Yellow River

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Yellow River
Yellow River - panoramio.jpg
The Yellow River in Sanmenxia, Henan
Yellowrivermap.jpg
Map of the Yellow River with approximate borders of its basin.
Native name黄河 (Huáng Hé)
Location
Country China
Province Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan, Shandong
Physical characteristics
Source Bayan Har Mountains
  location Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai
  coordinates 34°29′31″N96°20′25″E / 34.49194°N 96.34028°E / 34.49194; 96.34028
  elevation4,800 m (15,700 ft)
Mouth Bohai Sea
  location
Kenli District, Dongying, Shandong
  coordinates
37°45′47″N119°09′43″E / 37.763°N 119.162°E / 37.763; 119.162 Coordinates: 37°45′47″N119°09′43″E / 37.763°N 119.162°E / 37.763; 119.162
  elevation
0 m (0 ft)
Length5,464 km (3,395 mi)
Basin size752,546 km2 (290,560 sq mi)
Discharge 
  average2,571 m3/s (90,800 cu ft/s)
  minimum1,030 m3/s (36,000 cu ft/s)
  maximum58,000 m3/s (2,000,000 cu ft/s)
Basin features
Tributaries 
  left Fen River (and many smaller rivers)
  right Tao River, Wei River (and many smaller rivers)
Yellow River
Yellow River (Chinese characters).svg
"Yellow River" in Simplified (top) and Traditional (bottom) Chinese characters
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese 黄河
Traditional Chinese 黃河
Postal Hwang Ho
Tibetan name
Tibetan རྨ་ཆུ།
Mongolian name
Mongolian Cyrillic Хатан гол
Ȟatan Gol
Шар мөрөн
Šar Mörön

The Yellow River or Huang He ( Loudspeaker.svg listen  ) is the second-longest river in China, after the Yangtze River, and the sixth-longest river system in the world at the estimated length of 5,464 km (3,395 mi). [1] Originating in the Bayan Har Mountains in Qinghai province of Western China, it flows through nine provinces, and it empties into the Bohai Sea near the city of Dongying in Shandong province. The Yellow River basin has an east–west extent of about 1,900 kilometers (1,180 mi) and a north–south extent of about 1,100 km (680 mi). Its total drainage area is about 795,000 square kilometers (307,000 sq mi).

Contents

Its basin was the birthplace of ancient Chinese civilization, and it was the most prosperous region in early Chinese history. There are frequent devastating floods and course changes produced by the continual elevation of the river bed, sometimes above the level of its surrounding farm fields.

Name

Early Chinese literature including the Yu Gong or Tribute of Yu dating to the Warring States period (475–221 BC) refers to the Yellow River as simply (Old Chinese: *C.gˤaj, [2] modern Chinese (Pinyin) ), a character that has come to mean "river" in modern usage. The first appearance of the name 黃河 (Old Chinese: *N-kʷˤaŋ C.gˤaj; Middle Chinese: Huang Ha [2] ) is in the Book of Han written during the Eastern Han dynasty about the Western Han dynasty. The adjective "yellow" describes the perennial color of the muddy water in the lower course of the river, which arises from soil (loess) being carried downstream.

One of its older Mongolian names was the "Black River", [3] because the river runs clear before it enters the Loess Plateau, but the current name of the river among Inner Mongolians is Ȟatan Gol (Хатан гол, "Queen River"). [4] In Mongolia itself, it is simply called the Šar Mörön (Шар мөрөн, "Yellow River"). [5]

In Qinghai, the river's Tibetan name is "River of the Peacock" (Tibetan : རྨ ཆུ , Wylie : rma.chu, THL : Ma Chu; simplified Chinese : ; traditional Chinese : ; pinyin :Mǎ Qū)

History

Dynamics

The Yellow River Breaches its Course by Ma Yuan (1160-1225), Song dynasty Ma Yuan - Water Album - The Yellow River Breaches its Course.jpg
The Yellow River Breaches its Course by Ma Yuan (1160–1225), Song dynasty

The Yellow River is one of several rivers that are essential for China's existence. At the same time, however, it has been responsible for several deadly floods, including the only natural disasters in recorded history to have killed more than a million people. Among the deadliest were the 1332–33 flood during the Yuan dynasty, the 1887 flood during the Qing dynasty which killed anywhere from 900,000 to 2 million people, and a Republic of China era 1931 flood (part of a massive number of floods that year) that killed 1–4 million people. [6]

The cause of the floods is the large amount of fine-grained loess carried by the river from the Loess Plateau, which is continuously deposited along the bottom of its channel. The sedimentation causes natural dams to slowly accumulate. These subaqueous dams were unpredictable and generally undetectable. Eventually, the enormous amount of water has to find a new way to the sea, forcing it to take the path of least resistance. When this happens, it bursts out across the flat North China Plain, sometimes taking a new channel and inundating any farmland, cities or towns in its path. The traditional Chinese response of building higher and higher levees along the banks sometimes also contributed to the severity of the floods: When flood water did break through the levees, it could no longer drain back into the river bed as it would after a normal flood as the river bed was sometimes now higher than the surrounding countryside. These changes could cause the river's mouth to shift as much as 480 km (300 mi), sometimes reaching the ocean to the north of Shandong Peninsula and sometimes to the south. [7]

