The Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) is one of the mightiest river of China. Famous for its impressive sceneries and rich amount of historical and cultural relics, the Yangtze is an interesting river to discover for it holds many gorgeous treasures of China’s beauty.
The Yangtze is the longest river in China and Asia as well as the “Mother River” of Chinese civilization. Flowing for 6,418 kilometers (3,988 mi) from the Qinghai Tibetan Plateau and Glaciers to crossing eleven Provinces and emptying into the East-China Sea at Shanghai, the river is also famous for being the third-largest river in the world after the Nile in Africa and the Amazon in South-America.
A mistaken appellation from early western missionaries and traders
To begin with, a spotlight should be done on the origins of the actual name of “Yangtze” that is mistakenly used by westerners to designate the river. The name “Yangtze river” derives from the ancient ferry-crossing site of Yangzi Jin (扬子津, meaning "Yangzi Crossing"), that was used to designate the lower stretch between Yangzhou (扬州) and Zhenjiang (镇江) during the Sui Dynasty (581-619 CE). Using the term “Yangtze River” for designing the entire river is a pure mistake that has become a common adopted saying in non-Chinese languages. This mistake comes from an original misunderstanding of some western missionaries and traders to the country, that first heard the name of “Yangzi Jiang”, translated it to “Yangzi river” and applied it in English to the entire river. Since then, the name of Yangzi River has entered in common language for naming this mighty river of China. In modern Chinese, the river is called the “Chang jiang” (长江), literally meaning “the long river” (长 “chang” for long, 江 “jiang” for river), a name that can be correctly heard in English sometimes. Mistake apart, now the real Yangtze on the Chang jiang stands for the section that flows from the cities of Chongqing to Shanghai, what is in fact the water section used today for cruises. As a consequence, experiencing a Yangtze River cruise means, correctly, that one is cruising on just one section of the longest river of China, the Chang jiang.
Different names from West to East China
Like many rivers in the world, the “Yangtze” is known by different names over its course. At its source in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and Glaciers, the river is called “Dangqu” (当曲), meaning "marsh river" in Tibetan language. Called “Tuotuo” (沱沱), then “Tongtian” (通天, meaning "Pass to Heaven River") downstream, the Yangtze holds also the name of “Jinsha” (金沙, meaning "Golden Sands") in Yunnan or “Chuan River” (川江) in Sichuan where it flows through deep gorges parallel to the famous Mekong. Even today, the Yangtze can be referred to as the “Golden Waterway”.
An important river for China’s economy
Mightiest river of China, the Yangtze is one of the most interesting rivers of the country for it is a treasure of historical and cultural relics as well as a major mainstay of China’s economy. This huge water system of China, one of the biggest rivers by discharge volume of water in the world contributes to the development of the industry as well as the economy for its production of energy coming from the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydro-electric power station operational since 2008, draining one-fifth of China's land area. The Yangtze River Delta generates 20% of China's total GDP, an immense part of China’s interior economy as the river transports around 70% of the total country’s shipping. Historically, economically and culturally important to the country, the Long River (Chang jiang) is also home to one-third of China's population and is where has developed a real economy of tourism around its outstanding attractions, steep gorges and cultural sites.
An impressive natural richness to the borders of Tibetan mountains
The banks of the Chang jiang are where an important flora and fauna develop, far away from the vivid urbanization of huge metropolises. The river is the mother land of some of the most beautiful gorges and canyons of the country giving outstanding panoramas to whom dare teasing them: the Three Yangtze Gorges, Tiger Leaping Gorge and the Yalung Tsangpo Grand Canyon (Himalayans) are good examples of what the fabulous Yangtze offers to its visitors, ranked as some of the top ten gorges in the world. The Chang jiang has indeed a wide array of ecosystems, verdant mountains and endemic species that stand as the last specimens on earth. Some sections of the river are protected for their unique topography and natural landscape: the case of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan (Tiger Leaping Gorge), a Yangtze stretch flowing through deep gorges in west Yunnan Province and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Considering the river, the “Yangtze” forms a dividing line between northern and southern China in terms of culture, climate, sceneries and customs that are completely different.