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Up the Yangtze

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Learning About China

Up the Yangtze explores lives transformed by the biggest hydroelectric dam in history, the Three Gorges Dam Project, which is a hotly contested symbol of the Chinese economic miracle.

How can you learn more about modern China and its economic and cultural development?

  • Examine major economic development projects around the world with an eye towards making recommendations about which kind of projects you want your government to support. To determine possible criteria for support, compare how different kinds of development agencies make their decisions (e.g., the World Bank vs. a micro-loan program like Kiva).

  • Open a discussion between recent Chinese immigrants and other people in your community. Explore differences and similarities in cultures and expectations. What mistaken impressions do people have of one another? Find ways to people correct those mistaken impressions.

  • Use the lesson plan developed by the National Council on Economic Education to do a cost-benefit analysis of the Three Gorges Dam project. Apply what you learn to do a cost-benefit analysis of a project that is closer to where you live.

  • Start a study circle or hold a teach-in about life in modern China. Include information on the connection between economic development in China and the health of the economies of Western nations.

  • Find ways to support organizations that offer assistance to families affected by the Three Gorges Dam project, such as the Yu family, featured in the film. For more information on aid opportunities, please visit

Get informed about the issues in the film and lead a discussion in your community.

Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan

This lesson plan is designed to be used with the film Up the Yangtze, which shows how China's Three Gorges Dam project is changing the Yangtze River and the lives of those who live along its path. Classrooms can use this lesson to explore the social, economic and political changes caused by technological advances. Students will also increase their skills for analyzing visual imagery. (Note: Many sections of this film have English subtitles.)

Reading List

Delve Deeper

This multimedia resource list, compiled by Shaun Briley of the San Diego Public Library provides a range of perspectives on the issues raised by the P.O.V. documentary Up the Yangtze and recommended books and magazine articles about the Yangtze river.

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[I wanted to make] a movie about tourists on this Yangtze cruise boat — a kind of 'Gosford Park' idea that shows the social hierarchy, the lives above and below the decks. I realized that the people working on the boat were all from the Yangtze area and that many of their families were affected by the dam.”

— Yung Chang, Filmmaker

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