The Chang jiang, or “Yangtze River” in English is the longest river of China and Asia, as well as the third longest river in the world. Flowing through thousands of kilometers eastward, the water system is mainly famous for its Three Yangtze Gorges’ section where boats depart constantly for making travelers discover the natural richness of the area.
Chinese name: 长江 (Chang jiang)
Other names: Yangtze River, Yangzi River, Yangtze Kiang all derived from Yangzi Jiang (扬子江); Dangqu, Tuotuo, Tongtian, Jinsha also in other provinces, regions and reaches along the river.
Length: 6,380 km (3,964 miles)
Source: Glacier of Jianggendiru, Tanggula Mountain Range, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Qinghai Province, western China.
Source elevation: At 5,042 m (16,542 ft) above sea level (highest source in the world).
Influx into: East China Sea, at Shanghai Municipality.
Localization: 24°30′-35°45′N, 90°33′-112°25′E. The river stretches from the Tangula Mountain bordering Tibet Nagqu Prefecture in Qinghai Province to cross eleven provinces (Qinghai, Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan, Chongqing, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Anhui, Jiangsu and Shanghai) and cities from west to east.
Major Cities along Yangtze River (from West to East):
Panzhihua, Yibin, Luzhou, Chongqing, Fengdu, Yichang, Wuhan, Jingzhou, Shashi, Shishou, Ezhou, Xianning, Huangshi, Huanggang, Yueyang, Hefei, Chaohu, Chizhou, Anqing, Tongling, Wuhu, Chuzhou, Maanshan, Jiujiang, Nanjing, Suzhou, Yangzhou, Zhenjiang, Jiangyin, Nantong, Taizhou, Shanghai.
Major constructions on the river: The Three Yangtze Gorges Dam, most famous attraction on the river and the world’s largest dam and hydro-electric power station (2008); the Gezhou Dam in Yichang city; the Dujiangyan irrigation station in Sichuan; famous bridges among which the Jiangyin Suspension Bridge.
Average discharge: 31,900 cubic meters / second.
River basin / water network: 1,800,000 k㎡ (694,983 square miles), 300m at its widest, less than 100m at its narrowest.
Tributaries and lakes: around 700 tributaries merging into the Chang jiang. The most famous being: Han River (longest), Yalong River, Min River, Daning River, Jialing River, Wu River, Xiang River, Yuan River, Huangpu River (in Shanghai) and Gan River. The Yangtze Basin includes also numerous lakes among which the Chao Lake, Dongting Lake, Tai Lake, Poyang Lake, Liangzi Lake and Hong Lake are the most famous one.
Famous and most beautiful gorges and canyons: The Three Yangtze Gorges are the most famous gorges on the river and the most visited one. The Yalung Tsangpo Grand Canyon (entrance at Pai Township in Menling County, southeastern Tibet, 504.6 kilometers long cutting right through the Himalayas) and the Tiger Leaping Gorge, on the upper reaches in Yunnan (2,000 m (6,600 ft) steep).
Main productions along the river: Granary of China, the Yangtze grain production covers a half of the nation’s needs, the rice cereals accounting for 70% of the total. Cotton, wheat, bean, maize and barley are also main productions of the area.
