Rivers of the World the Yangtze River

About the Yangtze river in China, history and geography of the third longest river in the world.



The Yangtze is the world's third-longest river. It winds 3,430 crooked miles from its source in western China's Kunlun Range to the East China Sea, near Shanghai.

Several headstreams form the Yangtze north of the Tibetan border. For one third of its journey it is called Chang Kiang ("Long River") and hurtles southward through five awesome canyons, parallel with its two great companion rivers, the Salween and Mekong. But the Yangtze is suddenly diverted east and then quickly north by a high tableland.

The river falls from 16,000 to 8,500 ft. above sea level during its first 600 mi.; by nearly midway in its journey, at Chungking, it has fallen to 630 ft. For the rest of the way, the Yangtze Kiang wanders through a massive alluvial plain, forming lakes on both sides.

The Chinese humbly call it Great River. Yangtze itself means "child of the ocean." The river cuts China into north and south, and drains an area of 714,000 sq. mi. More than 300 million people live in its basin. Many canals, one of which was built 2,500 years ago, link the Yangtze with China's other principal rivers and with Peking, the capital. The old southern capital of China, Nanking, lies near the huge Yangtze delta.

The delta is 200 mi. wide, intersected by numerous canals and covered by lakes. The two main channels carry a heavy load of silt, build the delta year by year, and pour a dark stain into the East China Sea that can be seen for miles.

Marco Polo visited the Yangtze's mouth about 1290 A.D.

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