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Qutang Gorge is the spectacular first of the Three Gorges on the Yangtze River. It is the shortest, but loftiest of the Three Gorges, in comparison to the gracefulness of Wu Gorge and the treacherousness of Xiling Gorge. It is considered as the gateway of the Yangtze River.
Qutang Gorge is about 500 km (300 miles) northeast, down the Yangtze, from Chongqing City and about 200 km (130 miles) upriver from Yichang, in Central China. The gorge stretches 8 kilometers (5 miles) downstream from Baidicheng (White Emperor City), Fengjie County, Chongqing,
There are two bluffs, located at the western end of Qutang Gorge, rising up steeply to over 1300 meters (4300 feet) on either side of the Yangtze River. The Yangtze River is only 100 meters (328 feet) to 200 meters (656 feet) wide here and the narrowest point is only about 50 meters (164 feet) wide. The two bluffs by the Yangtze River are like a slightly open gate, which is hence called Kuimen, or Kui Gate (Fengjie County was called Kui in ancient time.).
Kuimen is a major landmark of the Yangtze River. Therefore Qutang Gorge is also called Kui Gorge. If you travel downstream, it is “the gate to the Three Gorges”. Kui Gate is very steep as if cleaved by a huge and sharp ax, forming a nearly 90 degree angle. It is really breathtaking to witness.
The mighty Yangtze River becomes a small belt when passing Kuimen and winding through Qutang Gorge. After the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, the water level at Kuimen Gate rose about 130 meters (430 feet). However, the peaks forming the gate are still about 1100 meters (3608 feet) above river level.
On the north bank of Qutang Gorge, there is a big stone on top of a mountain. It looks like a rhinoceros facing Kuimen to the west. When the moon is in the west at night, the stone is looks like a rhinoceros viewing the moon. It has become one of the famous sights of Qutang Gorge called Rhinoceros Viewing the Moon.
There are a lot of cultural and historical sites along Qutang Gorge, including Baidicheng (White Emperor City), which is known as "the Poet City", where many famous Chinese poets have lived; cliff inscriptions of the past dynasties and the former residence of famous Chinese poet, Dufu.