Another historical source of devastating floods is the collapse of upstream ice dams in Inner Mongolia with an accompanying sudden release of vast quantities of impounded water. There have been 11 such major floods in the past century, each causing tremendous loss of life and property. Nowadays, explosives dropped from aircraft are used to break the ice dams before they become dangerous. [8]

Before modern dams came to China, the Yellow River used to be extremely prone to flooding. In the 2,540 years from 595 BC to 1946 AD, the Yellow River has been reckoned to have flooded 1,593 times, shifting its course 26 times noticeably and nine times severely. [9] These floods include some of the deadliest natural disasters ever recorded. Before modern disaster management, when floods occurred, some of the population might initially die from drowning but then many more would suffer from the ensuing famine and spread of diseases. [10]

Ancient times

The Yellow River as depicted in a Qing dynasty illustrated map (sections) Yellow River, Qing Dynasty.jpg
The Yellow River as depicted in a Qing dynasty illustrated map (sections)
Historical courses of the Yellow River Yellow River watercourse changes en.png
Historical courses of the Yellow River
Historical courses of the Yellow River Yellow River course changes.gif
Historical courses of the Yellow River

In Chinese mythology, the giant Kua Fu drained the Yellow River and the Wei River to quench his burning thirst as he pursued the Sun. [11] Historical documents from the Spring and Autumn period [12] and Qin dynasty [13] indicate that the Yellow River at that time flowed considerably north of its present course. These accounts show that after the river passed Luoyang, it flowed along the border between Shanxi and Henan Provinces, then continued along the border between Hebei and Shandong before emptying into Bohai Bay near present-day Tianjin. Another outlet followed essentially the present course. [9]

The river left these paths in 602 BC and shifted several hundred kilometers to the east. [12] [14] Sabotage of dikes, canals, and reservoirs and deliberate flooding of rival states became a standard military tactic during the Warring States period. [15] As the Yellow River valley was the major entryway to the Guanzhong area and the state of Qin from the North China Plain, Qin heavily fortified the Hangu Pass; it saw numerous battles and was also an important chokepoint protecting the Han capitals of Chang'an and Luoyang. Major flooding in AD 11 is credited with the downfall of the short-lived Xin dynasty, and another flood in AD 70 returned the river north of Shandong on essentially its present course. [9]

Medieval times

From around the beginning of the 3rd century, the importance of the Hangu Pass was reduced, with the major fortifications and military bases moved upriver to Tongguan. In AD 923, the desperate Later Liang general Duan Ning again broke the dikes, flooding 1,000 square miles (2,600 km2) in a failed attempt to protect his realm's capital from the Later Tang. A similar proposal from the Song engineer Li Chun concerning flooding the lower reaches of the river to protect the central plains from the Khitai was overruled in 1020: the Chanyuan Treaty between the two states had expressly forbidden the Song from establishing new moats or changing river courses. [16]

Breaches occurred regardless: one at Henglong in 1034 divided the course in three and repeatedly flooded the northern regions of Dezhou and Bozhou. [16] The Song worked for five years futilely attempting to restore the previous course using over 35,000 employees, 100,000 conscripts, and 220,000 tons of wood and bamboo in a single year [16]  before abandoning the project in 1041. The more sluggish river then occasioned a breach at Shanghu that sent the main outlet north towards Tianjin in 1048 [9]

In 1128, the Song troops breached the southern dikes of the Yellow River in an effort to stop the advancing Jin army. The resulting major river avulsion allowed the Yellow to capture tributaries of the Huai River. [17] For the first time in recorded history, the Yellow River shifted completely south of Shandong Peninsula and flowed into the Yellow Sea. By 1194, the mouth of the Huai had been blocked. [18] The buildup of silt deposits was such that even after the Yellow River later shifted its course, the Huai could no longer flow along its historic course, but instead, its water pools into Hongze Lake and then runs southward toward the Yangtze River. [19]

A flood in 1344 returned the Yellow River south of Shandong. The Yuan dynasty was waning, and the emperor forced enormous teams to build new embankments for the river. The terrible conditions helped to fuel rebellions that led to the founding of the Ming dynasty. [7] The course changed again in 1391 when the river flooded from Kaifeng to Fengyang in Anhui. It was finally stabilized by the eunuch Li Xing during the public works projects following the 1494 flood. [20] The river flooded many times in the 16th century, including in 1526, 1534, 1558, and 1587. Each flood affected the river's lower course. [20]

The 1642 flood was man-made, caused by the attempt of the Ming governor of Kaifeng to use the river to destroy the peasant rebels under Li Zicheng who had been besieging the city for the past six months. [21] He directed his men to break the dikes in an attempt to flood the rebels, but destroyed his own city instead: the flood and the ensuing famine and plague are estimated to have killed 300,000 of the city's previous population of 378,000. [22] The once-prosperous city was nearly abandoned until its rebuilding under the Kangxi Emperor in the Qing dynasty.