Crossings on the Chang jiang:
For millennia, the transportation on the (entire) Yangtze River reckoned only on the ferry boat doing the way from the northern and southern banks. The Chang jiang was more than ever seen as an important geographic barrier dividing northern and southern China. Railway travelers doing the way from Beijing to Guangzhou had to take off at Hanyang city for crossing the river by ferry and resuming their journey by train again. This was after the founding of the PRC in 1949 that bridge constructions on the mighty Yangtze started, with the cooperation of some Soviet engineers. In 1957, the Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge was the first building constructed across the “Golden Waterway”. The development of the economy and industry of China speeded up the construction of many other bridges on either the main stream and the tributaries of the Yangtze. Road-rail bridges were the most important types constructed between 1960-1990: Chongqing (1959, 1980), Nanjing (1968), Zhicheng (1971), Jiujiang (1992, an extension on the Beijing Jiujiang railway), Wuhan (1995, total of 6 bridges and 1 tunnel today). Suspension and cable-stayed bridges teasing the laws of nature were started by the end of the 21st century: Jiangyin Suspension Bridge (1999, 1385 m, longest in the world), Runyang Bridge (2005, 1490 m), Sutong Bridge (2008, 1088m)…By now, a hundred of bridges and 1 tunnel have been constructed across the longest river of China between the cities of Yibin (upper reaches), and Shanghai (lower reaches): a great civil engineering realization that enables the people, economy and many more sectors to develop rapidly. Still constructing intensively along the river, China is trying to take the best of this real mainstay of the economy for developing its transportation and industrialization.
The upper reaches of the Yangtze River (Chang jiang) is the section flowing from the source in the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau to the first major city and municipality of Chongqing. The area is a land of high mountains, deep gorges and folk culture crossing 5 out of 11 provinces and regions (Tibet Autonomous Region, Qinghai Province, Sichuan Province, Yunnan Province and Chongqing Municipality). This southwest China reach of the Yangtze is considered as one of the best hiking areas of China for its many hidden paths, shoals, rapids and mountainous topography. Stretching near to famous cities such as Lijiang Ancient Town in Yunnan, Yibin City in Sichuan and Chongqing Municipality, the upper reaches are also where stands the impressive Yalung Tsangpo Grand Canyon (Tibet-Qinghai Plateau) and the UNESCO ranked Tiger Leaping Gorges (Yunnan). Called whether “Dangqu” (当曲), “Tuotuo” (沱沱), “Tongtian” (通天), “Jinsha” (金沙) or “Chuan River” (川江) depending on the area and the locals, the Yangtze upper reaches is a marvelous section, not available by the regular “Yangtze Cruise” that we know now.
On the Tibetan border with Sichuan Province
Taking its source at 6,621 m (21,720 ft) above the sea level in Mount Gelandong’s Glacier - tallest mountain in the Himalayan Tanggula Mountain range - the Yangtze flows eastward crossing the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu in southwestern Qinghai Province. Known under the name of the “Tongtian River” (Through Heaven River) or “Jinsha River” (Golden Sand River), this is where the Yangtze has its highest elevation above the sea level (5,000 m (16,500 ft)). The highlight of the area is definitely the Yalung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, located at the entrance of Pai Township in Menling County, southeastern Tibet (504.6 km long, 2,268 m depth) cutting right through the Himalayas. The canyon is namely ranked as the most beautiful and extreme Grand Canyon of China as well as one of the most impressive in the world with the Grand Canyon of Colorado (U.S.A). Rushing steeply down to Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces, the river forms a natural border line between Tibet and the two Chinese Provinces in a land of extreme topography and natural scenery.
At the origin of Yunnan impressive Gorges
Entering the Yunnan Province at its northwestern tip, the Yangtze called “Jinsha River” in this area plunges southward for reaching the most awe-inspiring sceneries of Yunnan: the preserved natural area of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan. The area, listed as a UNESCO natural World Heritage Site since 2003 is a fabulous mix of roads, trails, gorges and rapids where stand the First Bend of the Yangtze River, the Tiger Leaping Gorges (Hutiao Gorges) and the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (altitude: 3,800 m (12,500 ft)). One of the deepest gorges in the world, the Tiger Leaping Gorges is ranked as one of the 5 most beautiful gorges of China located near to the marvelous city of Lijiang. The pure atmosphere and extremely beautiful nature growing there is a jewel for all hikers and amateurs of outdoor activities that will have no rest to tease the mountains and extreme natural conditions of the Yangtze scenery.
