Mar. 23, 2023
Decade River Project 2010 (13) Du Ke, A Ke and Suo Mo three rivers collect to form Da Du river

Writer: Wang Yongcheng

Date: Dec 14 2010

The reputation of the DaduRiver is, to some extent, directly related to the Red Army’s Chinese workers and peasants, and their magnificent feat. Eighteen warriors fought their way to cross the DaduRiver, and the Red Army dashed through the LudingBridge

Although controversial, these are still indispensible parts in the history of the Communist Party, and the basis of our patriotic education. 


 Da Du River


Duke, Moshuo River Converged in mountains


We set out from Maerkang in the morning of December 6th 2010, bounded for the estuary of the DaduRiver

 Maerkang, located in the centre of Aba Tibetan and QiangAutonomousPrefecture is on the east of Hongyuan and Lixian, on the south of Jinchuan and Xiaojin. It borders with Xiangtang on the west.


Maerkang County(From Internet)

Two years ago, we had arrived here in the evening. This year, on the bus, geologist Yangyong told us about the precipitous estuary, and the power station which has already been built. He explained that online information indicates that a dam 380 metres high will be built there. We are wondering what changes are taking place in the canyon in which such a high dam will be built. So today, we are going to take a look.


 Maerkang County


 Maerkang in the mountains

Maerkang is on the north of Hongyuan and Aba. Its geological coordinates are 30°35'32°24' North Latitude, 101°17'102°41' East Latitude. The length from East to West is 134 km, while the width from South to North is 90 km. As a whole, the area covers 6632.73 square kilometers. The county, which belongs to the plateau canyon, is in the Northwest of the SichuanBasin, East of the Tibetan Plateau, North of the Qionglai Ridge. It is shaped like an irregular rectangle, and the terrain gets gradually lower from the Northeast to the Southwest. Its location is in the converged area between the LongmenMountain, the XianshuiRiver and the SongpanLand. The geological structure is complex, and the terrain mostly consists of Triassic sandstone, plate, metamorphic rock and so on. The height of the highest peak in the county reaches about 5,000 metres, and the height of the valley is approximately 2300 metres.

 This county is the region where residents live in compact communities, and most of them are  Jiarong Tibetans. Jiarong is the short form of  Jiaermocharongwarong”, and means the residents live in a river valley with mild climate, surrounded by the Jiamoerduo Mountain. Ethnic Tibetans take up 63% of the area’s population, while Han Chinese take up 34% and other minorities are just around 3%.







I took the above four pictures during the River Decade Project

The area where Jiarong Tibetans live is a place with numerous lakes and plentiful water resource. The alpine meadow, with plenty of water and lush grass, takes up 15.8% of the total area of the whole county. There is a natural pasture appropriate for animal husbandry prodution. Before liberation, mixed herd graze, vestigial species and epidemic diseases constrained the development of the local animal husbandry.

Around the 27th year of the Republic of China (1938), four landsand nearby areas started planting opium poppy. The output of opium increased year by year, and the Maerkang area became the opium collecting and distributing centre of Zhagunao, Big Jinchuang, Small Jinchuang and Cuosijia. The big and small retailers in Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan Province exchanged guns, ammunition, grain and oil, tea, cloth and other daily goods in the county. Consequently, the collection and distribution centre of Maerkang became characterized by an imbalanced form of economic development.

 After liberation, the government prohibited the production of opium, and commerce finally developed healthily. The local government reinforced the construction of meadow, introduced good species, built veterinarian stations and popularized scientific technologies, so the animal husbandry industry developed rapidly. At the end of 1990, the number of domestic animals reached 146 thousand, the number of cattle and sheep increased to 5689, and the area’s value was worth 2.81 million.

 It’s worth mentioning the forest acreage of Maerkang county is 52.26%, and forest and grass aceage is 5.32%. Woods reached an area of 4.029 million cubic metres. Natural Chinese yew resourcees are also abundant. Seventy-three rare wild animal species are perching in the thick forest, including small pandas, golden monkeys, budorcas taxicolors, river deers, deers, bears. More than 10 kinds of wild edible fungi are present in this area, including matsutakes, hickory chicks, hericium erinaceus parasitize on woods. Growing on the mountains are also about 270 kinds of precious crude drugs, including eucommia bark, radix codonopsitis, caladium, worm grass. The county is known as the “medicine mountain of Western Sichuan”.