Recent times

Chinese Nationalist Army soldiers during the 1938 Yellow River flood. 1938 June Yellow River.gif
Chinese Nationalist Army soldiers during the 1938 Yellow River flood.

Between 1851 and 1855, [9] [18] [20] the Yellow River returned to the north amid the floods that provoked the Nien and Taiping Rebellions. The 1887 flood has been estimated to have killed between 900,000 and 2 million people, [23] and is the second-worst natural disaster in history (excluding famines and epidemics). The Yellow River more or less adopted its present course during the 1897 flood. [18] [24]

The 1931 flood killed an estimated 1,000,000 to 4,000,000, [23] and is the worst natural disaster recorded (excluding famines and epidemics).

On 9 June 1938, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, Nationalist troops under Chiang Kai-shek broke the levees holding back the river near the village of Huayuankou in Henan, causing what has been called by Canadian historian, Diana Lary, a "war-induced natural disaster". The goal of the operation was to stop the advancing Japanese troops by following a strategy of "using water as a substitute for soldiers" (yishui daibing). The 1938 flood of an area covering 54,000 km2 (20,800 sq mi) took some 500,000 to 900,000 Chinese lives, along with an unknown number of Japanese soldiers. The flood prevented the Japanese Army from taking Zhengzhou, on the southern bank of the Yellow River, but did not stop them from reaching their goal of capturing Wuhan, which was the temporary seat of the Chinese government and straddles the Yangtze River. [25]

Geography

Zoige County, Sichuan. Jiu Qu Huang He Di Yi Wan 1.JPG
Zoigê County, Sichuan.
Guide County, Qinghai in the Tibetan Plateau, upstream from the Loess Plateau. YellowRiver.jpg
Guide County, Qinghai in the Tibetan Plateau, upstream from the Loess Plateau.

According to the China Exploration and Research Society, the source of the Yellow River is at 34° 29' 31.1" N, 96° 20' 24.6" E in the Bayan Har Mountains near the eastern edge of the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. The source tributaries drain into Gyaring Lake and Ngoring Lake on the western edge of Golog Prefecture high in the Bayan Har Mountains of Qinghai. In the Zoige Basin along the boundary with Gansu, the Yellow River loops northwest and then northeast before turning south, creating the "Ordos Loop", and then flows generally eastward across the North China Plain to the Gulf of Bohai, draining a basin of 752,443 square kilometers (290,520 sq mi) which nourishes 140 million people with drinking water and irrigation. [26]

The Yellow River passes through seven present-day provinces and two autonomous regions, namely (from west to east) Qinghai, Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan, and Shandong. Major cities along the present course of the Yellow River include (from west to east) Lanzhou, Yinchuan, Wuhai, Baotou, Luoyang, Zhengzhou, Kaifeng, and Jinan. The current mouth of the Yellow River is located at Kenli County, Shandong.

The river is commonly divided into three stages. These are roughly the northeast of the Tibetan Plateau, the Ordos Loop, and the North China Plain. [27] However, different scholars have different opinions on how the three stages are divided.[ citation needed ] This article mainly adopts the division used by the Yellow River Conservancy Commission. [28]

The Yellow River derived sediments have been transported out of the Bohai Sea, all way to the North Yellow Sea and South Yellow Sea, and formed a Distal Depocenter around the Shandong Peninsula. [29]

Upper reaches

Near Xunhua, Qinghai. Yellow river - A. Holdrinet.jpg
Near Xunhua, Qinghai.
Liujiaxia, Gansu. VM 6056 Liujiaxia Town.jpg
Liujiaxia, Gansu.

The upper reaches of the Yellow River constitute a segment starting from its source in the Bayan Har Mountains and ending at Hekou Town (Togtoh County), Inner Mongolia just before it turns sharply to the south. This segment has a total length of 3,472 kilometers (2,157 mi) and total basin area of 386,000 square kilometers (149,000 sq mi), 51.4% of the total basin area. Along this length, the elevation of the Yellow River drops 3,496 meters (11,470 ft), with an average grade of 0.10%.

The source section flows mainly through pastures, swamps, and knolls between the Bayan Har Mountains, and the Anemaqen (Amne Machin) Mountains in Qinghai. The river water is clear and flows steadily. Crystal clear lakes are characteristic of this section. The two main lakes along this section are Lake Gyaring (Zhaling) and Lake Ngoring (Eling), with capacities of 4.7 billion and 10.8 billion m3 (166 and 381 billion ft3), respectively. At elevations over 4,290 m (14,070 ft)) above sea level they are the two largest plateau freshwater lakes nationwide. A significant amount of land in the Yellow River's source area has been designated as the Sanjiangyuan ("'Three Rivers' Sources") National Nature Reserve, to protect the source region of the Yellow River, the Yangtze, and the Mekong.

Flowing east at the eastern edge of the Amne Machin Mountains, the Yellow River enters Maqu County in Gansu. Here, the river skirts through the high-altitude peat bog known as the Zoigê Wetlands and makes a sharp turn towards the northwest forming the border between Maqu and Zoigê County in Sichuan. Flowing now along the northern edge of Amne Machin, the river reenters Qinghai and gradually curves north towards the Longyang Gorge at Xinghai.