From Yunnan to the Eastern Sichuan Plateau
Standing at 1,600 m (5,200 ft) above the sea level when flowing into the Tiger Leaping Gorges of Yunnan, the Yangtze River snakes through Sichuan Province descending a 300 m more and crossing the city of Yibin on the east of the Sichuan Plateau. Major city marking the end of the upper reaches of the Yangtze, Yibin is where the topography around the river is changing a tiny bit compared to the extreme nature that is flourishing near Tibet and Yunnan. V-shaped valleys, luxuriant flora and fauna, the Yangtze is showing-off, making it’s way straight to the East China Sea.
The middle reaches of the Yangtze River starts on the East Sichuan Plateau after the city of Yibin, stretching for some 2,000 km long (1,200 miles). Crossing some important cities of China such as Chongqing, Fengdu, Yichang or Wuhan, the river stretches from west to east the Hubei Province passing some impressive systems of canyon-like gorges, lakes and streams among which the Three Yangtze Gorges is the most spectacular highlight. Famous for its worldly known Three Gorges Dam, the middle reaches is where the river system is highly developed and where the so-called “Yangtze Cruises” start from Chongqing. Awesomely beautiful, the Yangtze river, called Jing River in this area is showing to its visitors the best scenic spots and natural sceneries ever.
Yibin, first major city on the Golden waterway
Located at the confluence of the Yangtze (called Jinsha River there) and the Min River (Sichuan Province), Yibin (宜宾) is a historical city also renown as a starting point on the ancient Maritime Silk Road. It is where the Chang jiang becomes a huge sinuous navigable watercourse for tourist boat-cruises and big shipping boats to China’s interior cities. Rich in natural sceneries and culture relics, the middle reaches starting here is where seeing major highlights among which the Eight Immortal Mountain, Bowang Mountain, the Golden Autumn Lake, the Forgotten Sorrow Valley and the Bamboo Ocean of South Sichuan. The nearby Min River is also where admiring the UNESCO listed Dujiangyan Irrigation System, the earliest irrigation system built in 256 BC during the State of Qin (778 BC–207 BC). Today, the building is recognized as the world’s oldest no-dam irrigation system.
From Chongqing Municipality to Yichang
Chongqing is one of the most important municipality of China as well as the largest inland port of the country. Usual starting point on a downstream Yangtze Cruise, Chongqing is definitely one of the most prosperous industrial center of China, opening the way to the westernmost areas of the country. Attractions along Chongqing area are the nearby Fengdu Ghost City, the Lesser Three Gorges giving birth to the famous nearby Three Yangtze Gorges: some of the most picturesque and spectacular gorges on earth. Most important highlight of the section and even the cruise, the Three Gorges Dam located upstream of Yichang city - in the latter half of the scenic Three Gorges section of the Yangtze (Xiling Gorges) - is the world’s largest dam and hydroelectric power station. The dam is raised by up to 181 m, is 2,335 m long, its crest does a 40 m width and it is a 115 m (377 ft) width base. Recognized as the most efficient dam in flood control, the Three Gorges Dam is teasing the laws of nature even if designed to withstand an earthquake of 7 on the Richter Scale, a necessity in this part of China.
From Yichang to Wuhan, way through Hubei Province
Other important section in the middle reaches of the Chang jiang, the Yichang-Wuhan waterway is maybe one of the most famous section that travelers take on a Yangtze Cruise, eventhough Wuhan city starts to being an optional port on cruises. Located at 1,600 km (990 mi) from the East China Sea, Yichang is the navigation head for oceangoing vessels and river steamers. Crossing the Hubei Province from east to west, the section is where seeing the Gezhou Dam, an older (1988) and smaller dam than the Three Gorges one, located downstream of Yichang City and generating electricity as well. The two damns produce a huge amount of electricity and stand as main flood control systems, two major highlights for the tourism developing in the Yangtze River area. With its steep canyons, karst landscapes and luxuriant vegetation the river is developing its splendor, crossing some inland ports before reaching Wuhan and entering a different stage of rich lowland, lakes and waterways: the lower reaches.
