Yichang, known in ancient times as Yiling, is a lively, sprawling, modern-day city on the banks of the Yangtze River in Hubei Province that covers about 21,000 square kilometers (on both sides of the river) and has a population of some 2½ million urban residents, or about 4 million if the outlying areas are included. This modern "Hydropower Capital of the World" is a city with a history, however, having been burnt to the ground by a Qin general during the Warring States (BCE 475-221) period of the Eastern Zhou (BCE 770-221) Dynasty. It was also the site of the famous Battle of Yiling during the Three Kingdoms (CE 220-280) period, the three kingdoms in question being the Wei (CE 220-265), the Shu (CE 221-263), and the Wu (CE 229-280).
Yichang lies at the eastern end of Xiling Gorge, one of the three gorges of the Three Gorges Dam area, and because of Yichang's central role in the construction and maintenance of the Three Gorges Dam (alternatively, the Three Gorges Project, or TGP), the city sports an impressive transportation infrastructure: National Highway 318 and the Yihuang Expressway – or the highway that is a part of the TGP itself – both service Yichang, as do Jiaoliu Railway and Three Gorges Airport.
Yichang was thrust into the limelight with the commencement of the construction of the TGP. The dam itself as well as the service and administration facilities are about a 45-minute drive from Yichang. In addition to being rich in water resources, thanks to the nearby Yangtze, Yichang is also rich in minerals, and has an extensive forestry industry. Other local Yichang produce include tea, sweet oranges, Chinese chestnuts, fragrant fungus, Auricularia auricula (alternatively, Auricularia auricula-judae, or the comestible Judas Ear fungus), as well as tobacco. Besides being the "Hydropower Capital of the World" Yichang is also the "Tea and Orange Captial" of Hubei Province.
Nestled among the trees that line both sides of the river along this particular stretch of the Yangtze, Yichang has a freshness and tidiness about it that belies its more serious role as the hub of the TGP. Indeed, this lively, verdant city is the terminus for the Yangtze River Cruise which originates in Chongqing.
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