The valley section stretches from Longyang Gorge in Qinghai to Qingtong Gorge in Gansu. Steep cliffs line both sides of the river. The water bed is narrow and the average drop is large, so the flow in this section is extremely turbulent and fast. There are 20 gorges in this section, the most famous of these being the Longyang, Jishi, Liujia, Bapan, and Qingtong gorges. The flow conditions in this section makes it the best location for hydroelectric plants. The Yellow River exits Qinghai for the second and final time in these gorges and enters Gansu for the second time just before Liujia Gorge. Downstream from the Yanguo Gorge, the provincial capital of Lanzhou is built upon the Yellow River's banks. The Yellow River flows northeasterly out of Gansu and into Ningxia before the Qingtong Gorge.

After emerging from the Qingtong Gorge, the river comes into a section of vast alluvial plains, the Yinchuan Plain and Hetao Plain. In this section, the regions along the river are mostly deserts and grasslands, with very few tributaries. The flow is slow. The Hetao Plain has a length of 900 km (560 mi) and width of 30 to 50 km (19 to 31 mi). It is historically the most important irrigation plain along the Yellow River.

Middle reaches

At Lanzhou, Gansu Landzhou 07-2005.jpg
At Lanzhou, Gansu
At Shapotou, Ningxia Shapotou.jpg
At Shapotou, Ningxia
Qiankun bend in Yonghe County Qiankun Bend.jpg
Qiankun bend in Yonghe County
At Luoyang, Henan Luoyang-most.przez.rzeke.LuoHe.przed.ujsciem.do.HuangHe.jpg
At Luoyang, Henan

The Ordos Loop formed by an enormous twist of the Yellow River, beginning at Zhongning County in Ningxia and ending with a drastic eastward turn at its confluence with the Wei at Tongguan in Shaanxi. However, the official division for the middle reaches of the river run from Hekou in Togtoh County, Inner Mongolia, to Zhengzhou, Henan. The middle reaches are 1,206 km (749 mi) long, with a basin area of 344,000 square kilometers (133,000 sq mi), 45.7% of the total, with a total elevation drop of 890 m (2,920 ft), an average drop of 0.074%. There are 30 large tributaries along the middle reaches, and the water flow is increased by 43.5% on this stage. The middle reaches contribute 92% of the river's silts.

The middle stream of the Yellow River passes through the Loess Plateau, where substantial erosion takes place. The large amount of mud and sand discharged into the river makes the Yellow River the most sediment-laden river in the world. The highest recorded annual level of silts discharged into the Yellow River is 3.91 billion tons in 1933. The highest silt concentration level was recorded in 1977 at 920 kg/m3 (57.4 lb/ft3). These sediments later deposit in the slower lower reaches of the river, elevating the river bed and creating the famous "river above ground". From Hekou to Yumenkou, the river passes through the longest series of continuous valleys on its main course, collectively called the Jinshan Valley. The abundant hydrodynamic resources stored in this section make it the second most suitable area to build hydroelectric power plants. The famous Hukou Waterfall is in the lower part of this valley on the border of Shanxi and Shaanxi.

Lower reaches

In the lower reaches, from Zhengzhou, Henan to its mouth, a distance of 786 km (488 mi), the river is confined to a levee-lined course as it flows to the northeast across the North China Plain before emptying into the Bohai Sea. The basin area in this stage is only 23,000 square kilometers (8,900 sq mi), a mere 3% of the total, because few tributaries add to the flow in this stage; nearly all rivers to the south drain into the Huai River, whereas those to the north drain into the Hai River. The Huai River Basin, for example, is separated from the Yellow River Basin by the south dike of the Yellow River. [30] The total drop in elevation of the lower reaches is 93.6 m (307 ft), with an average grade of 0.012%.

The silts received from the middle reaches form sediments here, elevating the river bed. Excessive sediment deposits have raised the riverbed several meters above the surrounding ground. At Kaifeng, Henan, the Yellow River is 10 meters (33 ft) above the ground level. [31]

Tributaries

The mouth of the Daxia River (coming from bottom right), flowing into the Yellow River's Liujiaxia Reservoir in Linxia Prefecture, Gansu 5922-Daxia-River-fall-into-Liujiaxia-Reservoir.jpg
The mouth of the Daxia River (coming from bottom right), flowing into the Yellow River's Liujiaxia Reservoir in Linxia Prefecture, Gansu

Tributaries of the Yellow River listed from its source to its mouth include:

Characteristics

Expansion of the Yellow River Delta from 1989 to 2009 in five year intervals. Yellow River Delta Animation.gif
Expansion of the Yellow River Delta from 1989 to 2009 in five year intervals.

