Size Matters!

Apparently it does for the Chinese.

When they put their foot down to build something, they do not mess around. They’ll look around the world for the biggest of class of the thing they want to build, and then through sheer technicalities, claim that the one that they’ve built is in fact, THE biggest in the world. (and when I say “technicalities”, I mean “lying”)

You may think the previous statement is a bit strong, but you’ve clearly not been to the “WORLD’S LARGEST…(whisper)  indoor copper-made reclining Buddha” It’s not the world’s largest Buddha, nor the world’s largest indoor Buddha. It’s not the world’s largest copper-made Buddha, nor the world’s largest reclining Buddha. But put them all together, we have the WORLD’S LARGEST (softly) indoor copper-made reclining Buddha.


I believe in school we called it a good public relations hook.

One of the shore excursions during our cruise along the Yangtze River was to the Three Gorges Dam (长江三峡大坝) – a still ongoing project that is touted as the biggest dam in the world. So, understandably, we were a bit sceptical…

We’d actually heard of the Three Gorges Dam prior to going for the tour. (which is a big deal…knowing where we’re going is not as common an occurrence as you would think on a long trip like ours. Don’t judge us. We’ve got an excuse. We’re winging it!!)

Anyway, like I said, we’ve actually heard OF the Three Gorges Dam project prior to going. We know it’s “huge” and that the project “affects millions of lives”. But we’ve always thought… it’s China. The Chairman’s sneeze affects millions of lives.

So I guess it was a good thing we went to the dam on the second day of our cruise. We were old river dogs having sailed down the Yangtze for a day. Seriously, we managed to see first hand, some of the villages that have been displaced because of the rising waters brought on by the dam project. The staff on the Queen Victoria and the local tour guides that were assigned to us were also very candid when they talked about life before and after the dam was built.

The Three Gorges Dam - stretches as far as the eye could see. It might be hard to believe, but the water on one side of the dam is 185 metres higher than the other side...

This awesome "Ship Lift" is part of the Dam project. The ship is required to pass through four different "locks" over 6 hours and "lifted" up 185 metres to the water level on the other side. As an ex sea farer, I can only say that sailing within touching distance of a wall takes balls of red hot steel. Jo just thinks it's a good time to relax on a sun chair.

I think once you take away all the self censorship because of political correctness, most of the residents along the Yangtze welcome the project… or at least the younger ones did.

They were relocated into residencies they would never have been able to afford, and they were able to work in jobs they never could have found staying in the old villages. Besides increasing (A LOT of) tourist traffic to the region, the dam project allowed passage for ships along the Yangtze all year round, instead of just during the high water season. This greatly increased trade up and down the river.

In spite of all this, there is always the question of sentimentality.

A lot of the older folks in the area were reluctant to move. In their minds, they were “abandoning” ancestral houses and giving up on land that their fathers had been buried on.

At first, (to me) it seemed like a small price to pay for progress, but when you see the scale of the villages that had been submerged and really think about it, the amount of people that were force-migrated is scarily large: 6 million – that’s more than the combined population of Singapore. I know… Singapore is a small place, but that doesn’t stop it from being a scary thought. Like I said, the Chinese do not mess around when it comes to scale.

Jo - Godzilla-ing over a scaled model of the Three Gorges Dam

So, is the Three Gorges Dam the biggest damned dam in the whole wide world?

Well… I can only say that it is the dam with the most number of turbines and generates more electricity than other hydro-electric dam anywhere else in the world… 🙂


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