 Met on road, sing at will

Along the richly endowed Dadu River 

There are two national key historic reservations in Maerkang, one is Chuokeji Chieftain Stockaded Village, another is Zhibo Blockhouses. In addition, because of its central location in the Tibetan Jiarong area and its longterm integration, the county has formed unique features of local Jiarong Tibetan customs and practices. Special building tradition and “mound cage” type architecture, long-standing Jiarong Tibetan opera, idiomatical diet culture, colourful Jiarong Tibetan trappings, magnificent bowl dance, special folk handiwork, mysterious Great Tibet Temple, exquisite Tangka painting, unsurpassed buttered flower and so on. All of this is why Maerkang is a tourist attraction, famous for its Jiarong Tibetan customs and traditions in Aba Prefecture. The scenery of moutains and canyons is splendid. It has the beauty and height of snowed mountain as well as the colours of spring, the richness of summer, the polychrome of autumn. Maerkang couldn’t be more colourful and gorgeous. It has azaleas, red leaves, suspended ice, and flowing beads. The story of the county is deduced as a mysterious legend from sacred holes, castles, ancient cliff paintings and chieftains’ stockaded village. Weird stones, grotesque trees, springs on cliffs and torrential waterfall make Maerkang more charming and beautiful.

Baoyan hot pool’s waters in Caodeng village, where Jiarong Tibetans live, have moderate temperature and multiple minerals, so its good for skin diseases and arthritis. The Bainuozhapu natural grotto in Zhuokeji village where the head of Ningma Sect Bager•Bainuozhana practised asceticism has a great reputation all over the area. In Songgang Village, the Zhibo ancient blockhouses and Tibetan stockaded village are both provincial level historic reservations. In addition, the Chuokeji Chieftain Stockaded Village is a national key historic reservation, and its architecture is unbelievably exquisite. 

The Jiaomuzhubai Temple is what’s left of the “Zhuomudiao Conference,” which was held during the Red Army’s Long March. And the Caodeng Temple with carved beams and painted rafters is a prefecture level historic reservation.


 Words on wall say “protect the environment, be a lovely person”


 Entering into the estuary

 The mountains near the estuary power station

“Protect the environment and be a lovely person”. It’s the first time the participants of the River Decade Project have seen this kind of slogan which puts together “environment protection” and “lovely person”. Everyone was moved by it. 

We’ve seen a lot of slogans on our way, but this one is much more direct than others. I was wondering about the meaning the person who wrote it wanted to express: whether he hoped for the protection of the environment, or for lovely persons, or for both.

When we were closer to the estuary, we saw and photographed this.

  The notice board

The digging on mountains 

 The mountains that became work sites

 These two pictures show the original features of the unexploited mountains and rivers.

Overlooking the mountains 

 Torrent in front of the Jiarong Tibetan stockaded village



 Slogan: Let’s Build a Technology-driven, Ecology-Friendly Shuangjiangkou Hydropower Station

Having seen very different landscapes, I cannot help but search online for documents describing the exploitation of the Dadu River. Documents that declare that the development of the river had been scientifically planned, and the hydropower station functioned regularly. Here was the document I found:

4.3.1 Three-step planning & 22-level development

According to the Reply to Issues Concerned with the Cascade Development of Water Resources of the Dadu River (NDRC Energy [2006] No. 478) issued by the National Development and Reform Commission, the main stream of the Dadu River will be developed in three steps. Meanwhile, in light of the Report on the Revised Planning of Hydropower Development in the Main Stream of the Dadu River in Sichuan Province (Sichuan Government Document [2004] No. 196) approved by the Sichuan provincial government in 2004, the 22-level development project of three reservoirs is recommended:

The upper reaches: from Shuangjiangkou to Houziyan, including hydropower stations respectively built on Shuangjiangkou, Jinchuan, Badi, Danba, and Houziyan.

The middle reaches: from Changheba to Laoyingyan, including hydropower stations respectively built on Changheba, Huangjinping, Luding, Yingliangbao, Dagangshan, Longtoushi and Laoyingyan.

The lower reaches: from Pubugou to Tongjiezi, including hydropower stations respectively built on Pubugou, Shenxigou, Zhentouba, Shaping, Gongzui and Tongjiezi.

4.3.2 The development of the hydropower stations proceeds as planned. Between 2010 and 2020, the installed capacity of the Dadu River Corporation will undergo two major leaps. The first leap took place between 2009 and 2010. Within the short span of two years, the installed capacity of the corporation is increased from 1.32 million KW to 5.27 million KW, doubling the stations’ capacity in just a year. The second leap is yet to come between 2014 and 2016, during during which time the installed capacity will rise from 6.08 million KW to 10.15 million KW, doubling capacity again. These two leaps will lay the foundation for the corporate profits to take off.

4.4 In the golden decade, the Dadu River will embrace its constant harvesting period.

4.4.1 The overall profitability of Pubugou remains strong so as to revitalize the Dadu River.

To revitalize the river, the mountains that give birth to it must become like this.



A sign on the dam 

For the sake of the limpid river 

 Yang Yong, a geologist, said that the land here has a rotary arc-shaped structure. That is a common form for land in transition from sedimentary rock to metamorphic rock. It is broken and active.