The Yellow River is notable for the large amount of silt it carries—1.6 billion tons annually at the point where it descends from the Loess Plateau. If it is running to the sea with sufficient volume, 1.4 billion tons are carried to the sea per year.[ citation needed ] One estimate gives 34 kilograms of silt per cubic meter as opposed to 10 for the Colorado and 1 for the Nile. [9]

Its average discharge is said to be 2,110 cubic meters per second (32,000 for the Yangtze), with a maximum of 25,000 and minimum of 245. However, since 1972, it often runs dry before it reaches the sea. The low volume is due to increased agricultural irrigation, increased by a factor of five since 1950. Water diverted from the river as of 1999 served 140 million people and irrigated 74,000 km2 (48,572 mi2) of land. [26] The Yellow River delta totals 8,000 square kilometers (3,090 mi2). However, with the decrease in silt reaching the sea, it has been reported to be shrinking slightly each year since 1996 through erosion. [32]

The highest volume occurs during the rainy season from July to October, when 60% of the annual volume of the river flows. Maximum demand for irrigation is needed between March and June. In order to capture excess water for use when needed and for flood control and electricity generation, several dams have been built, but their expected life is limited due to the high silt load. A proposed South–North Water Transfer Project involves several schemes to divert water from the Yangtze River: one in the western headwaters of the rivers where they are closest to one another, another from the upper reaches of the Han River, and a third using the route of the old Grand Canal.[ citation needed ]

Due to its heavy load of silt the Yellow River is a depositing stream that is, it deposits part of its carried burden of soil in its bed in stretches where it is flowing slowly. These deposits elevate the riverbed which flows between natural levees in its lower reaches. Should a flood occur, the river may break out of the levees into the surrounding lower flood plain and take a new channel. Historically this has occurred about once every hundred years. In modern times, considerable effort has been made to strengthen levees and control floods.[ citation needed ]

Hydroelectric power dams

Liujiaxia Dam, Gansu 6058-Liujiaxia-Dam.jpg
Liujiaxia Dam, Gansu
Sanmenxia Dam, Henan Smxgongcheng zengmian.jpg
Sanmenxia Dam, Henan

Below is the list of hydroelectric power stations built on the Yellow River, arranged according to the first year of operation (in brackets):

As reported in 2000, the 7 largest hydro power plants (Longyangxia, Lijiaxia, Liujiaxia, Yanguoxia, Bapanxia, Daxia and Qinglongxia) had the total installed capacity of 5,618 MW. [33]

Crossings

Major cities along the Yellow River Major cities along the Yellow River.svg
Major cities along the Yellow River
Pontoon bridge (Luokou Pontoon Bridge simplified Chinese:
Luo Kou Fu Qiao ; traditional Chinese:
Luo Kou Fu Qiao ; pinyin: Luokou Fuqiao) over the Yellow River in Jinan, Shandong Yellow river pontoon bridge jinan 2008 05.jpg
Pontoon bridge (Luokou Pontoon Bridge simplified Chinese : 洛口浮桥 ; traditional Chinese :洛口浮橋; pinyin :Luòkŏu Fúqiáo) over the Yellow River in Jinan, Shandong

The main bridges and ferries by the province names in the order of downstream to upstream are:[ citation needed ]

Shandong

Shandong–Henan

Henan

Shanxi–Henan

Shaanxi–Henan

Ningxia

Inner Mongolia

Gansu

Qinghai

Fauna

Fish

The paradise fish is well known in the aquarium hobby and it originates from East Asian river basins, including the Yellow River DV Paradise fish male 03.jpg
The paradise fish is well known in the aquarium hobby and it originates from East Asian river basins, including the Yellow River

The Yellow River basin is rich in fish, being the home of more than 160 native species in 92 genera and 28 families, including 19 species found nowhere else in the world (endemic). [34] [27] However, due to habitat loss, pollution, introduced species and overfishing many of the natives have declined or disappeared entirely; several are recognized as threatened on China's Red List. [34] [35] Dams and their reservoirs have increased the habitat for species of slow-moving and static waters, while it excluded species of flowing waters and prevented the up- and down-stream breeding migration of others. [34] [35] In the 2000s, only 80 native fish in 63 genera and 18 families were recorded in the Yellow River basin. [34] In contrast, introduced fish have risen in both abundance and number of species; only one introduced fish species was recorded in the 1960s when ichthyologist Li Sizhong published his original survey of fish fauna of the region, but by the 2000s there were 26. [34]

As typical of Asian rivers, Cyprinidae is by far the most diverse family in the Yellow River basin. More than 85 cyprinids have been recorded in this basin, including species that still are present and species that no longer are present. Other highly diverse families are the stone loaches (more than 20 species), gobies (c. 15 species), true loaches (c. 10 species) and bagrid catfish (c. 10 species). [34] Although there are species found throughout much of the river, several have a more restricted range. For example, the uppermost, highest parts on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau has relatively few native species, notably snowtrout and allies ( Gymnocypris , Gymnodiptychus , Platypharodon and Schizopygopsis ), and Triplophysa loaches. [36] Of the 18 endemics in the Yellow River basin, 12 are (or were) found in the upper part. [34] These in particular have become threatened and the fish fauna in many headwaters are now dominated by introduced salmonids. [34] [36] In contrast, the lowermost part of the river and its delta are home to many brackish water or euryhaline species, like gobies (although there are also true freshwater gobies in the Yellow River), Asian seabasses, flatfish and Takifugu pufferfish. [34]

