The Yangtze River, the biggest river in China,the third longgest in the World, starts with the Tuotuo River at the Roof of the World -Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, takes in countless rivers, and flows eastward across the interior of China. With an overall length of more than 6,300 kilometers, it marches permanently toward the East China Sea, singing the songs of the four seasons with its waves. The Yangtze River, next only to the Amazon and the Nile, is the third biggest river in the world and is a cradle that breeds the ancient civilization of the Chinese nation. It cleaved a path and made its way through the mountains to have formed these uniquely beautiful, magnificent, and wonderful gorges-the Three Gorges: Qutang Gorge, Wu Gorge, and Xiling Gorge.
Features of Yangtze River
The Yangtze River, or Chang Jiang is the longest river in Asia, and the third longest in the world. It flows for 6,418 kilometres (3,988 mi) from the glaciers on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in Qinghai eastward across southwest, central and eastern China before emptying into the East China Sea at Shanghai. It is also one of the biggest rivers by discharge volume in the world. The Yangtze drains one-fifth of the land area of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and its river basin is home to one-third of the PRC's population.
Along with the Yellow River, the Yangtze is the most important river in the history, culture and economy of China. The prosperous Yangtze River Delta generates as much as 20% of the PRC's GDP. The Yangtze River flows through a wide array of ecosystems and is itself habitat to several endemic and endangered species including the Chinese alligator and the Yangtze sturgeon. For thousands of years, people have used the river for water, irrigation, sanitation, transportation, industry, boundary-marking and war. The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River is the largest hydro-electric power station in the world.
In recent years, the river has suffered from industrial pollution, agricultural run-off, siltation, and loss of wetland and lakes, which exacerbates seasonal flooding. Some sections of the river are now protected as nature reserves. A stretch of the Yangtze flowing through deep gorges in western Yunnan is part of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Geography of Yangtze River
The river originates from several tributaries, two of which have claims to be the source. The Chinese government has recognized the source of the Tuotuo tributary at the base of a glacier lying on the west of Geladandong Mountain in the Dangla Mountain Range on the eastern part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. However, the geographical source (i.e., longest river distance from the sea) lies in wetlands at 32o36'14"N 94o30'44'E ?/ ?32.60389oN 94.51222oE? / 32.60389; 94.51222 and 5,170 m (16,960 ft) above sea level at the head of the Dan Qu tributary. These tributaries join and the river then runs eastward through Qinghai, turning southward down a deep valley at the border of Sichuan and Tibet to reach Yunnan. In the course of this valley, the river's elevation drops from above 5,000 m (16,000 ft) to less than 1,000 m (3,300 ft). The headwaters of the Yangtze are situated at an elevation of about 4,900 m (16,100 ft). In its descent to sea level, the river falls to an altitude of 305 m (1,001 ft) at Yibin, Sichuan, the head of navigation for riverboats, and to 192 m (630 ft) at Chongqing. Between Chongqing and Yichang (I-ch'ang), at an altitude of 40 m (130 ft) and a distance of about 320 km (200 mi), it passes through the spectacular Yangtze Gorges, which are noted for their natural beauty but are dangerous to shipping.
It enters the basin of Sichuan at Yibin. While in the Sichuan basin, it receives several mighty tributaries, increasing its water volume significantly. It then cuts through Mount Wushan bordering Chongqing and Hubei to create the famous Three Gorges. Eastward of the Three Gorges, Yichang is the first city on the Yangtze Plain.
After entering Hubei, the Yangtze receives more water from thousands of lakes. The largest of these lakes is Dongting Lake, which is located on the border of Hunan and Hubei provinces, and is the outlet for most of the rivers in Hunan. At Wuhan, it receives its biggest tributary, the Han River, bringing water from its northern basin as far as Shaanxi.
At the northern tip of Jiangxi, Lake Poyang, the biggest freshwater lake in China, merges into the river. The river then runs through Anhui and Jiangsu provinces, receiving more water from innumerable smaller lakes and rivers, and finally reaches the East China Sea at Shanghai.
Four of China's five main freshwater lakes contribute their waters to the Yangtze River. Traditionally, the upstream part of the Yangtze River refers to the section from Yibin to Yichang; the middle part refers to the section from Yichang to Hukou County, where Lake Poyang meets the river; the downstream part is from Hukou to Shanghai. It is home to many thousands of people.
The origin of the Yangtze River is dated to about 45 million years ago in the Eocene, but many people do not accept this point.
Characteristics of Yangtze River
The Yangtze flows into the East China Sea and was navigable by ocean-going vessels up a thousand miles from its mouth even before the Three Gorges Dam was built. As of June 2003, this dam spans the river, flooding Fengjie, the first of a number of towns affected by the massive flood control and power generation project. This is the largest comprehensive irrigation project in the world and has a significant impact on China's agriculture. Its proponents argue that it will free people living along the river from floods that have repeatedly threatened them in the past and will offer them electricity and water transport¡ªthough at the expense of permanently flooding many existing towns (including numerous ancient cultural relics) and causing large-scale changes in the local ecology.
Opponents of the dam point out that there are three different kinds of floods on the Yangtze River: floods which originate in the upper reaches, floods which originate in the lower reaches, and floods along the entire length of the river. They argue that the Three Gorges dam will actually make flooding in the upper reaches worse and have little or no impact on floods which originate in the lower reaches. Twelve hundred years of low water marks on the river were recorded in the inscriptions and the carvings of carp at Baiheliang, now submerged.
The Yangtze is flanked with metallurgical, power, chemical, auto, building materials and machinery industrial belts and high-tech development zones. It is playing an increasingly crucial role in the river valley's economic growth and has become a vital link for international shipping to the inland provinces. The river is a major transportation artery for China, connecting the interior with the coast.
The river is one of the world's busiest waterways. Traffic includes commercial traffic transporting bulk goods such as coal as well as manufactured goods and passengers. Cargo transportation reached 795 million tons in 2005. River cruises several days long, especially through the beautiful and scenic Three Gorges area, are becoming popular as the tourism industry grows in China.
Flooding along the river has been a major problem. The rainy season in China is May and June in areas south of Yangtze River, and July and August in areas north of it. The huge river system receives water from both southern and northern flanks, which causes its flood season to extend from May to August. Meanwhile, the relatively dense population and rich cities along the river make the floods more deadly and costly. The most recent major floods were the 1998 Yangtze River Floods, but more disastrous were the 1954 Yangtze River Floods, killing around 30,000 people. Other severe floods included those of 1911, which killed around 100,000, 1931 (145,000 dead), and 1935 (142,000 dead).