The concerns of the geologist 

We walked along the mountains and the river 


The Dadu River flows here

 I read such a piece of news online:

The Dadu River Shuangjiangkou Hydropower Station under the China Guodian Corporation coped well with the first flood peak this year. At 15: 35 on June 11, 2009, the lock head flow of the preliminary project of the Dadu River Shuangjiangkou Hydropower Station jumped to 1,370 cubic meters per second for the first time. The flood peak reached the construction area of the power station, and parts of the provincial road S211 under construction were inundated by the water. The water level continued to rise, preventing vehicles from passing, consequently affecting the traffic on the road and people’s life and work around the construction area.

To deal with the sudden flood, the Shuangjiangkou Hydropower Station launched their pre-arranged flood-control plan without any delay. They immediately maneuvered staff and equipment, put them in place, and completed construction of the provincial road S211 in just 30 minutes. As a result, the original route between Jinchuan and Ma’erkang (part of the provincial road S211) was replaced by Shuangchuangdi No.1 Road to Asibu Tunnel to Chuosijia River Bridge to the National Road 317; signs were set up at every main crossroad, and full-time traffic marshals were sent to be on duty day and night, which guaranteed the normal flow of traffic.

Such heavy constant rain had been hardly seen for many years. According to the statistics of the measured flow in the Dadu River, within 72 hours the lock head flow increased from 643 cubic meters per second to 1,440 cubic meters per second, and the flow of the Kyom-kyo River rose above the crest value in the Shuangjiangkou Hydropower Station since the construction of the transportation project. Such figures are in every respect historical records. The immediate use of the pre-arranged flood-control plan and its effective functioning provided valuable experiences for flood-control work in the future. (by Luo Xiaoke & Zhou Wei with the China Guodian Corporation.)

I wonder whether there will be such rare flooding in future years, considering that the construction of the Shuangjiangkou Hydropower Station has just begun. 



When the resources were exploited from the mountains

 One of the photos above read that “protect the environment, and be a lovely person”. What does this slogan tell us? We hope that the writer is sincere, and that the slogan will be observed.


The inundated area of the hydropower station 

The Shuangjiangkou Hydropower Station 


The life that people by the side of the river lead

 After leaving the section of the Dadu River that was to become revitalized, we came to the section that would be inundated because of the hydropower station under construction.

The 42-year-old woman standing by the side of the Dadu River was Cui Kunyu. She readily told us that life now was much easier than before. Her family raised a pig, which they sold at a good price this year. They also raised about a dozen chickens, which were preferred by urban dwellers because their chickens were fed in a natural way. Besides, snow pears here were reputedly delicious. The big pear by the side of the river is a snow pear tree. 



 The home of the snow pea


 The excitement of the ecologist

Cui also told us that a mud-rock flow had stricken here in the 1990s. Now they were asked to move because a dam would be built here. However, while quite a number of signs indicating the inundated area had been set up, where to move, when to move and what they would get for compensation still remained a mystery.

 While we were chatting, some fellows across the bridge asked me to go with them and visit an old woman. She was Yang Tianlan, the mother of the young man. They also led a well-off life now.


 A visit to their home


 The pleasure of doing fieldwork


Don’t know whether the next home would be just like this one

Yang Tianlan now lives by herself. The old village official hoped we could help her. She had been living a separate life with her son before the earthquake, but their registered permanent residence wasn’t separate. Therefore, only her son got compensation for the earthquake, while she didn’t. Having learnt of laws when acting as a village official, Yang asked us whether her problem could be solved by resorting to the law.

Of course, we encouraged this 66-year-old countrywoman to safeguard her legitimate rights and interests by way of law.

 However, it worried us that farmers like her might be forced to move at any time, without knowing anythingg precise about when and where to move, and what to get for compensation. All this is very difficult, not to mention that their assets had been frozen for two years. Thus, if moving becomes inevitable, how will they maintain their lawful rights and interests?



The house of Yang Tianlan 

 The persimmon of Yang Tianlan

 The farmland of Yang Tianlan


Having learnt about their life today, we asked Yang Tianlan and her son what they would do if dissatisfied with the compensation they got to relocate. “In that case, we won’t move,” answered both the mother and the son affirmatively. On hearing that, we cannot but wonder if the hydroelectric energy gotten through such a means is really worth it.


The section of the Dadu River in front of Yang Tianlan’s house 

Farmhouses by the side of the Dadu River 

Admittedly, today people living on both sides of the Dadu River lead a well-off life, but what about tomorrow? It should be better. We’ll come and see next year.

Tomorrow we’ll go to the Mugecuo Lake, which is known as Holy Lake and lies at the foot of the snow-covered Minya Konka mountain. When we went there in 2008, it was said that a businessman from Zhangjiajie took it by contract, and that native people there might be forced to move. The Rongdongjiangcuo family that we have followed for ten years lives there. We didn’t visit them last year. Are they still living there? We hope to see them by then. 


Traslator: Gu Chen

 Proofreader: Rebecca; Angela