Fishing remains an important activity, but catches have declined. In 2007, it was noted that 40% fewer fish were caught in the Yellow River compared to earlier catches. [35] Large cyprinids (Asian carp, predatory carp, Wuchang bream and Mongolian redfin) and large catfish (Amur and Lanzhou catfish) are still present, but the largest species, the Chinese paddlefish, kaluga sturgeon and Yangtze sturgeon, have not been reported from the Yellow River basin in about 50 years. [34] [27] Other species that support important fisheries include white Amur bream, ayu, mandarin fish, Protosalanx icefish, northern snakehead, Asian swamp eel and others. [34]

Aquaculture

The Chinese pond turtle (shown) and Chinese softshell turtle are both native to the Yellow River, but also farmed in large numbers Chinemys reevesii 02.jpg
The Chinese pond turtle (shown) and Chinese softshell turtle are both native to the Yellow River, but also farmed in large numbers

The Yellow River is generally less suitable for aquaculture than the rivers of central and southern China, such as the Yangtze or the Pearl River, but aquaculture is also practiced in some areas along the Yellow River. An important aquaculture area is the riverside plain in Xingyang City, upstream from Zhengzhou. Since the development of fish ponds started in Xingyang's riverside Wangcun Town in 1986, the pond systems in Wangcun have grown to the total size of 15,000 mu (10 km2), making the town the largest aquaculture center in North China. [37]

Two turtle species are native to the Yellow River basin: the Chinese pond turtle and Chinese softshell turtle. [38] Both species—but especially the softshell—are widely farmed for food. [39] A variety of the Chinese softshell turtle popular in Chinese gourmets is called the Yellow River turtle (黄河鳖). Nowadays most of the Yellow River turtles eaten in China's restaurants comes from turtle farms, which may or may not be near the Yellow River. In 2007, construction started in Wangcun, Henan on a large farm for raising this turtle variety. With the capacity for raising 5 million turtles a year, the facility was expected to become Henan's largest farm of this kind. [40]

The huge, entirely aquatic Chinese giant salamander, a species that has declined drastically due primarily to persecution for food and traditional medicine, is native to the Yellow River and other Chinese rivers. It is farmed in large numbers in several parts of China and genetic studies have revealed that the captive stock mostly is of Yellow River origin. As these often are released back into the wild, the Yellow River type of the Chinese giant salamander has spread to other parts of China, which represents a problem to the other types. [41]

Pollution

On 25 November 2008, Tania Branigan of The Guardian filed a report "China's Mother River: the Yellow River", claiming that severe pollution has made one-third of China's Yellow River unusable even for agricultural or industrial use, due to factory discharges and sewage from fast-expanding cities. [42] The Yellow River Conservancy Commission had surveyed more than 8,384 mi (13,493 km) of the river in 2007 and said 33.8% of the river system registered worse than "level five" according to the criteria used by the UN Environment Program.[ dubious ] Level five is unfit for drinking, aquaculture, industrial use, or even agriculture. The report said waste and sewage discharged into the system last year totaled 4.29b tons. Industry and manufacturing made up 70% of the discharge into the river with households accounting for 23% and just over 6% coming from other sources.[ which? ]

In culture

Qikou town along Yellow River in Shanxi Province Qikou.jpg
Qikou town along Yellow River in Shanxi Province

In ancient times, it was believed that the Yellow River flowed from Heaven as a continuation of the Milky Way. In a Chinese legend, Zhang Qian is said to have been commissioned to find the source of the Yellow River. After sailing up-river for many days, he saw a girl spinning and a cow herd. Upon asking the girl where he was, she presented him with her shuttle with instructions to show it to the astrologer Yen Chün-p'ing. When he returned, the astrologer recognized it as the shuttle of the Weaving Girl (Vega), and, moreover, said that at the time Zhang received the shuttle, he had seen a wandering star interpose itself between the Weaving Girl and the cow herd (Altair). [43]

The provinces of Hebei and Henan derive their names from the Yellow River. Their names mean, respectively, "North of the River" and "South of the River", although the border between them is never stable historically and currently the border between Hebei and Henan is not the Yellow River but the Zhang River instead.

Mother river, China's Sorrow, and cradle of Chinese civilization.

Traditionally, it is believed that the Chinese civilization originated in the Yellow River basin. The Chinese refer to the river as "the Mother River" and "the cradle of the Chinese civilization". During the long history of China, the Yellow River has been considered a blessing as well as a curse and has been nicknamed both "China's Pride" and "China's Sorrow". [44]

When the Yellow River flows clear.

Sometimes the Yellow River is poetically called the "Muddy Flow" ( ; ; Zhuó Liú ). The Chinese idiom "when the Yellow River flows clear" is used to refer to an event that will never happen and is similar to the English expression "when pigs fly".

