Fengdu's Changing Scenery
By staff reporter MATHILDE NIELSEN-EARLE
Fengdu residents enjoy dancing by the Yangtze River.
THE town of Fengdu sits on the banks of the Yangtze River, about 150 km downstream from Chongqing. Seen from the opposite bank, the town is an island of white high-rises, oddly without the suburban sprawl usually associated with these kinds of urban areas.
Fengdu is one of the counties that have been affected by the rising water levels of the Yangtze River brought about by the Three Gorges Dam, and these buildings are the results of investment to assure successful relocation of displaced citizens. You might assume that housing projects of this kind, built on such a large scale over a relatively short period of time, would seem impersonal and lead to a lost sense of community, but this is far from the truth.
Close too, the streets are vibrant and bustling with people. In a square near the center of town residents from every generation gather to dance and socialize when night falls and the summer heat fades, or during the cool of the morning. Along the pedestrian street that runs by the river people walk and roller skate and children buy helium filled balloons from vendors, while closer to the river couples, families, and groups of friends stroll or sit on the steep banks and watch the river.
At night the view across the Yangtze yields little but a handful of solitary lights and the silhouette of steep hills. Here, in the Mingshan Mountain Scenic Area, lies the Ghost City, a Daoist temple through which all souls eventually pass to be judged by the Emperor of the Nether World. Those who have led sinful and debauched lives are sent down to hell, where inmates are tortured in a variety of gruesome ways illustrated by the wooden figurines that decorate temple.
Southeast from the town you can descend into the bowls of the earth to explore the Snow Jade Cave, but the cave, with its pure white rocks that sparkle with crystals, is far from hellish. Narrow corridors that were once below sea level connect caverns full of a spectacular array of streams, subterranean waterfalls, and geological formations. These delicate mineral formations took millennia to form; the King's Flag stalactite will take another 3,000 years before it meets the stalagmite that rises just a short distance below it.
Above ground, the speed of development is infinitely faster. Yet more modern apartment buildings are rising up in town, and, out in the countryside, new houses seem to be growing from the hillsides like rectangular mushrooms. Towards the edge of town a peach and terracotta colored college looms over its green Astroturf playing fields.
The college was built to train the migrants for the new employment opportunities flooding into the region's new industrial parks and agricultural developments. Once the new highway is built and Fengdu's winding roads can be avoided, the rate of investment is set to increase, so in the near future when you turn on your computer, pull on your ski pants, or just sit down to a meal, it might just have traveled along that road.