Last but not least section on the mighty Yangtze River: the lower reaches, is the waterway joining Yichang in central Hubei to Shanghai and the East China Sea. This is from where the name of “Yangtze” comes from as this section was the one originally called the “Yangtze” (or “Yangzi”, due to the nearby Yangzijin Ferry in the area) and confused by western missionaries and traders as the general name for the whole river. The lower reaches are a land of fish and rice, famous for being the most populous and affluent one in the whole country. A zone stretching from the major seaport city of Yichang, to Wuhan, Nanjing, Yangzhou and the Municipality of Shanghai. This low-lying region is connected to the Grand Canal in the cities of the Jiangnan region (Wuxi, Suzhou, Hangzhou) and northern China (Beijing). Joining many waterways to many lakes and fertile lands for creating one of the richest zone in term of biodiversity. Main attraction in the area, the Yellow Mountain (Mt. Huangshan) is a highlight ranking on the top ten of China tourist destinations.
When Hubei is crossed from East to West
Hubei is a Province of Central China that is famous for being crossed from East to West by the Yangtze River. The most important attraction of the area is definitely the Three Gorges Dam near to the seaport of Yichang, major starting point on Yangtze Cruises after Chongqing Municipality. Making its way to Anhui Province, the Yangtze makes a stop at the big city of Wuhan, one of the most developed and industrialized cities of China. This section of the river is the opportunity of seeing some of the most impressive bridges crossing the mighty river. Many plains and lakes form the area, among which the Jianghan Plain, Dongting Lake Plain, Hong Lake and the Boyang Lake Plain in Jiangxi Province are the most famous and important one. The many tributaries of the Yangtze lying in this reaches (Qingge River, Shuiyang River, Qinhuai River and the Huangpu River) are the reason for the region’s great richness and agriculture).
A pivotal artery for shipping transportation and cruises
By leaving the immense city of Wuhan for entering into the middle section of the lower reaches of the Yangtze, the landscapes surrounding the river are of an outstanding beauty. Region mainly focused on agriculture for the production of rice and cotton are mainly made there, the borders of the Yangtze in Anhui Province are economically prosperous and highly developed. Region often bitten by some droughts due to the extreme climate and the localization of upstream dams, Anhui is also significant for attractions such as the marvelous Yellow Mountain (Mt. Huangshan) located at a short distance. Paying tribute to the Yellow Emperor, the Yellow Mountain is one of the major scared mountains of China that should be visited. As a major navigable waterway to remote zones of inner China, the Yangtze lower reaches is the also the most navigated zone where hundreds of huge shipping boats make upstream or downstream routes.
Where the mighty Yangtze ends…
Eventhough there is not so many big cities between Wuhan and Nanjing, the natural landscapes in the last kilometers of the “Long River” of China are worth seeing for there mix of natural beauty, history and modernity. By the time the Yangtze reaches Jiangsu Province, the area is developing in the Yangtze River Delta, an important triangular territory comprised of Shanghai, southern Jiangsu and northern Zhejiang. High economic zone as well as focal point for transportation and trade in Central China, the Delta is also where some of the most beautiful lakes and gardens of China stand (Hangzhou, Suzhou, etc…). Provincial capital of Jiangsu, Nanjing Ancient Capital of China is a must-stop for its richness in term of historical and cultural relics. This is starting from Nanjing that the river becomes wider and tidal, with many bridges and buildings showing the huge economic importance of the area. Yangzhou, next city crossed by the Yangtze and historically one of the wealthiest cities that China has ever had flourishes with beautiful gardens and lakes. “The Jiangnan”, as it is called here in the southern area of the Yangtze River Delta joins rapidly one of the largest port in the world: Shanghai, for draining out into the East China Sea.
Longest river in Asia, the Chang jiang or Yangtze holds its name to perfection, displaying since ages the best sceneries on earth. Mother land of Chinese civilization, the Yangtze River is a marvel of nature and the pride of Chinese people since the creation of the world.