"The Yellow River running clear" was reported as a good omen during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, along with the appearance of such auspicious legendary beasts as qilin (an African giraffe brought to China by a Bengal embassy aboard Zheng He's ships in 1414) and zouyu (not positively identified) and other strange natural phenomena. [45]

See also

Related Research Articles

Yangtze Longest river in Asia and China

The Yangtze or Yangzi is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in the Tanggula Mountains and flows 6,300 km (3,900 mi) in a generally easterly direction to the East China Sea. It is the sixth-largest river by discharge volume in the world. Its drainage basin comprises one-fifth of the land area of China, and is home to nearly one-third of the country's population.

Indus River River in Asia

The Indus River is one of the longest rivers in Asia. It flows through China, India (Ladakh) and Pakistan. Originating in the Tibetan Plateau in the vicinity of Lake Manasarovar, the river runs a course through the Ladakh region of India, towards Gilgit-Baltistan and then flows in a southerly direction along the entire length of Pakistan to merge into the Arabian Sea near the port city of Karachi in Sindh. It is the longest river of Pakistan.

Geography of China Geography of the country of China

China is a country located in East Asia bordering fourteen other countries, including Mongolia to the north; Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to the west; India, Nepal, and Bhutan to the southwest; Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam to the south; North Korea to the southeast; and Russia to the northeast and northwest. South China and East China straddle along the Pacific Ocean, with the South China Sea to the south and the East China Sea and Yellow Sea to the east. China's vastness in territory allows it to border four other major regions of Asia, with an area of 9,596,960 km2 (3,705,410 sq mi) according to the CIA's The World Factbook.. The exact land area is sometimes challenged by border disputes, most notably about Taiwan, Aksai Chin, the Trans-Karakoram Tract, the South China Sea Islands, the Senkaku Islands, and South Tibet. Hong Kong and Macau further complicate the implications of China's borders for that even though both territories have their own national symbols, jurisdictions, and even their own separate border control customs between them and Mainland China, they are also officially considered to be special administrative regions within China under the One China, Two Systems policy. The People's Republic of China is either the third or fourth largest country in the world, being either slightly larger or slightly smaller than the United States depending on how the area of the United States is measured.

Yellow Sea Sea in Northeast Asia between China and Korea

The Yellow Sea is a marginal sea of the Western Pacific Ocean located between mainland China and the Korean Peninsula, and can be considered the northwestern part of the East China Sea. It is one of four seas named after common colour terms, and its name is descriptive of the phenomenon whereby fine sand grains from the Gobi Desert sand storms, that descend annually from the north, turn the surface of its waters a golden yellow.

Mekong Major river in Southeast Asia

The Mekong, or Mekong River, is a trans-boundary river in East Asia and Southeast Asia. It is the world's twelfth longest river and the seventh longest in Asia. Its estimated length is 4,350 km (2,703 mi), and it drains an area of 795,000 km2 (307,000 sq mi), discharging 475 km3 (114 cu mi) of water annually. From the Tibetan Plateau the river runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The extreme seasonal variations in flow and the presence of rapids and waterfalls in the Mekong make navigation difficult. Even so, the river is a major trade route between western China and Southeast Asia.

Zambezi Major river in southern Africa

The Zambezi is the fourth-longest river in Africa, the longest east-flowing river in Africa and the largest flowing into the Indian Ocean from Africa. The area of its basin is 1,390,000 square kilometres (540,000 sq mi), slightly less than half of the Nile's. The 2,574-kilometre-long river (1,599 mi) arises in Zambia and flows through eastern Angola, along the north-eastern border of Namibia and the northern border of Botswana, then along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe to Mozambique, where it crosses the country to empty into the Indian Ocean.

North China Plain

The North China Plain is a large-scale downfaulted rift basin formed in the late Paleogene and Neogene and then modified by the deposits of the Yellow River. It is the largest alluvial plain of China. The plain is bordered to the north by the Yanshan Mountains, to the west by the Taihang Mountains, to the south by the Dabie and Tianmu Mountains, and to the east by the Yellow Sea. The Yellow River flows through the middle of the plain into the Bohai Sea.

Brahmaputra River River in China, India, and Bangladesh

The Brahmaputra, called Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet, Siang/Dihang River in Arunachal Pradesh and Luit, Dilao in Assam, is a trans-boundary river which flows through Tibet, India and Bangladesh. It is the ninth largest river in the world by discharge, and the 15th longest.

Salween River

The Salween, known in China as the Nu River, is a river about 2,815 kilometres (1,749 mi) long that flows from the Tibetan Plateau into the Andaman Sea in Southeast Asia.

Namoi River

The Namoi River, a major perennial river that is part of the Barwon catchment of the Murray–Darling basin, is located in the Northern Tablelands and North West Slopes districts of New South Wales, Australia.

