The Tujia minority group has called the banks of the Shennong Stream home as far back as the Han Dynasty. Today, drifting along this small tributary of the Yangtze River offers a glimpse into the history and culture of the Tujia people.
The wooden sampan boats (sometimes called “pea pod” boats) that ferry passengers along the stream are operated by Tujia boatmen who are familiar with the narrow riverbed and hazardous shoals along the route. Should the sampan get caught on a sandbar, the boat’s crew of six trackers hop out and tow the boat from the shore with long ropes in the same way they’ve been doing it for centuries.
The stream meanders through four natural gorges blanketed in thick vegetation and past karst caves, cascading waterfalls and sheer cliff faces. Unlike the noisy boat traffic of the Yangtze, the peaceful silence along the Shennong Stream is only broken by the sounds of boatmen singing back and forth as they work, along with birds chirping and monkeys calling from the banks.