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Shibaozhai: China's Pearl of the Yangtze

This Ming Dynasty temple is a highlight of Yangtze River cruises

Cruise stops at Shibaozhai are occasionally cancelled due to weather, port conditions, and government mandates.
Legend has it that Shibaozhai Mountain was formed by the goddess Nuwa, who left the multicolored stone behind while she was mending a hole in the sky. Today, the mountain—whose name means Stone Treasure—and its Buddhist temple, built during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), is a popular Yangtze River tour stop.

The first worshippers to visit Shibaozhai Temple had to scale the 720 feet of steep, rocky cliffside using an iron chain and presumably a lot of upper-body strength. Now, thanks to the addition of a pagoda with spiral staircase in 1819, you can leave your crampons at home.

Secured to the mountain without the use of nails, the spectacular red wooden 12-story pagoda is filled with prayers written in gold and historic artifacts, some dating to as early as 220 AD. There are increasingly impressive views of the river from every level.

The site is even easier to access now than in the past, following the 2009 Three Gorges Dam hydroelectrical project that resulted in raised water levels—and the (planned) flooding of the former village that stood at the base of the hill. The newly built village sits on higher ground not far away, connected by a bridge to the pagoda.

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