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Badong, Hubei Province

In Enshi Autonomous Prefecture of Tujia and Miao Nationalities, Hubei Province, there is a county called Badong. Located in the middle section of the Yangtze River between Wu Gorge and Xiling Gorge, and 40 miles from the Three Gorges Dam, Badong is a bright pearl inlaid along the corridor of the splendid Yangtze River.

The Badong county seat, commonly referred to simply as "Badong", is in the town of Xinling, located on the high southern banks of the Yangtze River channel. The Yangtze valley was flooded during the first decade of the 21st century after the construction of the Three Gorges Dam to the east, but Badong county seat was mostly above the flood line, and so more of the original town survives than is the case in many other river towns along this section of the Yangtze.

Having a history of 1,500 years, the country is endowed with numerous natural recourses and scenery. Daba, Wu and Wuling Mountains, along with the Yangtze and Qing Rivers, can be found in the county. Plants, such as gingko and manglietia, and animals, such as the giant salamander and golden monkeys, also grow or settle on this treasured land. Picturesque scenery like the Shennong Stream, Gezihe Stone Forest, Autumn Wind Pavilion (Qiufeng Ting) and White Cloud Pavilion (Baiyun Ting) are worth a visit. Among them, the Shennong Stream where the boat tracker can be seen is a spot one can't miss. In addition, on the 2,000 miles' territory live ethnic minorities like Tujia and Miao, making the land a unique one with its minority flavor.

Although a part of Bodong's territory (including docks, roads, residences and some infrastructural facilities) has been merged in the Yangtze River because of the Three Gorges Dam Project, the economy of the county recovered quickly and is developing in its right way.

Coal mining in small pits is the main commercial activity in the region, along with farming. There is also a large cement factory on the river to the east of the town, which is a significant polluter.

The rural population of Badong County, as with many other parts of inland China, has seen major changes in the past two decades. The Chinese government's population control policies in the 1980s and beyond resulted in a sharp drop in births, and also in a change in attitudes, making many couples uninterested in having more than one child. The new freedom to travel and work in other parts of China has also led to a major exodus of workers to the coastal areas of China to find work. The older people tend to stay in the villages, and the workers often return to have their children, but they then generally return to the factories. The overall result is that many villages in Badong are shrinking and some terraced farmland in this largely mountaintainous region is being abandoned and allowed to return to its original state.

Badong, the county seat, has developed around one main street, extending from a power station at the eastern end to factories spreading along three or four hill slopes to the west. lt is the westernmost county town of Hubei Province. Labourers, pitch-black from coal dust, with staff in hand, negotiate the steep slopes above the river, humping baskets of coal as they load and unload river lighters. Houses with wooden balconies huddle together on pillars embedded in solid concrete foundations above the bank of the river. In ancient times, Badong was situated on the other side of the Yangtze and belonged to the State of Ba; in the Song dynasty (960--l279) the town was moved to the southern bank. The new city will be relocated again on the north bank, five kmupstream from the present city.

Badong has two pavilions of architectural interest--the Autumn Wind Pavilion(Qiufeng Ting) and the White Cloud Pavilion (Baiyun Ting). Local products include tung oil, lacquer, tea, medicinal herbs and animal skins.

The Shennong Xi (stream) is a small tributary of the Yangtze boasting gorges that rival those of the Daning River and is visited by many tourist ships. A team of trackers push and haul wooden sampans over the shallow rapids.

Edited by Athena Lee
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