Megan McCormick travels through the
heart of third largest country in the world. China is
home to 20% of the world's population. It's one of the
oldest civilisations, and its future will undoubtedly
be shaped in the 21st century. Though it's been closed
to tourism throughout much of the communist era, it's
now beginning to open it's doors to travellers.
She begins her journey in Shanghai,
which has been China's trade centre for centuries. Megan
takes advantage of her time in Shanghai to do a little
shopping, visiting the bustling Nanjing Road
and Yu Yuan Bazaar, where gangsters
from the opium trade used to hang out. These days the
opium dens have been replaced by quaint little stalls,
and the gangsters have been replaced by tourists. In
the heart of the bazaar is one of the oldest Daoist
temples in Shanghai. Daoism is a religion which is based
around the power of the gods, magic and sorcery. It
originated in China, where it has been years. It even
survived the Cultural Revolution of 1966, when all forms
of religion were banned by the communist state and hundreds
of temples were destroyed.
Before leaving Shanghai, Megan wants to see some famous
Chinese acrobats in action. She visits a school were
young acrobats begin their training at the age of six
or seven, learning to perform incredible feats by the
time they reach adulthood.
From Shanghai Megan heads inland by bus to Suzhou.
Suzhou has been the silk capital of China for over 1500
years and is also famous for its Chinese classical gardens,
built as private retreats for very wealthy merchants.
Megan takes a tour of one of the silk factories and
learns a little about the production process.
Megan embarks on a ten hour train journey to the Huangshan
region, known as the Yellow Mountains.
She passes the time playing cards with the locals, before
finally arriving in Tunxi. As well
as being the gateway to the mountains, the town is also
famous renowned for the medicinal shops that have evolved
because of the herbs that grow on the outskirts of the
town. Chinese medicine uses over 6,000 herbs and nearly
a thousand animal and mineral products, all of which
are to balance the Ying and Yang to bring harmony, health
and happiness. Megan is prescribed a remedy of fermented
bean with chicken stomach lining to combat a common
The Yellow Mountains are one of the most beautiful
sights in all of China, where poets and painters have
come for centuries in search of inspiration. It takes
Megan five hours to hike to the vantage point, but on
arrival she's disappointed to discover the view is enshrouded
From Huangshan, Megan continues west to Wuhan
where she starts her 600 mile journey up the Yangzi
River to Fengdu. The Chinese
call the Yangzi the 'Long River', and at 4,000 miles
it's the third longest in the world. Megan has the chance
to watch work in progress on the largest and most powerful
dam in the world, called the Three Gorges Dam.
When it's finished it will prevent massive loss of life
sustained when the Yangzi periodically bursts its banks,
yet it is also a highly controversial engineering projects
as though no-one really knows what the consequences
will be it will undoubtedly change life on the Yangzi
From the dam Megan heads up Shennong Stream
by longboat. This is one of the Yangzi's 700
tributaries, which will be most affected by the flooding.
She is invited to visit a local village which has been
inhabited for the last 1000 years but 80% of the villagers
have already upped sticks before their homes are destroyed.
The project will also destroy some breathtaking gorges,
some of the river species will become extinct and many
archaeological sites will be lost forever.
Fengdu is known by the locals as 'the
city of the ghosts', and legend has it that this is
the home of the devil. It seems fitting that she should
end my river trip here, as when the flooding starts,
the legend of Fengdu will become a reality - it is one
of the 140 towns, 13 cities and over 1,000 villages
that will be given to the river.
Next, Megan makes her way to Chongging,
the third largest city in China which is famed for its
haze that obscured the city from the scourge of Japanese
bombers during World War II. The old is where you can
find Chongqing's famous Sichuan Opera.
Unlike in the west, opera has always been for ordinary
folks and is performed on the streets and in the local
tea houses. In the past opera was the main source of
communicating Chinese history. During the Cultural Revolution,
Mao used it to spread political propaganda.
Megan's final stop is the ancient city of Xi'an.
Xi'an was the Capital of China for 1,100 years and in
the 8th century ithad a population of over 1 million
people, making it the largest city in the world. It
is here that the Silk Road began, connecting China to
Asia and then on to Europe. The city is home to many
muslims who are said to be the descendants of the Silk
Road traders from the Arab world. Megan visits the courtyard
of a Chinese style mosque which dates back to the 8th
century, however she's not allowed to enter the prayer
hall as access is restricted to Muslims only.
For centuries, peasants in this area told stories of
ghosts who lived underground. And in 1974 there were
two farmers out digging a well when they came face to
face with a 2,200 year old warrior. They had uncovered
the Terracotta Army, one of the greatest archaeological
sites of the 20th century. Over 8,000 warriors were
built to guard the tomb of China's first emperor, Emperor
Chin, but only a fraction of the site has been excavated
to date. He created a replica of his own army, which
is why every single face is unique. It's a breathtaking
site, and an incredible end of Megan's journey through
Central China - past, present and future.