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  About 35 kiometres (22 miles) below the mouth of the Poyang, the magical little island XiaoguYangtze River Shan comes into view. lt is situated by the north bank of the Yangtze in Anhui Province, while across the river is the county town of Pengze in JiangXi.

  The white walls and grey-tile roofs of Qisu Temple nestle into Xiaogu Shan's steep slope, and pavilions adorn its bamboo-groved peak. A handful of elderly monks inhabit the temple (first established in the Song dynasty, 907--l279), which is dedicated to Xiaogu Niang Niang, and visited by childless women offering incense to her.

  As a result of silt accumulation, Xiaogu Shan now adjoins the riverbank. The characters 'First Pass of the Sea Gate' are painted on the rock face. Stairs lead up to the temple, but to reach the peak one must cling to chains fixed to the rock to negotiate the step climb.

  The island is named after the legendary Lin Xiaogu, later known as Xiaogu NiangNiang, who grew up in Fujian Province and became betrothed to a local village lad,Peng Liang. Unhappily, her parents died, and she was adopted by a Daoist (Taoist)Immortal at Mount Emei in Sichuan Province, where she studied Daoism for many years. One day, While gathering herbs on the mountain, she slipped and fell, and was saved by a wandering woodcutter who was none other than Peng Liang. Peng's mother, attending to the girl's injuries, noticed a smalI birthmark behind her ear and recognized her as the long-lost Lin Xiaogu. In renewing her betrothal to Peng Liang,Xiaogu broke her religious vows and was incarcerated by the Immortal.

  With the help of a sympathetic monk she stole the Immortal's precious umbrella and the Yangtze RiverLovers flew away. However, the pursuing immortal cut off their escape at Poyang Lake with his flying sword, which tore the umbrella and caused Xiaogu to drop her slipper). At Pengze the umbrella finally spIit in two. The lovers feIl on different sides of the Yangtze, turning into two steep hills f PengliangJi on 1hesouth and Xiaogu Shan on the north. The temple on Pengliang Ji was destroyed in the Cultural Revolution (1966--76).

  At the top of Xiaogu Shan is her Make-up and Dressing Terrace'. A stone tablet beside it describes her story, as well as a related anecdote concerning Zhu Yuan~zhong, founder of the Ming dynasty in 1368, Who was saved by the appearance of Xiaogu Niang Meanwhile retreating downstream one night after a naval defeat.

  About 32 kilometres (20 miles) below Pengze the river enters Anhui and winds its way northeast across the province until, just below Ma'anshan, it enters the province of Jiangsu.Bulk carriers,strings of barges and fishing sampans—their nets attached to long bamboo poles extending forward and aft—frequent the stretch of river between here and Anqing, about three hours' sailing downriver. The south bank is hilly while the north bank is flat, broken only by trees and bamboo groves. A number of shallow lakes feed into the river.

The Lower Reaches: Hukou to the Yellow Sea

• Xiaogu Shan