning it's quiet and there's only one bus parked up, but I'm told that the rest of the time Shigu makes a very good living from Da Yu and China's most famous U-turn.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 76: Shigu to the Tiger Leaping Gorge
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Shigu
  • Book page no: 177

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