The Yangtze is Chinas longest river; it flows 5526 km (3434 mi) from its source in the Kunlun Mountains to its mouth at the East China Sea. The river is navigable by oceangoing vessels for about 1000 km (about 600 mi) and steamers can travel as far as Yichang, 1600 km (1000 mi) from the sea. In addition to its importance as a transportation network, the Yangtze irrigates one of Chinas chief rice-growing areas.
Yangtze or Chang Jiang, longest river of Asia, in China, 6,300 km (3,900 mi) in length. It rises in the Kunlun Mountains in the southwestern section of Qinghai Province, and flows generally south through Sichuan Province into Yunnan Province, where, in the vicinity of Huize, it bends sharply to the northeast. Then, it flows generally northeast and east across central China through Sichuan, Hubei, Anhui, and Jiangsu provinces to its mouth in the East China Sea, about 23 km (about 14 mi) north of Shanghai.The headwaters of the Yangtze are situated at an elevation of about 4900 m (about 16,000 ft). In its descent to sea level, the river falls to an altitude of about 300 m (about 1000 ft) at Yibin, Sichuan Province, the head of navigation for river boats, and to 192 m (630 ft) at Chongqing. Between Chongqing and Yichang, at an altitude of 40 m (130 ft) and a distance of about 320 km (about 200 mi), it passes through the spectacular Yangtze Gorges, which are noted for their natural beauty but are dangerous to shipping. Yichang, 1600 km (1000 mi) from the sea, is the head of navigation for river steamers; oceangoing vessels may navigate the river to Hankou, a distance of almost 1000 km (almost 600 mi) from the sea. For about 320 km (about 200 mi) inland from its mouth, the river is virtually at sea level. More than 1,683,500 sq km (650,000 sq mi) of territory are drained by the Yangtze and its branches. The principal tributaries are the Han, Yalong, Jialing, Min, and Tuo He, on the north and on the south, the Wu; at Zhenjiang, the Grand Canal links the Yangtze to the Huang He (Yellow River). During periods of heavy rains, two lakesDongting Hu and Poyang Hureceive some of the overflow of the Yangtze. Despite these outlets, floods caused by the river occasionally have caused great destruction of life and property. With its numerous tributaries and feeders, the Yangtze provides a great transportation network through the heart of some of the most densely populated and economically important areas in China. Among the principal cities on the Yangtze, in addition to those cited in the foregoing, are Wuchang, Nanjing, Hanyang, and Anqing. Jiangsu Province, largely a deltaic plain consisting of silt deposited by the Yangtze (more than 170 million cu m/6 billion cu ft annually), is one of the chief rice-growing areas of China. In 1994 construction began on the massive Three Gorges Dam near Yichang. Scheduled for completion in 2009, the dam will measure about 180 m (about 600 ft) high and about 2.5 km (about 1.5 mi) wide. The dam is expected to help control the flooding of the Yangtze River valley; in addition, river flows will make the Three Gorges complex the largest electricity-generating facility in the world. A lake about 650 km (about 400 mi) long will form behind the dam, forcing the relocation of more than 1 million people and permanently flooding many historical sites.
Although the entire river (jiang) is known as the Yangtze to foreigners, the Chinese apply that designation only to the last 480 or 645 km (300 or 400 mi) of its course, the portion traversing the region identified with the Yang kingdom (flourished about 10th century BC). From Its upper reaches to Yibin, the river is called the Jinsha, or "Golden Sand," and various other names are applied in the provinces it traverses. The official name for the entire river is Chang Jiang, or "Long River." Copyright Encarta 2000
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