Tricycle Film Club

Buddhist films and discussion for the
Tricycle Community

Up the Yangtze

Video Preview

To access this entire video and all other member-supported
content, join Tricycle as a Supporting or Sustaining Member

Welcome to the Tricycle Film Club!

In China, it is simply known as “The River.” But the Yangtze—and all of the life that surrounds it—is undergoing a truly astonishing transformation wrought by the largest hydroelectric project in history, the Three Gorges Dam. Canadian documentary filmmaker Yung Chang returns to the gorgeous, now-disappearing landscape of his grandfather’s youth to trace the surreal life of a “farewell cruise” that traverses the gargantuan waterway.

With impressive narrative agility, a humanist gaze and wry wit, Chang’s Upstairs Downstairs approach beautifully captures the microcosmic society of the luxury liner. Below deck: A bewildered young girl trains as a dishwasher—sent to work by her peasant family, who is on the verge of relocation from the encroaching floodwaters. Above deck: A phalanx of wealthy international tourists set sail to catch a last glance of a country in dramatic flux. The teenaged employees who serve and entertain them—now tagged with new Westernized names like “Cindy” and “Jerry” by upper management—warily grasp at the prospect of a more prosperous future. Singularly moving and cinematically breathtaking, Up the Yangtze gives a human dimension to the wrenching changes facing not only an increasingly globalized China, but the world at large.

Official Selection Sundance Film Festival

Winner - Best Canadian Documentary Vancouver International Film Festival

PLEASE NOTE: If you are having technical difficulties watching the film, please do not leave a comment below. Instead, call our support services at 1-800-873-9871 or email them at They will address your concerns promptly.

Share with a Friend

Email to a Friend

Already a member? Log in to share this content.

You must be a Tricycle Community member to use this feature.

1. Join as a Basic Member

Signing up to Tricycle newsletters will enroll you as a free Tricycle Basic Member.You can opt out of our emails at any time from your account screen.

2. Enter Your Message Details

Enter multiple email addresses on separate lines or separate them with commas.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
tmesto's picture

Thank you for this film.
Updates on Yu Shui - 'Cindy' and her family:

jan.mahoney's picture

A fascinating movie, yes sad as well. I only became aware half way through that Cindy's parents had 3 children. Very good documentary.

dalic's picture

What a sad and beautiful movie. Once again, thank you for making it available.

jackelope65's picture

What has taken millennia to form, is now swallowed up, the fertile delta, people's lives, and multitudes of beings. Ultimately, damming of rivers damages the environment. On the boats a facade of happiness. Only, those without spirit see the changes with pride, but this subtle wonderful movie has dammed those responsible.

wilnerj's picture

I was impressed by the ship's management taking the time to help Cindy not only learn her tasks in her first job but also aid her maturing. In my experiences here in the U.S.A. I have found no company that was willing to spend the time to train me. You have to learn the job on your own with little or no assistance. Only by going from one job to the other did I slowly mature and obtain marketable skills but not without scars such as the fear of losing employment. And yes, I was lucky to find employment. Perhaps the ship's management was also helpful in obtaining a flat for her parents or at least throwing their weight to make this possible?

pvsea's picture

I just finished listening to "China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power." I have been going to China ever since it open it's door to the west for shipping. As I sit there tied up to the dock in Shanghai I see families working the river, fishing, dredging for metal, or moving containers. On the other side of the ship is this big industrial city building trying to keep everyone employed.
China is a complex country and we have to be careful about applying our western cultural on them.
What was interesting in the book is how Buddhism is being allowed back into the culture of China after Mao tried to wipe all religions out of China.
I have to wonder as this new generation of Chinese will grow up will they understanding anicca, anatta, and dukkha

hayagrivadharmacenter's picture

Whenever I see a movie about modern china, I always leave feeling saddened.

mattbard's picture

....... i grew up poor, worked "low" jobs, my dreams are just that..... "Cindty"s" family , the situtation, and how they deal with it... stoic is understatement., .... Very good film making, very good. Impermance is much bigger than 3 gorges, goverments, or egos.... thought provoking, matt

Relax227's picture

This piece reminded me the three fundamental laws that the Buddha postulated: anicca (nothing stays the same), anatta (nothing is mine) and dukkha (attachment is suffering).