Mahanadi river in India

The Mahanadi is a major river in East Central India. It drains an area of around 141,600 square kilometres (54,700 sq mi) and has a total course of 858 kilometres (533 mi) Mahanadi is also known for the Hirakud Dam. The river flows through the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

Dujiangyan

The Dujiangyan is an ancient irrigation system in Dujiangyan City, Sichuan, China. Originally constructed around 256 BC by the State of Qin as an irrigation and flood control project, it is still in use today. The system's infrastructure develops on the Min River (Minjiang), the longest tributary of the Yangtze. The area is in the west part of the Chengdu Plain, between the Sichuan basin and the Tibetan plateau. Originally, the Min would rush down from the Min Mountains and slow down abruptly after reaching the Chengdu Plain, filling the watercourse with silt, thus making the nearby areas extremely prone to floods. Li Bing, then governor of Shu for the state of Qin, and his son headed the construction of the Dujiangyan, which harnessed the river using a new method of channeling and dividing the water rather than simply damming it. The water management scheme is still in use today to irrigate over 5,300 square kilometres (2,000 sq mi) of land in the region. The Dujiangyan, the Zhengguo Canal in Shaanxi and the Lingqu Canal in Guangxi are collectively known as the "three great hydraulic engineering projects of the Qin."

Huai River

The Huai River, formerly romanized as the Hwai, is a major river in China. It is located about midway between the Yellow River and Yangtze, the two largest rivers in China, and like them runs from west to east. Historically draining directly into the Yellow Sea, floods have changed the course of the river such that it is now a major tributary of the Yangtze. The Huai is notoriously vulnerable to flooding.

Irrawaddy River River in Burma

The Irrawaddy or, officially, Ayeyarwady River is a river that flows from north to south through Burma. It is the country's largest river and most important commercial waterway. Originating from the confluence of the N'mai and Mali rivers, it flows relatively straight North-South before emptying through the Irrawaddy Delta in the Ayeyarwady Region into the Andaman Sea. Its drainage basin of about 404,200 square kilometres (156,100 sq mi) covers a large part of Burma. After Rudyard Kipling's poem, it is sometimes referred to as 'The Road to Mandalay'.

Kosi River

The Kosi or Koshi is a trans-boundary river which flows through Tibet, Nepal and India. It drains the northern slopes of the Himalayas in Tibet and the southern slopes in Nepal. From a major confluence of tributaries north of the Chatra Gorge onwards, the Kosi River is also known as Saptakoshi for its seven upper tributaries. These include the Tamor River originating from the Kanchenjunga area in the east and Arun River and Sun Kosi from Tibet. The Sun Koshi's tributaries from east to west are Dudh Koshi, Bhote Koshi, Tamakoshi River, Likhu Khola and Indravati. The Saptakoshi crosses into northern Bihar, India where it branches into distributaries before joining the Ganges near Kursela in Katihar district.

South–North Water Transfer Project

The South–North Water Transfer Project, also translated as the South-to-North Water Diversion Project is a multi-decade infrastructure mega-project in China. Ultimately it aims to channel 44.8 billion cubic meters of fresh water annually from the Yangtze River in southern China to the more arid and industrialized north through three canal systems:

Ordos Plateau Highland sedimentary basin in northwest China

The Ordos Plateau, also known as the Ordos Basin or simply the Ordos, is a highland sedimentary basin in northwest China with an elevation of 1,000–1,600 m (3,300–5,200 ft), and consisting mostly of land enclosed by the Ordos Loop, a large northerly rectangular bend of the Yellow River that makes up the river's entire middle section. It is China's second largest sedimentary basin with a total area of 370,000 km2 (140,000 sq mi), and includes territories from five provinces, namely Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia and a thin fringe of Shanxi, but is demographically dominated by the former three, hence is also called the Shaan-Gan-Ning Basin. The basin is bounded in the east by the Lüliang Mountains, north by the Yin Mountains, west by the Helan Mountains, and south by the Huanglong Mountains, Meridian Ridge and Liupan Mountains.

Yellow River Conservancy Commission (YRCC) is a government agency of Ministry of Water Resources of the People's Republic of China. YRCC takes responsibility of water administration of the Yellow River basin and the inland river basins in such province as Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu and Inner Mongolia.

Shule River

The Shule River flows generally westwards through the Tibetan Plateau and the desert regions of northwestern China. It starts in the Qilian Mountains and stretches for some 900 kilometres (560 mi); however, the river dries up about two-thirds of the way along its course and is lost in the Kumtag Desert, an endorheic basin, meaning its water never reaches the sea. Historically, the river reached farther west to Lop Nur, an intermittent salt lake in the Taklimakan Desert. Large irrigation diversions off the river and the gradual desertification of the region have reduced its flow significantly.

Sanmenxia Dam Dam in Sanmenxia

The Sanmenxia Dam is a concrete gravity dam on the middle-reaches of the Yellow River near Sanmenxia Gorge on the border between Shanxi province and Henan Province, China. The dam is multi-purpose and was constructed for flood and ice control along with irrigation, hydroelectric power generation and navigation. Construction began in 1957 and was completed in 1960. It is the first major water control project on the Yellow River and was viewed as a major achievement of the new People's Republic of China. Subsequently, its image was printed on the country's bank notes. However, due to sediment accumulation in the reservoir, the dam later had to be re-engineered and renovated. The effects from sediment, which include flooding upstream, have placed the dam at the center of controversy and criticism-related arrests by the Chinese government.

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Works from the National Central Library about the Yellow River