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The Shibaozhai looks like a strangely-shaped pagoda hugging a hill. The hill is on the bank of the Yangtze River that has steep sides. It is about 200 meters or 700 feet tall. On the hill, a three story temple was built that looks like it sits on the building structure, but it doesn’t. People were hauled up to the temple until the stairway and the floors below were built. A yellow gate is at the base of the pavilion. Like the Lesser 3 Gorges and Fengdu City, the Shibaozhai was a popular stop for Yangtze River cruise ships. In there past, there were tourist stalls between the dock and the Shibaozhai. But now like Fengdu Ghost City, the Shibaozhai is affected by the lake behind the 3 Gorges Dam. The government thought that the site was important to protect, so it just built a wall around it. Now, travel to the temple building is much easier. There used to be a long walk from the river docks. It is one of the highlights along the Yangtze and the Three Gorges Lake.
The temple is striking because the shape is unusual, sort of like a pyramidal pagoda. The red color contrasts sharply with the green trees and bushes and the color of the rocky hill face. There is large bright golden gate that also stands out. The temple at the top is a Taoist Temple for the god Mansjuri. The 12 story structure below it is supported by the rock face, and the first 9 floors of it contains lots of artwork and a ladder like a ship’s ladder. People may find climbing the ladder difficult. But there is another stairway outside that goes up to the top. However, people using the outside stairway can’t see the insides.
Location: On the Yangtze River between the Three Gorges Dam and Chongqing. It is about 300 kilometers (180 miles) from Chongqing and about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from Wuhan.
The temple at the top was built first about the year 1750 during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1736-96) of the Qing Dynasty. People used to go to the temple by using a chain. In 1819, the first 9 floors of the building were constructed. Though the building looks like a pagoda, it really isn’t because it isn’t self supporting. The building rests on the rock face. In 1956, three more floors were added to connect the temple and the bottom 9 floors, making the building look like a wide and tall, complete pagoda with 15 floors from the distance.
There has been a lot of recent construction at the site. The temple underwent three years of major renovation that cost 80,000,000 RMB (12,000,000 USD) between 2005 and 2008. When the Three Gorges Dam was built, it was known that the waters would reach the building. So the government built a coffer dam to protect it. Now, travel to the site is much easier since ships can reach the temple directly. Before, people used to take long walks up from the river.
Other highlights of a trip between Chongqing and the Three Gorges area include the Three Gorges Dam and the Lesser Three Gorges on the Daning River. The Daning is a tributary of the Yangtze. Another highlight is the Wulong Karst region with spectacular caves, pits, big rock bridges, and rock formations and good hiking in a natural preserve.
Up river in and around the city of Chongqing are many attractions including the Three Gorges Museum, Ciqikou Old Town where you can eat and shop, the Great Hall of the People, and the Chongqing Zoo. The most interesting highlights are outside the city. These include the Dazu Rock Carvings that are about an hour west of the city of Chongqing and the Zigong Dinosaur Museum that is about 3 hours west of the city of Chongqing.